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Highlights from Yankees’ ALCS Game 4 win over Astros

The Yankees evened up the ALCS and shortened it to a best-of-3 series.

League Championship Series - Houston Astros v New York Yankees - Game Four Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

It’s Game 4 of the ALCS, and no matter what happens tonight, there will be a Game 5 on Wednesday. That’s because the Yankees continued their home postseason win streak with an 8-1 victory in Game 3, bringing the series to 2-1.

On the mound tonight for New York is Sonny Gray, and he’ll be facing Lance McCullers. Neither team decided to go with their Game 1 starters on short rest here, so you won’t be able to criticize or praise them for the decision. Maybe you can criticize them for not doing it, though! Won’t that be fun?

First pitch is at 5:08 p.m. ET, and we’ll be here to live blog the whole thing. The game, I mean, not just the first pitch.

As usual, to read from the beginning of the live blog, scroll down to the “1st inning” header and work your way back up from there.

9th inning

Here’s Aroldis Chapman, and he’ll face Yuli Gurriel — he of the three-run double earlier tonight — Alex Bregman, and Carlos Beltran. Gurriel strikes out on just four pitches, so here’s Bregman, who has done his part to hold the Yankees to “just” six runs tonight with a few nifty plays at third.

Bregman strikes out, too, and the Astros aren’t going to let Beltran face Chapman, not at age 40. Evan Gattis is the pinch-hitter, and he swings at the first pitch. It’s a fly out to left, the Yankees finish off an impressive comeback victory, and the ALCS is all tied up, 2-2. We’ll be back to live blog Game 5 of the ALCS on Wednesday.

8th inning

Chad Green seems more Chad Green-like in this inning — it helps that Castro hasn’t been knocked over by a baseball here. Reddick and Altuve both made quick outs, and Correa was quickly put in an 0-2 hole, then struck out.

The Yankees are sending Frazier to the plate to open the bottom of the frame, and it also looks like Chase Headley will pinch-hit for Austin Romine, which means Gary Sanchez is going to catch and the Yankees will lose the designated hitter in their lineup.

Frazier gets a leadoff single, so here comes Headley. He hits a single to left, Frazier advances to third, and Headley attempts to take second: he gets caught in a rundown, but somehow makes it to second base, giving the Yankees two runners in scoring position.

AJ Hinch is looking like he’s going to call for a review no matter what just because it’s an important play: did Headley get in before the tag by Altuve? Looks like he did, because Altuve took a step back instead of forward, and that looks like the difference.

Musgrove is out of the game, but here comes Astros’ closer Ken Giles to get the final six outs the Astros need. Brett Gardner is up, and the top of the order with him, so this is not an easy spot for Giles to start.

Aroldis Chapman is warming in the Yankees’ bullpen, in case New York gets a lead here. Or maybe even if they don’t get a lead here, since the Yanks are at home.

Gardner hits a grounder to second, and it’s deep enough that the runner at third can’t be looked back. The Astros trade a run for an out, but there’s still a runner on third, and it’s now only 4-3, Houston.

Oh, and by the way, here is Aaron Judge, who hit a mammoth homer last time up. Jacoby Ellsbury is also pinch-running for Chase Headley now, in case there is a sac fly opportunity.

Judge does one better than that: he hits a double to left that for some reason a dope fan in the stands tries to catch because apparently they hate their team. They even had to hang over the wall to attempt it! Hinch and the umpires are discussing the possibility of fan interference.

Looks like they’ve determined that the fan who touched the ball didn’t change the outcome of the play, so everything stands, and it’s officially tied 4-4. The Yankees still only have the one out, and Judge is in scoring position.

Gregorius moves Judge to third with a single that just makes it out of the infield, and man, things are not going Houston’s way here in the late innings.

Me at 8:12 p.m. ET in our Slack room: “really feels like the Yankees are going to win this game”

Me at 8:24 p.m. ET in this live blog: The Yankees just scored runs four and five of the inning, and are now winning 6-4 after a Gary Sanchez double. Ken Giles has been removed from the game: he got one of the six outs he was supposed to. Here comes Luke Gregerson to try to do better, and the Yankees still have two on, so that’s not a given.

The bases are now loaded, and Hicks is up, and there is still just the one out. And now two outs! The Astros are still allowed to get those.

Alex Bregman just made another wonderful defensive play at third, and it kept the Yankees from adding on any additional runs. 6-4, Yankees.

7th inning

We’re weeks into the postseason, and I have to say that hearing “man-boosting formula” in a commercial is still hilarious.

Chad Green is on the mound for the Yankees after the Gray/Robertson disappointment of the sixth. He’ll face Beltran, Gonzalez, and McCann.

Well, no change yet, as Marwin Gonzalez gets a double, and the Astros have another runner in scoring position. And then Starlin Castro fields a McCann ball in play off-balance, and basically falls over, allowing Gonzalez to score and McCann to be safe at first. 4-0, Astros.

George Springer grounds into a double play to end the inning, so that one weird run is the only one the Astros are going to score.

