Athletics Astros Baseball

Houston Astros' Yordan Alvarez (44) celebrates with Kyle Tucker (30) after hitting a home run against the Oakland Athletics during the fifth inning of a baseball game Friday, Sept. 16, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

HOUSTON (AP) — Yordan Alvarez homered in his first three at-bats, Justin Verlander threw five hitless innings in his return from the injured list and the Houston Astros clinched a postseason berth with a 5-0 win over the Oakland Athletics on Friday night.

The Astros (95-50) won their sixth straight game to join the Los Angeles Dodgers as the first two teams to secure playoff spots, reaching their sixth straight postseason.

Alvarez, second in the AL with 36 home runs, had solo shots off Adrián Martínez (4-5) in the first, third and fifth innings. He capped his big night with a single in the seventh to tie his career high with four hits.

It was his second three-homer game and first since Aug. 10, 2019, a season when he won AL Rookie of the Year.

Verlander (17-3) didn't miss a beat in his return after injuring a calf on Aug. 28. He walked one and struck out nine to extend his season-high winning streak to nine games and lower his MLB-leading ERA to 1.78. He moved past Max Scherzer (3,173) for 13th on the career strikeout list with 3,176 in 17 seasons.

Martínez pitched five innings, walking three and the only hits he allowed were the four homers, which were a career-high.

METS 4, PIRATES 3

NEW YORK (AP) — Taijuan Walker won back-to-back starts for the first time in two months, Daniel Vogelbach homered against his former team and the New York Mets beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3 Friday night.

Pete Alonso had his National League-leading 113th RBI for New York (91-55), which is assured of its most wins since going 97-65 in 2006. The Mets began the night with a one-game lead over second-place Atlanta in the NL East.

Oneil Cruz hit a two-run homer for Pittsburgh (55-90), which has lost 90 or more games for each of the last four fully completed seasons.

Walker (12-4) allowed three runs — two earned — and five hits with five strikeouts in a season-high 7 1/3 innings. Edwin Díaz allowed only a walk in 1 2/3 innings for his 30th save in 33 chances.

Mitch Keller (5-11) gave up three runs and five hits in six innings.

GUARDIANS 4, TWINS 3

CLEVELAND (AP) — Pinch-runner Ernie Clement raced home from second base on a wild pitch in the eighth inning for the go-ahead run and AL-Central leading Cleveland rallied past Minnesota in the opener of a crucial five-game series.

Clement ran for Josh Naylor, who led off the eighth with a single and took second on Oscar Gonzalez's single. The 2-1 pitch by Jhoan Duran (2-4) to Andrés Giménez bounced in front of catcher Gary Sánchez and went back to the screen on the fly. Sánchez couldn't find the ball initially and Clement rounded third and slid headfirst, beating Sánchez's throw.

Trevor Stephan (6-4) struck out two in the eighth while Emmanuel Clase gave up an infield hit in the ninth, but got Gilberto Celestino on a groundout for his 36th save.

Cleveland leads Minnesota by five games and has clinched the season series with a 10-5 edge. The Guardians have won six straight over the Twins and the teams play a day-night doubleheader Saturday followed by games Sunday and Monday.

RANGERS 4, RAYS 3

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Nathaniel Lowe hit his 25th home run in a four-run inning and Texas beat Tampa Bay.

Lowe's two-run homer was the fourth of five straight hits in the third inning off Corey Kluber (10-9).

Rangers starter Martin Perez (12-6) gave up three runs and nine hits in 5 1/3 innings. Three of those were by Rays catcher Francisco Mejia, driving in runs with a single in the second and a double in the sixth.

Jose Leclerq pitched the ninth for his sixth save in seven attempts, retiring Harold Ramirez on a bases-loaded grounder to end the game.

The Rays, who opened a 10-game homestand, left at least one runner on base in every inning except the eighth, losing for the sixth time in eight games.

RED SOX 2, ROYALS 1

BOSTON (AP) — J.D. Martinez had an RBI single in the eighth inning and Boston rallied late to beat Kansas City.

Martinez's single to left was just the third hit for Boston, which had just tied it up when reliever Scott Barlow walked Jason Verdugo with the bases loaded after Dylan Coleman (4-2) issued two walks to start the inning.

Garrett Whitlock (4-2) gave up a hit in the eighth and Matt Strahm got the last three outs for his fourth save.

Boston had lost six of eight, including a two-game sweep by the Yankees at home this week and nearly fell to the struggling Royals. Kansas City has lost four straight and eight of 10.

NATIONALS 5, MARLINS 4

WASHINGTON (AP) — Joey Meneses hit an inside-the-park home run, Ildemaro Vargas had a go-ahead double in the eighth inning and Washington rallied to beat Miami.

The Nationals snapped a five-game losing streak, beating the Nationals at home for the first time in eight tries this season. Washington is 2-12 overall against Miami.

Lewin Díaz homered for the Marlins, who have lost six of eight and 15 of 19.

