Where: Minute Maid Park, Houston
HOUSTON — Through five innings, Houston Astros right-hander Justin Verlander was again expertly playing the role of conquering hero, carrying his club on his back with an individual brilliance exceeded only by his Game 2 start just six days ago.
But when he started to display vulnerability in the sixth and seventh innings, Verlander found a teammate to lean on.
Verlander continued his masterful pitching in elimination games and the Astros turned a breakthrough fifth inning, a defensive gem from center fielder George Springer and some needed insurance runs in the eighth into a 7-1 victory over the New York Yankees on Friday night at Minute Maid Park in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series.
Verlander (2-0) twirled seven shutout innings to help carry the Astros into a decisive Game 7 at home on Saturday night. He allowed five hits and issued one walk while getting eight strikeouts, extending his streak of consecutive scoreless innings in elimination games to 24.
Acquired from Detroit at the waiver trade deadline for moments like these, Verlander again delivered. He remains unbeaten in an Astros uniform, including two victories in this series.
“He’s been everything that we could have hoped for and more,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “The guy prepares. He rises to the moment. He’s incredibly focused, locked in during games, and emptied his tank tonight.”
Despite allowing a single in each of his first three innings, Verlander was largely untested until the sixth. By then he had a three-run lead, courtesy of Houston rally in the bottom of the fifth.
After Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis sandwiched walks around a Marwin Gonzalez groundout, Brian McCann delivered an RBI ground-rule double to right field off Yankees right-hander Luis Severino (0-1). Three batters later, Jose Altuve delivered an even bigger blow, chasing Severino with a two-run single by hacking the first pitch into left for a 3-0 lead.
Altuve added a solo home run, his fourth of the postseason, leading off the eighth, an inning in which the slumping Houston offense broke through with four insurance runs.
The Yankees will send veteran left-hander CC Sabathia, the winner in Game 3, to the mound for Game 7 against Astros right-hander Charlie Morton, who took the loss opposite Sabathia.
Before the late surge, Verlander sidestepped danger in the sixth and seventh innings. He got Gary Sanchez to ground out with an excuse-me swing, stranding two baserunners in the sixth.
Running on fumes in the seventh, Verlander completed a 10-pitch battle against Aaron Hicks with a 3-2 slider for his eighth strikeout before Springer came to the rescue, running down a deep fly ball off the bat of Todd Frazier with a leaping catch at the wall with two runners on.
“Right off the bat, I could have sworn it was going out,” Frazier said. “You play long enough, you kind of know when it’s going to go and when it’s not. It was one of the best balls I squared up this whole postseason. I guess it just died. I guess I didn’t get enough.”
Verlander said, “All you can do as a pitcher is watch the outfielder track it and track it and track it, and then most of the time when they go to jump it’s like (tense). He was able to reel it in and keep it inside the yard. So that was obviously one of the big turning moments in the game.”
Severino kept the Astros hitless until Carlos Correa lined a two-out single to right-center field in the bottom of the fourth. Severino escaped that inning unscathed, but the Astros figured him out, with their methodical rally in the fifth providing Verlander some needed run support.
Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge clubbed his fourth homer of the postseason off Astros right-hander Brad Peacock with one out in the eighth. That blow was minor consolation for the Yankees, who improved their approach against Verlander after being dominated in Game 2 yet had little to show for the work. The adjustments, painstakingly strategic, proved fruitless.
“He was really good again,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “The thing in the two starts we faced him, he hasn’t been behind in counts and he’s thrown a ton of strikes. I looked up at one point on the board and he had faced like 13 or 14 hitters and there was like 10 balls and 40-something strikes.
“I thought our at-bats were decent off him; we hit some balls hard off him. But again, he was ahead in the count and pitched really effectively.”
NOTES: Astros DH Evan Gattis got the start over Carlos Beltran in part because of how the Yankees have pitched Beltran this series. Beltran, a switch-hitter who typically starts against right-handed pitching, excels against high-velocity pitches. According to Astros manager A.J. Hinch, Beltran has seen just one fastball over his 12 plate appearances in the ALCS. … With his second strikeout of the game, Yankees RF Aaron Judge matched the franchise record for strikeouts in one postseason with his 26th. Yankees 2B Alfonso Soriano had 26 strikeouts in 75 plate appearances in 2003. … With his eight strikeouts, Astros RHP Justin Verlander passed Hall of Famer Randy Johnson for sixth place on the career postseason strikeouts list. Verlander has 134 career postseason strikeouts. Johnson had 132 in 121 innings.
