Masahiro Tanaka Dominates Astros to Give Yankees 3-2 ALCS Lead

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistOctober 18, 2017

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 18:  Masahiro Tanaka #19 of the New York Yankees reacts after the end of the top of the seventh inning against the Houston Astros in Game Five of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 18, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

The New York Yankees, improbable as it seemed four days ago, seized a 3-2 ALCS lead over the Houston Astros on Wednesday night with a 5-0 Game 5 win at Yankee Stadium. 

The Yankees have now scored 11 unanswered runs since falling behind 4-0 midway through Game 4 on Tuesday night.  

Game 4 evidently gave the Yankees a major confidence boost, because they looked aggressive and in the zone at the plate against Astros starter Dallas Keuchel, who had held them scoreless in two previous postseason appearances—including a dominant Game 1 outing. 

But on Wednesday, the Yankees were fearless in a way they previously hadn't been against the 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner, with their bats coming alive early and often. 

Starlin Castro got the party started with a double in the bottom of the second inning, and a Greg Bird single pushed the Yankees second baseman across, as Fox Sports MLB documented: 

The next inning it was Aaron Judge's turn. He produced a double down the line to drive in Brett Gardner from first: 

The AL home run leader has now produced four extra-base hits over the last three games. 

Gary Sanchez—who also cranked a solo home runand Didi Gregorius each tacked on an RBI single in the bottom of the fifth inning, at which point Keuchel's night was over. 

The New York Post's Joel Sherman broke down just how uncharacteristic Keuchel's struggles were: 

The breakthrough against Keuchel was accompanied by another gem from Masahiro Tanaka, who tallied eight strikeouts over seven scoreless innings. 

Thanks to that effort, Tanakawho struck out seven over seven innings in Game 3 of the ALDSentered rare statistical air, according to ESPN Stats & Info: 

Now trailing 3-2, the Astros will attempt to stave off elimination and force a decisive Game 7 when Justin Verlander squares off against Luis Severino on Friday night. 

But in order to do so, the AL West champions will need to find consistent sources of offense—especially at the bottom of the order—to keep pace with a Yankee lineup that's hitting its stride with a World Series berth in sight.