The Yankees have done it: they’ve tied up the American League Championship Series at 2-2. They have yet to lose at home this postseason (and were an excellent 51-30 at home during the regular season), and Game 5 represents the final Yankee Stadium affair of the ALCS. They could very well go back to Houston with a series lead, just one win from the World Series.
Except, they’re facing Dallas Keuchel, who hasn’t allowed a run to the Yankees in the postseason in 13 career innings, and similarly has 1.41 regular season ERA against them over six starts and 44 2/3 frames. These are small samples all around, of course, but so is the Yankees’ postseason success at home, and now we get to pit the two against each other!
We’ll be live blogging the whole affair, starting at 5:08 p.m. ET. As usual, if you want to catch up from the beginning, scroll down to the “1st inning” header and work your way back up.
Yooo Steal A Base, Steal A Taco is back.
Kahnle is still in for the Yankees, because why bother going to anyone else while there’s still a five-run lead? He gives up a double to Carlos Correa, but this is after Altuve already made an out, so the Astros have yet another runner in scoring position, but also just two outs left.
Aroldis Chapman just got up in the bullpen and started throwing, as Yuli Gurriel walks into the box to face Kahnle. Gurriel grounds out, and it moves Correa to third, but the Astros needs out more than they need a single run at this point.
Here’s Alex Bregman, who is in one way unlucky, as the weight of this game is now on his shoulders, but in another way he’s very lucky, as he’s the one who can deliver the Astros from New York and end this nightmare by getting them moving toward a plane back to Houston.
Bregman flies out to Hicks, and the Yankees win 5-0. They lead the ALCS 3-2, and the home game has won every contest so far this series. The Astros hope that means good news is waiting for them in Houston on Friday and, if necessary, Saturday.
Tanaka has been lifted, and Tommy Kahnle is out now to hold a five-run lead. He’ll face Brian McCann, George Springer, and Josh Reddick as Houston desperately tries to get back in this game. McCann and Springer both made outs by the time I finished putting those thoughts together.
Reddick strikes out, and man, if the Astros look anything like this on Friday, the Yankees are going to the World Series.
Liriano is pitching now, and he picked up two outs, but also walked Greg Bird even though Bird is a lefty, and now Bird is on third. Sorry if your brain just sang that last part, like mine did.
He strands Bird, but it’s still 5-0 Yankees as we head to the top of the ninth and Houston’s final three outs of the night.
Tanaka is still out here, and it’s hard to blame New York for that decision considering the way he’s throwing the ball. He gets Bregman to fly out, strikes out Carlos Beltran, and just now threw his 100th pitch of the outing to Marwin Gonzalez. He strikes out, and that’s eight on the night for Tanaka.
You think he’s going to opt-out this offseason after the postseason he’s had?
Peacock strikes out Judge to kick off the bottom of the seventh, so the Astros are still capable of getting him out. That’s good news for Game 6, at least. They might need to figure out a new plan for Sanchez, though, as he just hit a laser for his third dinger of the postseason. 5-0, Yankees.
Then Gregorius hits a double, and human white flag Francisco Liriano begins to warm up in the Astros’ bullpen. Houston isn’t waving him around just yet, though, as Peacock finishes out the inning. The Astros have a tougher job in front of them with just six outs to go, though.
Four runs is a serious deficit given the way the Astros have been scoring this series. Just as a reminder...
2, 2, 1, 4, 0
...is where the Astros are in each game of the series so far.
Altuve makes an out to open the sixth inning, so I guess he didn’t hear what I was saying. Correa strikes out, and Tanaka has six Ks to go with his 10 groundouts.
Brad Peacock is warming in the Astros’ bullpen, which means that, if there is a Game 7, it’s probably going to be Charlie Morton on the mound. Well, that or Justin Verlander is going to talk his manager into letting him pitch Game 6 and Game 7.
Tanaka gets his third fly out of the game to close out the sixth, and that might be it given New York’s bullpen easily has three innings in it.
Harris is still in the game, and he’s facing Castro. Castro strikes out, Bird walks, and then Frazier lines out to left. Headley is up now, and he’s batting lefty for the first time tonight with Keuchel out of the game. Harris remains in the game, as Hinch probably doesn’t want to mess with something in his bullpen that actually seems to be working.