Marlins reliever Cole Sulser (1-4) entered a 4-4 game in the eighth and walked Meneses and allowed Luke Voit's single with one out. Vargas then lashed a shot to left-center that bounced over the wall and brought in Meneses to give Washington its first lead.

Carl Edwards Jr. (6-3) pitched a scoreless eighth for the Nationals. Kyle Finnegan handled the ninth for his ninth save in 13 attempts.

CUBS 2, ROCKIES 1

CHICAGO (AP) — Marcus Stroman won at Wrigley Field for the first time since signing with the Cubs, pitching no-hit ball into the sixth inning.

Stroman (4-7), gave up three hits in six innings with two walks and five strikeouts. He didn't allow a hit unti Ryan McMahon homered with two outs in the sixth. After signing a $71 million, four-year contract, Stroman had been 0-5 with a 7.11 ERA in nine previous starts at home this season.

Brandon Hughes followed Stroman, and Manuel Rodriguez pitched a perfect ninth for his second save to complete the four-hitter.

Germán Marquez (8-11) allowed two runs, six hits and two walks in seven innings for the Rockies, who have lost three of four and dropped to a major league worst 22-48 on the road.

TIGERS 3, WHITE SOX 2, 10 INNINGS

DETROIT (AP) — Victor Reyes hit a deep flyball to center field in the 10th inning, scoring automatic runner Ryan Kreidler from third base and giving Detroit the win.

Tigers reliever Alex Lange (5-4) struck out the side in the top of the 10th to get the win.

Willi Castro started the bottom half with a bunt. Liam Hendriks (3-4) fielded it, looked at Kreidler going to third and then bounced his throw to first, putting runners on the corners. Riley Greene struck out before Reyes hit his game-ending sacrifice fly. Adam Engel made a running catch but had no chance to throw out Kreidler.

Spencer Torkelson had an RBI single in the first, and Jonathan Schoop put the Tigers up 2-0 with a two-out homer in the sixth. Jose Abreu tied it for Chicago with a two-run double in the eighth.

CARDINALS 6, REDS 5

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Albert Pujols hit his 698th home run, a tying two-run drive in the sixth inning that sparked St. Louis past Cincinnati Reds 6-5 on Friday night.

Pujols hit a first-pitch slider Raynel Espinal 427 feet into the left-field stands for his 19th home run of the season, tying the score 4-4. Pujols trails only Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) on the career list. With 2,203 RBIs, Pujols moved within 11 of Ruth for second, behind Aaron's 2,297.

Ryan Helsley struck out Kyle Farmer, Jake Fraley and Donovan Solano on nine pitches for his 18th save in 22 chances, the third immaculate inning in St. Louis Cardinals history after Bob Gibson in 1969 and Jason Isringhausen in 2002.

After Farmer homered off JoJo Romero to give Cincinnati a 5-4 lead in the seventh, Brandon Donovan walked off Ian Gibaut (1-2) leading off the bottom half, and Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado hit consecutive RBI doubles.

Chris Stratton (9-4) got the final out of the seventh.

BLUE JAYS 6, ORIOLES 3

TORONTO (AP) — Matt Chapman hit two home runs, George Springer added a three-run shot and Toronto maintained its position in the AL wild-card race.

Chapman went 3 for 4 with three RBIs and three runs to help the Blue Jays (82-63) win for the fifth time in six meetings with the Orioles.

Adley Rutschman hit a two-run home run and Gunnar Henderson added a solo shot for Baltimore (75-68). The Orioles were unable to gain ground on the three leading wild-card contenders, Toronto, Tampa Bay and Seattle.

Julian Merryweather pitched two shutout innings in relief of Trevor Richards, who struck out the side in the first. Yusei Kikuchi (5-7) followed by allowing two runs in two innings.

Jordan Lyles (10-11) allowed four runs and five hits in five innings, his second straight losing decision.

BRAVES 7, PHILLIES 2

ATLANTA (AP) — Ronald Acuña Jr. hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in a six-run eighth inning and Atlanta rallied for the win.

The opposite-field shot off Seranthony Dominguez (6-5) erased a 2-1 deficit and touched off a wild celebration at sold-out Truist Park, helping the Braves stay a game behind the first-place New York Mets in the NL East.

William Contreras connected off Phillies starter Ranger Suárez to make it 1-all in the fourth and added an RBI single off Domínguez to make it 4-2. Contreras went 3 for 4.

Domínguez walked pinch-hitter Eddie Rosario to begin the eighth and Acuña attacked on the first pitch he saw, sending a 98 mph sinker 383 feet into the seats in right-center for his 12th homer. Austin Riley doubled, advanced on a walk and scored on Contreras' hit up the middle. Michael Harris II added an RBI single and Ozzie Albies a two-run bloop double to make it 7-2.

Kyle Schwarber hit his NL-leading and career-high 39th homer and Jean Segura also went deep to back Phillies starter Ranger Suárez.

Jesse Chavez (4-1) earned the win after getting the final out of the eighth.