LOS ANGELES (AFP) – The Atlanta Braves thrashed the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros handed out another drubbing to the Boston Red Sox as both teams moved within one victory of a World Series showdown on Wednesday.
The Braves, who had suffered an agonizing late defeat to the Dodgers in game three on Tuesday, roared back with a 9-2 thrashing of the reigning World Series champions at Dodger Stadium to take a 3-1 lead in the National League Championship Series.
The Astros were similarly impressive on the road, demolishing the Red Sox, 9-1, at Fenway Park.
The Braves can clinch a World Series berth with victory over the Dodgers in game five in Los Angeles on Thursday.
The Astros, meanwhile, will take a 3-2 lead back to Houston, needing just one win to clinch the American League crown and a place in the World Series.
The Dodgers’ stirring fightback in game three on Tuesday had been viewed in some quarters as a possible momentum shift in the series.
But the Braves stomped all over that idea early on Wednesday, smashing Dodgers starting pitcher Julio Urias for three home runs from Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall and Freddie Freeman.
A run-scoring single from Joc Pederson and a sacrifice fly from Duvall put Atlanta 5-0 up in the fifth, and although A.J. Pollock closed the gap with a two-run single to make it 5-2, the Braves were always on top.
Atlanta capped the victory in the ninth after Freeman drove in another run, before Rosario lashed a three-run homer off reliever Tony Gonsolin to spark celebrations in the Braves dugout.
The Braves bullpen restricted the Dodgers vaunted batting line-up to just four hits, while Atlanta scored 12 as the Los Angeles challenge wilted.
“It was an incredible night, very emotional for me and I’m glad the team won,” said Atlanta’s two-homer hero Rosario.
“All I really want to do is get to the World Series, I have that deep desire. It’s been an incredible postseason for me to be honest,” the 30-year-old Puerto Rican outfielder said.
In Boston, meanwhile, Houston pitcher Framber Valdez shut down Boston’s batting line-up as the Astros romped towards a third World Series appearance in five seasons.
Dominican lefthander Valdez delivered a superb performance from the mound, striking out five through eight innings.
Valdez’s gem was backed by another ruthless performance from the Astros bats, with Cuban slugger Yordan Alvarez leading the charge.
Alvarez opened the scoring for Houston in the second inning, smashing an opposite field home run off Red Sox starter Chris Sale.
The 24-year-old drove in three more runs with three hits from five visits to the plate as the Astros picked up where they left off on Tuesday in game four, which ended in a 9-2 victory.