This live blog is a series of me explaining why an Astros pitcher has succeeded/pointing out they’re succeeding, and then seeing them fail right after. Harris gives up a double on a 3-1 count, and the Yankees have two runners in scoring position with two outs. Enjoy your inheritance, Peacock.
To his credit, he got out of it without giving up anything else, but also it’s 4-0 Yankees and Houston only has nine outs left to close that gap.
Beltran strikes out to begin the frame, giving Tanaka three for the game. Marwin Gonzalez gets a single, however, and then advances to second on a ball in the dirt: Houston has another runner in scoring position, so let’s see how this plays out!
Another former Yankee, Brian McCann, is up at the plate. He’s yet to collect a hit in the ALCS, and already struck out once against Tanaka tonight. McCann works to a 3-1 count, and the Tanaka/Sanchez battery stop for a conversation to sort out what the plan is for this all-important pitch.
McCann still doesn’t have a hit in the ALCS, but he gives Tanaka his first walk of the evening, and the Astros now have Springer up, two runners on, and just the one out.
It’s now up to Reddick to do something with these baserunners, as Springer strands two with a called strike three. Reddick follows suit, and the Astros have now stranded six baserunners in five innings.
Todd Frazier hits a Keuchel slider deep, but not deep enough, as it lands in Springer’s glove. Alex Bregman’s been so good defensively in this series, but an off-balance throw is also off-target, giving Headley a chance to advance to second after a single.
Aaron Judge is up with two outs, and Hinch has come out to talk with Keuchel — John Smoltz thinks the Astros’ manager is letting Keuchel decide if he wants to pitch to the big slugger with first base open.
Keuchel wants the big boy to himself, and here we go. Judge ends up working a full-count — shocker — and Keuchel walks him in the end. Normally, you might wonder what the difference is between Sanchez and Judge, and why Keuchel would be so careful with Judge when Sanchez is up next, but the Astros seem to have him figured out more than they do Judge. Keuchel’s already punched him out twice, too.
The Astros figured wrong: Sanchez lines to left, and drives in a run to make it 3-0. Judge is at third base now, too, so there could easily be another run by the time Gregorius is done.
See? Gregorius hit a single right past Altuve, and now Judge has scored to give them a 4-0 lead. That’s also the end of the night for Keuchel, so now we have an answer to the question posed at the start of tonight’s game: it was Keuchel’s dominance of the Yankees against the Yankees’ dominance at home, and the latter has won out.
Will Harris gets Houston out of the fifth, but... yeah.
Tanaka enters the fourth inning at 44 pitches, and retires Correa on a grounder to short on his third pitch of the at-bat. The Yankees might be able to get a lot out of Tanaka tonight, but will they bother to when there is a day off tomorrow for the bullpen to recover, anyway?
Gurriel is Tanaka’s second strikeout victim of the game: it’s been grounders that are working for the righty so far, as he’s induced nine of them against one out in the air to this point. And that was the opening play of the game, too.
There’s groundout number 10, courtesy Alex Bregman, and Tanaka is through four scoreless.
Keuchel gets Hicks to pop out to Altuve in shallow right field, and even though it’s only the fourth inning, it feels like Houston needs to keep the Yankees off the board this inning. The second Tanaka starts to slip, Girardi is going to start sending out the relievers Houston hasn’t been able to hit against, and the fewer runs they need to score when that happens, the better their chances of catching up before we’re through nine.
Keuchel is still pitching a good game here, as he racks up his eighth strikeout to end the inning, and has given up two runs through four. He’s also thrown just 60 pitches, so he has plenty left in the tank, too: and that’ll be important for the Astros, considering their bullpen is much thinner than New York’s.
The inning begins with Joe Buck explaining to the audience that we missed the first pitch because FS1 didn’t come back from commercial fast enough, but I saw it. Was I the only one? Or did Buck just cover because FS1 came back basically as Tanaka was in his windup?
