If you shut off Friday's Game 5 of the American League Championship Series after the first inning, you saw all you needed to see. After the offense scored a run off James Paxton in the opening frame, Justin Verlander allowed four runs on a pair of homers to the Yankees in the bottom half and the score remained the same for the rest of the night. New York stayed alive with a 4-1 decision at Yankee Stadium to force a Game 6 in Houston Saturday night.
Verlander: One bad inning
(c) Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle
Verlander lasted seven innings, allowing four runs on five hits while striking out nine on 105 pitches. Paxton answered with six innings, giving up one run on four hits with four walks and nine strikeouts in 112 pitches. Tommy Kahnle allowed a hit and a walk in the seventh but Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman shut the door. Kahnle was the only righthander the Astros saw all night.
George Springer began the game with an infield single and moved up to second on a passed ball. He scooted to third on a grounder by Jose Altuve and came home on a wild pitch. The Astros were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, continuing the RISP drought they have been in most of the postseason.
The Bronx Bombers answered with a leadoff homer to right center from D.J. LeMahieu, followed by a single from Aaron Judge and a double by Gleyber Torres. After Giancarlo Stanton struck out, Aaron Hicks lined a homer off the right field foul pole for what was eventually the game's winning runs.
Though Verlander was stellar the rest of his outing, the anemic Astro bats could not deliver an equalizer or anything close to it. Verlander has often been stung by poor offensive support and it carried over Friday night.
Houston now returns to their home field with two chances for the clinching win in the best-of-seven series. Game 6 will be on Saturday night beginning at 7:08 pm Central time. After the loss, Manager A.J. Hinch confirmed that he will use his bullpen to start the game, probably righthanded rookie Jose Urquidy (2-1) will be first up. He saw one postseason appearance, a 1-2/3rd inning outing on October 8th. He'll be rested if not rusty.
While the Yankees have not announced their starter, it would seem there is little doubt they will bring back Game 3 loser Luis Severino who had a short outing Tuesday afternoon. Expect both managers to employ a quick hook if any pitcher struggles.
Should the series extend to a Game 7 on Sunday night, the Astros will bring back Gerrit Cole on normal rest for the decisive game. The Yankees will probably cobble together whomever is available from the pitching staff. A wild card here is former Astro J.A. Happ who could cover several innings for the Yankees but gave up the walk-off homer to Carlos Correa in Game 2 during his only ALCS appearance and has not started since September 20th. Happ's ERA has been over five most of the year and the Yankees don't appear to have much confidence in him.
The ALCS winner will host the Washington Nationals in the World Series beginning Tuesday and Wednesday.
- Bob Hulsey