Yankees Use Hot Start to Pull Themselves Back from Brink with Game 5 ALCS Win

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistOctober 19, 2019

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 18: Aroldis Chapman #54 and Aaron Hicks #31 of the New York Yankees celebrate after defeating the Houston Astros in game five of the American League Championship Series with a score of 4 to 1 at Yankee Stadium on October 18, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The New York Yankees aren't done yet. They proved that Friday night with a lifesaving 4-1 win over the Houston Astros in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium after a bungling four-error loss put them on the brink Thursday.   

On an evening when they had to claim victory or watch their season end in flames, they won behind a hot start and never looked back.

In the first inning, the Yanks plated four runs. It kicked off with DJ LeMahieu's solo shot. Then, after no-doubt hits from Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres, Aaron Hicks smacked a three-run shot off the foul pole.

It was all the scoring New York would need. Starter James Paxton allowed one run in six frames, and the bullpen added a trio of scoreless innings to make it stand.

With that, the Yanks stayed alive. They forced Game 6 on Saturday in Houston. They made certain the 'Stros won't punch their Fall Classic dance card and bathe in Champagne and confetti quite yet.

It was a big tussle for the Yankees, to put it mildly. 

Paxton delivered a strong start, but the dominant storyline was the offense, which set the tone from the get-go.

Truly, that's how it was all season for a Yankees squad that paced baseball with 943 runs scored, finished second with 306 homers and ranked third with an .829 OPS.

From top to bottom, this club can swat baseballs with extreme prejudice. Granted, the Yanks weathered a record-breaking number of injuries. But they raked regardless.

That trend has carried over into the postseason. In their three-game sweep over the Minnesota Twins in the division series and their five games against Houston in the ALCS, the Yankees have scored 40 runs, second only to the National League champion Washington Nationals, and hit an MLB-leading 13 postseason home runs.

To put it simply: They can hit.

Just when you doubt their ability to swing it, they remind you they can. 

Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

"That's sports, man," Yankees skipper Aaron Boone told reporters before Game 5. "Just when you think you know what's going to happen, the script can flip."

He isn't wrong. The Astros are headed back to Minute Maid Park with two cracks at clinching a slot in the World Series.

On the other hand, the Yankees are one win away from a pivotal, winner-take-all Game 7. Give their hot bats credit.

"We had our backs against the wall, and we're going to keep fighting," LeMahieu said in his postgame remarks

The Astros have two games to close it out. Even after they burned Justin Verlander in Game 5, they have an advantage over the Yankees, especially with co-ace Gerrit Cole waiting in the wings.

The Yankees have not exhaled their final gasp, however. Title No. 28 is reachable.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 18: Tommy Kahnle #48 of the New York Yankees talks with Gary Sanchez #24 and Didi Gregorius #18 against the Houston Astros during the seventh inning in game five of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on
Elsa/Getty Images

"I think everyone gets frustrated at that because we expect a lot of ourselves," Boone told reporters. "But one thing I know about them when we had a clunker or not played well, I feel like this teamas much as any that I've been arounddo a very good job of letting [that] roll off and being hyperfocused on the day."

Now, the Yankees have another day. It's called Game 6. If they win, they'll get Game 7. 

To put a finer point on it, they aren't done yet.

They saw the brink, and now they've pulled back.

                  

All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.

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