Bang! Bang! Astros thump away vs Oakland, return to ALCS

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Houston Astros' George Springer, left, celebrates with Carlos Correa after the Astros defeated the Oakland Athletics in Game 4 of a baseball American League Division Series in Los Angeles, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

LOS ANGELES – Three years after a sign-stealing scheme propelled the Astros to their first championship, Houston's star-studded lineup did little during the regular season to quiet criticism it could only hit when cheating.

Back in the postseason, they're banging away as well as ever — no trash cans necessary.

Carlos Correa hit a go-ahead, three-run homer after Michael Brantley’s two-run shot in the fourth inning, helping the Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 11-6 on Thursday to end their home-run heavy AL Division Series in four games.

“We didn't show this too much during the season, but this lineup can do this every night,” left fielder Kyle Tucker said.

Correa drove in five as the Astros — October villains to many a year after their espionage was exposed — advanced to the AL Championship Series for the fourth consecutive season. They improved to 5-1 in the playoffs after struggling to a 29-31 record in the pandemic-shortened season.

“This is a special team that has been here before,” Brantley said. “We have young guys that are leaning on the veterans and the veterans are taking care of them right now. No one guy has to carry this team when you have so many special players in the locker room like we do.”

It will be the Astros' first ALCS under Dusty Baker, their 71-year-old manager. Baker earned his first closeout win since the 2003 NL Division Series and improved to 4-13 in closeouts.

“It’s been a long, tough road, but we’re halfway there,” Baker said. “I’m thankful and happy, but I still got some happiness left to give.”