Either way, the first pitch was a strike, and so was the last one McCann saw. He struck out, and now it’s back to George Springer and the top of the Astros’ lineup. Springer singled on a fly ball to center that the Yankees miscommunicated on, bringing up Josh Reddick with just the one out.
Reddick worked a 3-2 count, which let Springer take off for second on the next pitch, and that helped the Astros avoid a double play. Springer is now at second, Altuve is up, and the Astros have something going with two down.
No luck for Altuve or the Astros here, however: another groundout, and another scoreless frame for Houston.
Chase Headley is the DH for the Yankees today, and he didn’t read the memo about how Yankees’ DHs aren’t supposed to get hits. That’s a leadoff single for New York, and now Brett Gardner and the top of the lineup are back up.
Well that’s some fancy first basing by Gurriel there, as he spins and throws on a grounder to get the lead runner at second base. Gardner is the faster runner and now he’s the lead runner, but he’s also the only one, and New York traded an out for that speed.
Of course, if Aaron Judge hits a dinger, it won’t matter how fast the runner is or how many outs there are. Keuchel stayed inside to try to keep it from happening, but Judge ripped a double down the line anyway, and Gardner’s speed ended up paying off after all, as he scored from first base. 2-0, Yankees.
Sanchez can’t keep it going, and he strikes out for the second time already tonight. Now it’s cleanup hitter Didi Gregorius’ turn to drive Judge in and extend this lead. He also whiffs, so Keuchel escapes with just one run allowed, but he can’t keep doing that or Houston isn’t going to be able to catch up.
Yuli Gurriel is hitting .400/.438/.567 this postseason, which is [carries the 1] pretty good. He’s now hitting better than that, as he just laced a double to lead off the second. I’m not calculating how much better, Alex Bregman is already up and I don’t have time for such things.
Bregman grounds out, but moves Gurriel along to third base. Now it’s Carlos Beltran’s turn to try to drive him in. He fails in that, though, as he hits a grounder to an infield that’s in, keeping Gurriel stuck at third. Now there are two outs, and Marwin Gonzalez with the chance to turn Gurriel’s leadoff hit into a run.
Tanaka might have given up a hard-hit ball to start the top of the second, but Gonzalez’s grounder is the third such soft ball in play of the frame, and that’s it for Houston’s chances here.
Keuchel opens up the bottom of the second with a strikeout of Didi Gregorius. Aaron Hicks and Starlin Castro are still due up, with Greg Bird next in line should one of them reach.
Hicks grounded out on the first pitch, but Castro found a Keuchel fastball that caught too much of the strike zone and hit a double off the wall in left. The Yankees have a runner in scoring position for Bird. Unlike the Astros in the top half of the frame, New York capitalizes with a Bird single to right field. It’s 1-0 Yankees, Keuchel’s scoreless streak against the Yanks ends at 14-2/3 innings, and here’s Todd Frazier.
Keuchel ends the inning with a strikeout of Frazier, but the Yankees still got themselves an early lead.
I didn’t mention Masahiro Tanaka in the intro, but mostly so I could do so here. He’s been great in his two starts so far, with the Yankees’ offense in Game 1 of the series the only reason he wasn’t a winner in both of his starts. He’ll face the usual top of the Astros lineup: George Springer, Josh Reddick, and Jose Altuve.
Springer takes Tanaka to the warning track, but Yankee Stadium somehow contains a fly ball in right field, and Aaron Judge managed to grab it without crashing into the wall.
Not everyone had as much luck defensively. Todd Frazier made an error on Altuve’s grounder to third, and now the Astros’ second baseman is safe at first, and Carlos Correa is up with two outs. He grounds to Frazier as well, and this time, it’s fielded cleanly, ending the top of the first.
Here’s Dallas Keuchel, who has 57 innings of crushing the Yankees in his career. That doesn’t mean he will again here in Game 5, but that history has to make Astros fans feel a lot better about having lost the last two games here in New York.
Keuchel starts things off well enough, Getting Brett Gardner to ground out on his second pitch, and then striking out the suddenly hitting very well in the ALCS Aaron Judge. The Astros do not have a Judge Plan like Cleveland did, and it shows.
Gary Sanchez also punches out, and that’s a scoreless first for both sides.