Hey, Aaron Judge is coming alive! This homer was a huge one, in every way except for how many runs it counts for. 4-1, Astros, but the Yankees are in a much better place if Judge is going to dinger.

That’s the end for McCullers, at just 81 pitches, as this postseason has a strict “no mistakes ever” policy for starting pitchers. It’ll be Chris Devenski on the mound for Houston now.

Here come the Yankees: Gregorius follows up Judge’s homer with a triple, following an unfortunate attempt at defense by Marwin Gonzalez in left. There still aren’t any outs. Joe Musgrove is now warming in the Astros’ pen, in case Devenski just doesn’t have it tonight. Considering he started out 2-0 to Sanchez, he might not.

Sanchez hits a sac fly to right, and despite Josh Reddick being able to hit home on the fly with his throw, Gregorius was able to score with ease. 4-2, Astros. Devenski then walks Bird, so the tying run is at the plate. Devenski just yelled “FUCK” into his glove loud enough that I could hear it on the broadcast, and he’s being replaced by Musgrove.

Now it’s Starlin Castro to the plate, which, considering he’s responsible for the fourth run the Astros scored, means he has a chance for redemption here.

Wow, Alex Bregman just made a serious defensive play at third to show off both his range and his arm. Castro tried to slide into first for some reason, but he was probably out even if he ran threw the bag.

Francisco Liriano is warming up in the Astros’ bullpen. The right-handed Musgrove is still in to face the left-handed Hicks, however, and he gets him to end the inning with a fly out to right. Still, the Yankees halved the Astros’ lead, and it’s now a 4-2 game.

6th inning

George Springer walks on four straight pitches, so that’s what I get for praising Gray for being efficient again, I guess.

And now there’s catcher interference from Romine that puts Reddick at first and Springer at second — apparently, Jacoby Ellsbury isn’t the only guy in this series who can draw that call.

Here’s Altuve with two on and no out. He won’t be facing Gray, however, as Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi isn’t going to chance it even with Gray seemingly having figured things out. Instead, here’s David Robertson, who last worked two scoreless innings in Game 2.

Here’s a fun statistic: this is Gray’s fourth postseason start in his career, and his teams have still not scored a single run for him. ALDS Game 2 in 2013 was a 1-0 win for the A’s. Game 5 was a 3-0 loss, and the Indians defeated Gray and the Yankees in Game 1 of the 2017 ALDS, 4-0. That one victory was a walkoff win for the A’s in the ninth, but Gray had been lifted after eight, with Grant Balfour pitching the top of the ninth.

While I was finishing off story time, Robertson loaded the bases, and now Carlos Correa is up with no outs. Correa strikes out after a couple of pitches that could have gone to the backstop and scored a run for Houston — the important thing for Romine and the Yankees is that they did not.

Now it’s Yuli Gurriel’s turn to try to push a run or runs across, but now Houston is in a situation where a grounder could end the inning. Unless the grounder gets by the third baseman and scores three runs instead, like it just did.

Gurriel gets caught on his way to third, so the Yankees manage to get an out anyway, but the bases were cleared and it’s 3-0, Astros.

McCullers has his first lead of the game, and he’s doing his part to keep it. Todd Frazier strikes out, Austin Romine grounds out, and Gardner falls behind 1-2. He ends up grounding out, and McCullers, well, let Andrew Simon tell you:

McCullers’ second half was... not so great. His ALCS to this point? Pretty good.

5th inning

Gray seems to have settled into a groove, as he retires the first two batters of the inning on six pitches, and is at 73 total after looking like he might be out of here by the fifth or sixth with ease early on. And there’s out number three of the frame, on his fourth strikeout of the night: Gray is through five on 76 pitches, and in the middle game of a three-game set, that’s going to be good news for the Yankees’ bullpen.

While we’re praising Gray for turning around his earlier inefficiency, we should point out that McCullers is up to seven pitches against Greg Bird here to open up the bottom of the fifth, and yet he has just 58 pitches for the game so far.

McCullers ends up losing Bird to a walk, so the leadoff man is on for the Yanks with Castro, Hicks, and Frazier now due up. Well, that was fast. Castro grounded into a double play, so all of Bird’s work was for nothing. As every baserunners’ work has been in this game to this point.

The Yankees get nothing, but that’s the theme of this ALCS. As Eric Stephen just pointed out to me in our Slack room, there have been 15 runs in 32 innings in this ALCS — and nine of them came in Game 3.

4th inning

Altuve leads things off for the Astros in the fourth inning. He struck out, which is not a regular occurrence for him: despite 662 plate appearances, he punched out 84 times in 2017, and this is just his fifth in the postseason.

Starlin Castro boots a ball, and Carlos Correa is now at first. And then Austin Romine lets a ball get away from him, allowing Correa to move to second — that’s embarrassing, since he was in specifically to upgrade on Sanchez’s defense behind the plate.

Gray throws the same pitch again, and this one goes where it needs to, and gets Gurriel swinging. Now it’s Alex Bregman’s turn to try to drive in the Astros’ first run of the game. He fails to, and we’re still scoreless after three-and-a-half in New York.

