The Houston Astros earned home-field advantage in the American League Championship Series with a dominant regular season, and they weren't about to lose each of the first two games at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros evened the ALCS at one apiece with a thrilling 3-2 extra-innings victory over the New York Yankees in Sunday's Game 2. They are now three wins away from their second World Series appearance in three years after Carlos Correa won the game with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th.
As for the Yankees, they still earned a split in Houston and can clinch their first Fall Classic appearance since 2009 by defending their home field.
Notable Player Stats
- Justin Verlander: 6.2 innings, two earned runs, five hits, two walks and seven strikeouts
- Carlos Correa: 2-for-5, one home run, two RBI and one run
- George Springer: 1-for-4, one home run, one RBI, one run and one walk
- James Paxton: 2.1 innings, one earned run, four hits, three strikeouts and two walks
- Aaron Judge: 1-for-4, one home run, two RBI, one run and one walk
Familiar Names Play Hero Ball for Astros
When baseball fans look back on this era of Astros dominance, a handful of names will come to mind.
Correa, George Springer and Justin Verlander will surely be included.
While Zack Greinke missed the memo in Game 1 that starting pitching is the calling card of the Astros, Verlander picked up the slack with a gutsy performance in Game 2. The only damage he allowed was a two-run blast to Aaron Judge, and sometimes pitchers just have to tip their caps to one of the best power hitters in the league.
Verlander, along with the showing of Will Harris, Roberto Osuna, Joe Smith and Josh James out of the bullpen, gave the offense a chance to win it, and Correa made sure it did just that.
It wasn't just the walk-off, as he started the scoring with an RBI double in the second and impressed in the field with one of the most important plays in the top of the sixth. Brett Gardner's hit ricocheted off Jose Altuve, but Correa gathered the ball and threw DJ LeMahieu out at the plate to preserve the tie.
Springer, who was the 2017 World Series MVP, also did his part with a solo homer in the fifth that tied the game and gave him the most postseason long balls in franchise history.
The trio is as battle-tested as any in the league in recent years, and its brilliance prevented a daunting 2-0 hole in the ALCS.
Yankees' Reliable Bullpen Finally Runs Out of Arms
A powerful offense and shutdown bullpen has been necessary all season for a Yankees team that featured a starting rotation that finished a middling 15th in the league in ERA.
The offense was missing Giancarlo Stanton because of a quad strain, per Lindsey Adler of The Athletic, and couldn't generate anything of note off Houston's pitchers outside of Judge's home run. Stanton surely would have helped, but the offense still led the league in runs and finished second in home runs during the regular season even though he appeared in just 18 games.
It was a credit to the bullpen this game even reached extra frames given the offensive performance and the fact that starter James Paxton lasted just 2.1 innings.
Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle combined for 4.1 shutout innings without allowing a single hit, and the reliable back-end combination of Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman did their jobs (even though the latter needed 25 pitches in the ninth). However, manager Aaron Boone wasn't working with the best of options by extra innings.
He turned to CC Sabathia for one hitter and Jonathan Loaisiga for back-to-back walks in the 10th before J.A. Happ escaped the jam. However, Happ—who was a starter all season and pitched just one inning this postseason entering play—gave up the winner to Correa when forced to pitch into the 11th.
Boone couldn't have asked for anything more from his bullpen, but he eventually ran out of reliable arms as his offense failed to notch a single clutch hit.
The series shifts back to New York for Tuesday's Game 3.