Where: Wrigley Field, Chicago,
CHICAGO — By the time Enrique Hernandez stepped to the plate in the ninth inning on Thursday night, Game 5 of the National League Championship Series was already a blur.
By the time the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrated in a champagne-soaked room after clinching their first pennant since 1988, Hernandez — who had sparked an 11-1 victory over the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs with three home runs — was still foggy on the details on how the Dodgers had arrived in their celebratory moment.
Hernandez, whose three homers included a grand slam, drove in seven runs, providing Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw with more than enough offensive support to land Los Angeles in the World Series for the first time in 29 years.
“It’s unbelievable,” Hernandez said. “It’s amazing.”
Los Angeles closed out the NL Championship Series in five games. The Dodgers will face either the New York Yankees or Houston Astros in the World Series, with Game 1 scheduled for Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.
Staked to an early comfortable lead, Kershaw (1-0) allowed one run, three hits and a walk while striking out five in six innings.
Hernandez capped the scoring in the ninth inning with a two-run blast as the Los Angeles left fielder tied a league championship series record with his seven RBIs.
“Tonight was his night to shine, and Clayton started the night and throwing a gem,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “For him to start and pitch the way he did, and for (Hernandez) to have a huge night — three homers tonight — just providing so much energy for us, and we fed off that tonight.”
The Dodgers scored first for the first time in the series and jumped out to a 9-0 lead after three innings. Hernandez followed up his second-inning solo home run with a grand slam in the third after the Dodgers loaded the bases off Cubs starter Jose Quintana with four straight hits.
After Quintana was lifted in the third, reliever Hector Rondon struck out Logan Forsythe for the first out of the inning. Hernandez then lifted his second homer of the night into the basket above the right field wall to break the game open.
Justin Turner, who was named NLCS co-most valuable player along with Chris Taylor, also had an RBI single in the inning.
“It’s a different guy every single night,” Turner said of the multiple contributions the Dodgers got offensively. “Literally, (it’s) a different guy in the lineup making that big swing.”
Quintana surrendered six runs on six hits in two-plus innings. He walked one and fanned one as the Cubs’ season ended in the NLCS for the second time in three years.
“We started out with a target on our back last year…but we were able to go through the whole thing,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “(We) got the World Series under our belt. (We) came back this year and (were) met with some kind of mental adversity is the best way I could describe it. It’s baseball adversity.
“I thought we did a great job of overcoming.”
The Dodgers padded their lead in the fourth on Forsythe’s two-run double off John Lackey.
Kris Bryant finally got the Cubs on the board in the fourth inning when he homered after Kershaw had held Chicago without a hit for 3 1/3 innings.
By then, the Dodgers had built too great of a cushion and never relented until closer Kenley Jansen closed out the win in the ninth with the Dodgers leading by 10 runs. A short time later, the Dodgers celebrated their World Series return after winning for the seventh time in eight games in the postseason.
“We have four more wins to go,” Kershaw said. “But we’ve heard 1988 for so long in L.A., it feels good to say that we’re getting to go to the World Series in 2017.”
NOTES: Dodgers 3B Justin Turner extended his postseason streak of reaching safely to eight games with a RBI single in the second inning. Turner reached safely in 23 of his past 24 postseason games since Oct. 9, 2015. … Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw earned his sixth career postseason victory, which tied Burt Hooton for the most in franchise history. … Cubs president Theo Epstein defended manager Joe Maddon, who was taking heat for some of his decision-making in managing the bullpen during the NLCS. “It’s not manager against manager,” Epstein said before Thursday’s game. “That stuff just gets under the microscope so much this time of year. It’s (about) players performing.” … Former Cubs catcher David Ross, who was a member of the 2016 World Series championship team, threw out the ceremonial first pitch Thursday.
Where: Yankee Stadium, Bronx
NEW YORK — As their slumps lingered, questions about Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez persisted.
Can they handle the pressure of postseason games? Will they get out of their skids before it is too late?
The New York Yankees found out in a resounding way Tuesday that the kids are all right.
Judge hit the game-tying double with one out in the eighth inning, and Sanchez followed with a two-run double as New York stormed back to even the American League Championship Series at two games apiece with a 6-4 victory over the Houston Astros.
Game 5 of the best-of-seven series is Wednesday, with Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka opposing Astros ace Dallas Keuchel. Game 6 is Friday in Houston, where the Astros opened the series with two 2-1 victories.
The Yankees get a return trip to Houston thanks to their two young stars, who have experienced productive moments during the team’s first extended postseason run since 2012 but also struggled at times.
