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Yankees rout Red Sox to level baseball playoff series, Astros win

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Washington (AFP) – Gary Sanchez smashed two home runs and Aaron Judge blasted another to power the New York Yankees over arch-rival Boston 6-2 on Saturday in the Major League Baseball playoffs.

The Yankees pulled level at 1-1 in the best-of-five American League playoff series with game three set for Monday in New York.

Either the Red Sox or Yankees will face defending champion Houston or the Cleveland Indians in the American League Championship Series, with the Astros moving to the brink of advancing Saturday with a 3-1 home victory over Cleveland.

The Yankees smacked the most homers of any club in major league history this season with 267 and have sustained their superb slugging into the playoffs.

Judge belted a solo homer over the famous “Green Monster” left-field wall at Boston’s Fenway Park to put the Yankees ahead in the first inning.

Sanchez followed with another solo blast atop the left-field wall in the second inning.

“He threw me something high in the zone and I was able to do something with it,” Sanchez said through a translator.

Andrew McCutcheon hit a run-scoring double to left-field in the second for a 3-0 New York lead, prompting the Red Sox to remove starting pitcher David Price.

Xander Bogaerts answered for the Red Sox with a solo homer in the fourth.

But Sanchez smashed a three-run homer out of the ballpark off Red Sox reliever Eduardo Rodriguez in the seventh for his first multi-homer game since May 19 to give the Yankees a 6-1 advantage.

“He left something there for me and I was able to hit it well,” Sanchez said.

Boston’s Ian Kinsler responded with a run-scoring double in the seventh but the Red Sox came no closer.

Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka started for New York and allowed Boston batters only one run on three hits with one walk and four strikeouts over five innings.

The Yankees have won a record 27 World Series crowns, most recently in 2009, while the Red Sox last captured the title, their eighth, in 2013.

– Cole strikes out 12 –

At Houston, Astros starting pitcher Gerrit Cole struck out 12 Cleveland batters with no walks while scattering only three hits over seven innings.

The 28-year-old American right-hander became only the second pitcher with so many strikeouts and no walks in a playoff game, following Tom Seaver’s 13-strikeout effort for the New York Mets in 1973.

“When it’s on the line, you just want to perform. You want to give them a shot to win the game. I felt like we did that,” Cole said. “I’m pretty thrilled with the no walks. Pretty special day.

“I had good command with it. I had good command. I really just kept trying to pound the zone and stay aggressive.”

Alex Bregman smashed a solo home run and Marwin Gonzalez smacked a two-run double among four hits for the Astros, who seized a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five American League series.

The Astros, who beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in last year’s World Series, can sweep out the Indians with a victory in game three on Monday in Cleveland.

The Indians are trying to end a 70-year World Series title drought, having last captured the championship in 1948.

Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor opened the scoring in the third inning with a solo homer off a slider from Cole, who joined the Astros in a January trade after five seasons with Pittsburgh.

Houston jumped ahead 2-1 in the sixth after Altuve singled, Bregman walked and Gonzalez followed with a two-run double to rightfield.

Bregman added a solo homer in the seventh inning — his sixth career playoff homer and second in as many games against Cleveland — to produce the final margin.

The National League playoffs resume Sunday with Milwaukee at Colorado and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Atlanta, both visiting clubs trying to complete series sweeps.

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