It’s Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, and Gary Sanchez due up this inning. McCullers thinks he got Judge with a low pitch, but it was called ball four, and now he’s at first instead of walking back to the dugout after striking out.

Gregorius hits another ball hard, but right at Springer... again. Gary Sanchez hit a ball to right field that Josh Reddick charged and got to, and it just happened to be one Judge had no idea was catchable.

Now here’s where it gets fun! The umps are reviewing the call at first — which was called an out — and the umps determined he was actually safe. Now it looks like they might be reviewing if he actually touched second base (which he passed, initially) on his way back to first base. Astros’ manager AJ Hinch went out to have a conversation with the umps, so... are we getting a second challenge that will make this point moot and Judge out again?

Nope, the Astros are appealing by throwing to second: they’re doing this the old-fashioned way. Judge is out after all, as he touched second base and passed it, then failed to touch it again on his way back to first base to tag up.

To add another layer of intrigue: Judge tried to steal second before the appeal, so he would be safe anyway. He failed to get there in time, though, so that’s the end of the fourth.

3rd inning

Brian McCann leads off the third inning by getting hit by a pitch, which brings George Springer and the top of the Astros’ lineup to the plate again. McCann is erased on a grounder to short, but Springer can motor, and the Yankees don’t even bother throwing the ball to first base to try for the double play.

They got it with the very next batter, as Reddick grounded into a double play, ending any threat the Astros were mustering. That’s the kind of quick inning Gray needed with his already escalating pitch count — he began the frame at 41, and ended it at 49.

McCullers gets Aaron Hicks to ground out to open the bottom of the third, but then Todd Frazier makes him work a bit and delivers a bloop hit over Altuve in shallow right.

Austin Romine grounds out, but it was productive, at least, moving Frazier to second. That’s the first runner in scoring position for New York in the game, and just in time for Brett Gardner and the top of the order.

McCullers gets out of it with some help from his trusty curveball. Smoltz said it had some slider tendencies, but unlike Cone, did not call it a slider outright. Keep it that way, Smoltz.

2nd inning

Yuli Gurriel, Alex Bregman — batting lower in the order once again — and Carlos Beltran are due up for the Astros in the second. Gurriel grounds out to to third on the fifth pitch of the at-bat, and now here’s Bregman making Gray really work. Eight pitches in, he works a full count, and Gray is at 32 pitches through just 1-1/3 innings.

Bregman would ground out on the 10th pitch of the at-bat, on a play not quite close enough to go to video review, but pretty close, nonetheless. And that brings up former Yankees’ slugger Carlos Beltran, whom New York traded to the Rangers last summer before he joined up with the Astros for 2017.

Beltran rips a double to the right field corner, when Gray puts a pitch right into the hot zone portion of the hot zone graphic Fox had put over the strike zone. Couldn’t you see the red, Gray? You throw at the blue squares!

It’s all for naught, though, as Marwin Gonzalez flies out to left. We’ve got our first hit of the game, but are still waiting on that first run.

Sanchez’s first at-bat as a DH goes a lot like every other Yankees’ DH at-bat: it ended with an out. Man, Lance McCullers looks impossible to hit when that curve is working. It’s thrown so hard (for a curve), and the break is huge. Greg Bird can tell you all about it now that he’s back in the dugout after swinging through one.

Starlin Castro grounds out on the second pitch, and McCullers is through two frames on 22 pitches — 19 fewer than Gray.

1st inning

Austin Romine is behind the plate tonight, not Gary Sanchez, with Joe Girardi saying it has to do with how Sonny Gray will pitch with the change. Sanchez is still in the lineup, but as the designated hitter. Hey, it could work out: Yankees’ DHs haven’t done much in the postseason.

Gray has made one other postseason start, but it lasted just 3-1/3 innings. He also struggled a little down the stretch, posting a 4.58 ERA in September: the Yankees will need the version of Gray they hoped they were trading for to show up and face the powerful Astros’ lineup.

So far, so good, as Gray sits down the first two batters he faces — George Springer and Josh Reddick — on eight pitches. He walks Jose Altuve on four pitches, which is probably the smart move once Gray got to 3-0 on him — why give Altuve something he can hit easily?

Carlos Correa goes down with a groundout to short, and Gray’s first inning is a solid one despite the walk.

Lance McCullers didn’t make a start in the ALDS, but he did throw three relief innings against the Red Sox in the one game Boston managed to win. It wasn’t necessarily McCullers’ fault, as he gave up two runs out of the 10 total Astros’ pitching allowed, but Houston will still need more separation between his runs and innings tonight.

You’re going to see a lot of curveballs from McCullers, even if David Cone is sitting on his couch watching this game calling all of them sliders.

Brett Gardner was not his usual patient self, grounding out on the second pitched he saw. Aaron Judge followed that up with a strikeout on a curve underneath the zone — he’s still chasing a few too many of those for his own good.

Didi Gregorius, batting third, hits one to center right in front of the warning track, and we’re on to the second inning.