Judge started play Tuesday 5-for-34 (.147) with 21 strikeouts in his first postseason. After striking out and getting a walk in his first two plate appearances, Judge sparked New York’s biggest postseason comeback at home since a rally from a four-run deficit in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against the Boston Red Sox, when Aaron Boone homered off Tim Wakefield in the 11th inning for the win.
“It’s stressful, but these guys seem to have it under control,” Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia said.
Judge made a comeback seem possible by driving the first pitch of the seventh inning from Lance McCullers over the center field fence for his third homer of the postseason. The blast cut Houston’s lead to 4-1.
“I thought Aaron’s home run lit a spark,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “We’ve seen that before.”
Then the 25-year-old made a comeback seem even more realistic with a booming double off the left field fence against Ken Giles (0-1) to forge a 4-4 deadlock.
Sanchez, who lifted a sacrifice fly in the seventh, came into his at-bat 6-for-40 (.150) in the postseason, hitless in 13 at-bats against the Astros and hitless in his past 18 at-bats.
“It’s just a matter of time,” Yankees designated hitter Matt Holliday said of Judge and Sanchez producing big postseason moments.
In the eighth, after Judge tied the game, Sanchez produced his biggest hit to date by lacing Giles’ 2-0 fastball to the warning track in center field to put the Yankees up 6-4.
“I just think they’re very calm and they’re very poised,” New York’s Chase Headley said of Judge and Sanchez. “They’re very comfortable with who they are, and they trust who they are is enough, and it is enough.”
Upon reaching second, Sanchez clapped his hands emphatically and pointed to a boisterous Yankees dugout, which was joining the crowd in expressing excitement.
“Emotions are raw,” Sanchez said through an interpreter. “You’re standing on second base and can’t even control them.”
Chad Green (1-0) pitched two innings and was credited with the win. He gave up an unearned run. Aroldis Chapman fanned two in the ninth for his third save of the postseason.
Giles threw 37 pitches in getting a five-out save in Game 1 but also gave up a home run to Greg Bird before closing it out. He also allowed a homer to Boston’s Rafael Devers in Game 4 of the AL Division Series before getting the save.
The right-hander came on trying to get a six-out save but recorded only one out on Brett Gardner’s RBI grounder that made it a one-run game.
“They laid off some very good pitches, and they were ready to go,” Giles said.
Before Giles collapsed, the Astros seemed poised for a series-clinching game with their ace on the mound. They led by four runs, and McCullers was cruising by keeping the Yankees quiet with his curveball.
The Astros did little offensively before taking a 3-0 lead on a bases-clearing double by Yuli Gurriel off David Robertson in the sixth. They added their fourth run in the seventh when Marwin Gonzalez scored on second baseman Starlin Castro’s error.
“The series wasn’t over after two games,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. “It’s certainly not over after four.”
McCullers allowed one run and two hits in six-plus innings. He was lifted after allowing Judge’s homer.
New York’s Sonny Gray gave up two runs (one earned) and one hit in five-plus innings. He was lifted after bouncing ball one in the dirt to Jose Altuve, who loaded the bases by working a walk against Robertson.
NOTES: New York manager Joe Girardi said using C Austin Romine in RHP Sonny Gray’s simulated game Friday was a precursor to Romine starting Game 4. Romine committed an error that led to a Houston run. … Asked about the reaction pregame at Yankee Stadium before Game 3, Astros LHP Dallas Keuchel said, “To have some boos last night getting introduced, that was a nice feel. You get boos against the evil empire at the home turf, it makes you feel good just because you’re doing your job correctly. … Houston’s left-handed hitters were 0-for-28 in the series until switch-hitting DH Carlos Beltran doubled in the second inning.
Where: Wrigley Field, Chicago
CHICAGO — Yu Darvish stood center stage Tuesday night and realized he couldn’t allow his already hostile surroundings to become any more energized.
Giving up a first-inning home run that forced the Los Angeles Dodgers to play from behind for the third straight game didn’t help. However, Darvish quickly was able to silence Wrigley Field and the Chicago Cubs, putting the Dodgers on the verge of their first World Series appearance since 1998.
Darvish allowed one run over 6 1/3 innings, and Chris Taylor homered and drove in two runs as the Dodgers moved to within a victory of the National League pennant with a 6-1 victory over the defending World Series champion Cubs.
The Dodgers can advance with a win in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series on Wednesday night.
Darvish struck out seven, scattered six hits and walked one as the Dodgers took a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. The right-hander also drove in a run with a bases-loaded walk.
