Bronx, NY: From the start this was going to be the epic ALCS series with the Yankees and Astros. Thursday night was not epic in Game 4 for the Yankees. Four errors and failure to produce runs with runners in scoring position put the Yankees at a disadvantage in their 8-3 loss.
But the Yankees refuse to quit as they have done all year. They came out fighting in the first inning against Justin Verlander Friday night in the Bronx and never trailed taking this series to Game 6 In Houston Saturday night.
Friday night in the Bronx was not epic. But the Yankees showed their fight to continue and keep this series going The Yankees 4-1 win in Game 5 this time saw the Astros failure to get runners home.
They went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and left nine on base. Justin Verlander, who led the American League in giving up the home run ball let two get away early in the Yankees first inning to DJ Lemahieu and the three-run homer to Aaron Hicks.
That set the tone for the Yankees with their four runs in the first inning, Now the series moves to Houston Saturday night for Game 6. The Astros will try and clinch their second trip in three years to the World Series and will go with an open bullpen on the mound.
The Yankees will once again try to keep their season going. Manager Aaron Boone said it will probably be an opener on the mound Saturday evening.
Luis Severino, if this series goes to a seventh and deciding game Sunday night, would get the start. The Astros will give the ball to Gerrit Cole who has been the dominant pitcher this postseason.
So the drama will continue Saturday night. The Astros were hoping to celebrate and fly back to Houston to prepare for Game 1 of the World Series that begins Tuesday night.
“I thought he recovered great and did his best to keep us in the game because that was a great recovery after an inning that looked like it was spiraling away from him,” said Astros manager A. J. Hinch about that first inning from Verlander.
Verlander did settle down after surrendering four runs in a postseason game for the eighth time in 29 postseason starts. After the Hicks home run to right off a slider the Right-hander set down ten consecutive Yankees.
It now was a matter of the Astros trying to score some runs for Verlander. But the Yankees James Paxton was just as effective. He tossed six innings, and struck out nine on four hits.
“Settled down a little too late,” Verlander said. “Fastball command wasn’t very good and the slider was just hanging. I just wasn’t able to execute anything. We’re up 3-2 in the driver’s seat. Those boys are not going to lay down for us and we have to go and take care of business at home.”
Paxton and the Yankees bullpen also stopped Jose Altuve. His postseason hitting streak was snapped at 13 games with an 0-for-2.
And the Houston offense has not been the productive bunch that scored runs in bunches all season. Except for Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Carlos Correa, there has not been much production from the lineup with exception of the home run ball.
The Astros have scored 16 runs in the series of which 10 have come from the home run.
“We need one game where the offense just goes off and we can put up 10 runs in one game,” said Carlos Correa. “That would be nice. But at the same time , we know we’re facing good pitching on their side and we have to go out there and try to put up great at bats as a team for us to have a chance.”
Boone said his team had those good at bats in the first inning. And when facing Verlander, getting off to a good start was the contrast from how the Yankees approached their at bats in Game 4.
So the Open bullpen game will present a challenge Saturday night. The Yankees will need to score and often, so will the Astros.
If this does goes to a deciding game on Sunday night, well then we can be talking about another championship series with these two teams as being epic.
Boone said prior to Game 5 if his team was going to move on they would need to do it with intensity. In his words a high level because of the Astros pitching of facing Verlander.
And then there is Cole who is 19-0 in his last 25 decisions. If the Yankees manage to take this to a final game, and if they handle Cole, then this would be epic. Very few teams have been able to overcome a 3-1 deficit and then take the ALCS.
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