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: 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: 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.
Where: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York
Where: Yankee Stadium, Bronx
NEW YORK — Facing one of the more powerful arms in the majors, the New York Yankees worked the pitch count up, brought some power of their own and made some progress in their pursuit of the American League East title.
Chase Headley went deep of Sale in the third inning, Matt Holliday and Todd Frazier hit back-to-back homers in the fourth, and the Yankees chased the Boston Red Sox ace early and coasted to a 9-2 victory Sunday night.
New York’s Aaron Judge hit his first homer in more than two weeks in the sixth inning against Boston’s Addison Reed.
The Yankees won three of the four games in the series against the Red Sox, cutting their deficit to 3 1/2 games. New York finished the 19-game season series against Boston with 11 wins.
Four of those New York victories occurred in starts made by Sale. On Sunday, the Yankees constantly fouled balls off as Headley, Holliday and Frazier hit two-strike homers against the left-hander, who was hardly as sharp as in his previous appearance in the Bronx on Aug. 13 when he fanned 12 in seven innings.
“We have a bunch of guys that grind out at-bats,” Holliday said. “That’s what it takes. With a (pitcher) like that, you have to go up there and compete and grind. You know that he’s going to get you. You try to get him and hope that he makes mistakes.”
Sale turned in his second-shortest start of the season, allowing three runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings. He walked two, struck out six and fell to 1-3 with a 6.88 ERA in his past four starts.
“They put good at-bats together, fouling some pitches off, taking some good pitches,” Sale said. “It was up to me to make an adjustment. Today I didn’t.”
Once the Yankees got Sale out of the game after 109 pitches, New York pulled away with a six-run sixth against four relievers.
Gary Sanchez reached on a bases-loaded infield single after the Yankees challenged the original call, and Starlin Castro followed with a bases-clearing double down the right field line off Reed.
New York’s big inning concluded with perhaps the club’s most encouraging sign. Judge drove Reed’s 1-1 fastball an estimated 469 feet halfway up the left field bleachers. It was Judge’s league-leading 38th homer but first in a season-high 57 at-bats.
“I told you I thought his at-bats have been better, and it’s kind of hard to evaluate at-bats sometimes against the Corey Klubers and Chris Sales of the world, but I think his at-bats have been better,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
The ball traveled 115.1 mph. It was Judge’s hit his first homer since a fourth-inning, upper-deck shot off New York Mets right-hander Robert Gsellman on Aug. 16 at Citi Field.
“He’s leading the league in homers,” Holliday said. “I don’t think he should be too down on himself.”
While the Yankees brought the power at the plate, Luis Severino delivered a powerful six-inning showing, allowing an unearned run and two hits against the same team that pounded him for 10 runs on Aug. 12.
“He was powerful,” Boston manager John Farrell said. “He’s pitched a couple of good ones. Their entire pitching staff has pitched well against us this whole season, take nothing away from them.”
Sale’s second loss in three outings was hardly the only problem for the Red Sox. Boston’s runs occurred when Eduardo Nunez scored on a passed ball by Sanchez in the sixth and a ninth-inning single by Sandy Leon.
The Red Sox continued to struggle with runners in scoring position against the Yankees. They were 1-for-27 in the series, batted .143 (20-for-140) overall in the season series and .111 (7-for-63) in the games in New York.
“It’s probably historic when you look at it,” Farrell said.
NOTES: The Yankees and Red Sox teamed up to raise money for Hurricane Harvey relief by auctioning off autographed team memorabilia from the game. In a pregame ceremony, Boston manager John Farrell and New York manager Joe Girardi unfurled the Texas state flag in support of the cause. … New York OF Aaron Hicks was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a strained left oblique. … Boston LHP David Price (left elbow inflammation) played catch before the game. He will throw a 30 to 35 pitch bullpen session before Monday’s game. … New York OF Clint Frazier (strained left oblique) will start a rehab assignment Wednesday with Double-A Trenton. … Girardi said he did not hear anything about the results of the appeals for C Gary Sanchez (four-game suspension) and C Austin Romine (two-game suspension). … Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis was ejected by plate umpire Sam Holbrook in the sixth inning.