“The story of the night, obviously, is Yu Darvish,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “After that first homer that he gave up … he was dominant. He just had that rhythm, the poise and didn’t allow whole lot of hard contact.”
And what Darvish started, the Los Angeles bullpen finished.
The Cubs, who hadn’t managed a hit off Dodgers relievers in the NLCS, put runners on second and third in the ninth when Alex Avila singled and Albert Almora Jr. followed with a double off right-hander Ross Stripling. However, Los Angeles closer Kenley Jansen got Addison Russell to pop out to first and then struck out Tommy La Stella and Ian Happ to close out the victory.
As good as Dodgers pitchers were on the back end, Darvish — who yielded a solo home run to Kyle Schwarber in the first inning — kept Cubs hitters off-balance all night.
“I really didn’t change much approach-wise from first inning until the end of the game,” Darvish said. “I just kept pitching the same way.”
As they have throughout the series, the Dodgers gave their pitchers plenty of offensive support.
The Dodgers led 3-1 entering the sixth. After Yasiel Puig reached on an error by Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, Andre Ethier singled and Austin Barnes walked to load the bases. Cubs reliever Carl Edwards Jr. got Joc Pederson to fly out for the second out, but then he walked Darvish on four pitches to extend the margin to three.
Los Angeles tacked on a pair of runs in the eighth to break the game open. After a walk to Logan Forsythe and a Barnes single, Forsythe scored when Mike Montgomery’s pitch bounded off the arm of catcher Willson Contreras, which allowed Barnes to advance to third base. Kyle Farmer followed with a sacrifice fly that gave the Dodgers their biggest lead.
The Cubs, who have scored four runs in the series, again failed to mount much offense.
“They just seem to be doing everything right right now,” said Bryant, who had two hits Tuesday. “Good at-bats, good bullpen, good starting pitching. We just got beat.”
With Los Angeles trailing 1-0 after Schwarber’s homer, Ethier drew the Dodgers even with a solo home run on the first pitch he saw from Kyle Hendricks in the second inning.
Taylor broke a 1-1 tie in the third inning with a solo home run before he extended the lead to 3-1 lead with a fifth-inning RBI triple that scored Pederson, who doubled.
Hendricks gave up four runs (three earned) on six hits in five-plus innings as the Dodgers remained unbeaten in the postseason.
“Obviously we’re excited to be up 3-0, but honestly, we’ve just been taking it one game at a time and just focusing on getting one win,” Taylor said. “So we’ll come in with the same mindset tomorrow and focus on getting that one win.”
NOTES: Dodgers C Austin Barnes started his fourth straight game. Manager Dave Roberts opted to keep Barnes in the lineup as opposed to Yasmani Grandal, who has struggled against Cubs RHP Kyle Hendricks. Roberts said Tuesday he expects Grandal to start in Game 4 on Wednesday against Chicago RHP Jake Arrieta. … Cubs LF Kyle Schwarber’s first-inning home run gave him six postseason homers, which ties him with 1B Anthony Rizzo for the franchise record. … Chicago 2B Javy Baez did not start for the first time in the NLCS as he was mired in an 0-for-19 postseason slump. Manager Joe Maddon said he prefers to have Baez in the game for defensive purposes, but instead started Ben Zobrist, who hit in the leadoff spot for Chicago. Baez popped out as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning. … Rizzo snapped an 0-for-16 slump with a sixth-inning single.
Where: Yankee Stadium, The Bronx
NEW YORK – The New York Yankees woke up offensively just in time on their home field and hope to build on a big night when the Houston Astros visit for Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday. The Yankees managed only two runs while losing the first two games but exploded for eight runs in the first four innings on Monday before going on to post a critical 8-1 triumph.
Aaron Judge, who was 4-for-31 with 19 strikeouts in the playoffs coming into Monday’s contest, and Todd Frazier (2-for-15 in the previous five games) each belted a three-run homer to break out of postseason slumbers as New York avoided playing another elimination game. Sonny Gray will try to help the Yankees even the series and keep Jose Altuve under control as the AL batting champion is 11-for-30 lifetime against him and hitting .481 with three homers in the postseason. Houston will counter with Lance McCullers Jr., who struck out 132 batters over 118 2/3 innings during the regular season but is looking for his first victory since June 24. The Astros, who led the majors in several offensive categories this campaign and averaged six runs along with 12.3 hits in the AL Division Series, have managed five runs and 15 hits over the first three games against the Yankees.
TV: 5:08 p.m. ET, FS1
PITCHING MATCHUP: Astros RH Lance McCullers Jr. (0-0, 6.00 ERA) vs. Yankees RH Sonny Gray (0-1, 8.10)
McCullers makes his second career playoff start and first this postseason after giving up two runs and three hits over three innings of relief against Boston on Oct. 8. The 24-year-old Tampa native, who gave up two runs over 6 1/3 frames in his other playoff start in 2015, went 7-4 with a 4.25 ERA during the regular season but was winless in his last eight turns. Didi Gregorius is 5-for-8 against McCullers, who went 1-0 with a 2.38 ERA in two starts versus the Yankees during an eight-game stretch this year in which he went 5-0.
Gray has had plenty of rest since permitting three runs on three hits and four walks over 3 1/3 innings against Cleveland in the ALDS for his eighth loss in 12 decisions since joining the Yankees. The 27-year-old Vanderbilt product is 2-3 with a 5.65 ERA in five starts at Yankee Stadium this year and gave up five runs over five innings in a loss to Houston on June 20 while with Oakland. Gray is winless in three career postseason outings, but he pitched well for the Athletics during the 2013 playoffs (2.08 ERA in two starts).
1. Houston 1B Yuli Gurriel went 9-for-17 in the ALDS but is just 2-for-9 in the ALCS after going hitless in four at-bats on Monday.
2. The Yankees’ bullpen has limited opponents to a .162 batting average while posting a 2.13 ERA in the postseason despite giving up a ninth-inning run in Game 3.
3. Houston C Brian McCann sat out for the first time in the playoffs in Game 3 in favor of C Evan Gattis after going 2-for-22 in six games.
CHICAGO — The Chicago Cubs return home in a two-games-to-none hole in the National League Championship Series and with plenty of questions left unanswered after back-to-back losses to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Will their struggling offense find a way to recover? What’s wrong with a bullpen that yielded late runs in both losses, including surrendering a walk-off, three-run home run Sunday night in Chicago’s 4-1 setback in Game 2 at Dodger Stadium?
With time now running short on his team’s World Series title defense, Cubs manager Joe Maddon realizes that if his team is going to bounce back, it has to be soon. Heading into Game 3 on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, Maddon points back to the NL Division Series against the Washington Nationals, when many of the same concerns arose before Chicago found a way to win and advance.
“I obviously wanted to win one out of those two (games in Los Angeles). We didn’t. That’s reality,” Maddon said Monday. “There is reality and there is fantasy. People like to tend to deal with fantasy. It’s reality. So we’ve got to come back here and get ourselves back together.”
In need of a win, the Cubs will turn to Kyle Hendricks, who pitched four innings in the NLDS-clinching victory last week over the Nationals. Chicago won both of Hendricks’ NLDS starts, but the Cubs will need to find a way to produce some offense after scoring just three runs and collecting only seven hits in the two weekend losses to the Dodgers.
Hendricks is 2-1 with a 3.15 ERA in three career starts against the Dodgers, whom he will face for the first time this year on Tuesday night. Despite the Cubs’ 2-0 hole in the best-of-seven series, Hendricks said Monday he doesn’t consider Tuesday a must-win.
“Our team doesn’t really approach games like that,” Hendricks said. “You hear the way Joe (Maddon) speaks about it. For us, this is just Game 170, I think it’s going to be. So, yeah, we’re down 2-0. Obviously we know we need to get wins at this point. But approaching it as a must-win is a little extreme. We’ve just got to go out there and play our brand of baseball.”
The Dodgers head into Tuesday still unbeaten in the postseason and confident after Justin Turner’s ninth-inning, three-run blast Sunday night. Yu Darvish takes the mound for Los Angeles, having won his lone playoff start to date this year. On Oct. 9 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, he allowed one run, two hits and struck out seven over five innings in a 3-1 victory.
Darvish has allowed just two earned runs and struck out 28 in his past four outings dating back to the regular season. The right-hander will make just his second career start against the Cubs, after allowing two runs in 4 1/3 innings during a loss with the Texas Rangers in 2016.
The 31-year-old Japan native hopes to continue the mastery that the Dodgers have had in silencing Chicago’s bats in the first two games of the series. But as much as the Cubs have struggled to hit thus far, Darvish realizes he has to be careful with a lineup that possesses plenty of dangerous hitters.
“They’ve got (a) really good lineup from top to bottom, and they play as a team so there is nobody in that lineup that I can get easy on,” Darvish said. “So it’s going to be a battle, and I just want to take one pitch at a time, one guy at a time.