All Hail Justin Verlander!
All Hail Justin Verlander!
Photo by Eric Sauseda

All Hail Justin Verlander as Astros Force a ALCS Game Seven

Game Six looked eerily like most every other game of the ALCS for the Houston Astros. The hitters just couldn’t connect with the pitches. The starting pitcher was throwing an outstanding game, but the fear was it would all be wasted by the failure of the offense and by an inevitable bullpen implosion. But with the Yankees holding the 3-2 series lead, and with the Astros facing elimination, the bats came alive. The Astros scored three runs in the fifth inning and added four more runs in the eighth en route to a 7-1 win over the New York Yankees. Now it’s time for Game Seven.

THE MVPs

JUSTIN VERLANDER: It was just another standard game for Verlander. He pitched seven innings, giving up five hits, walking just one, while giving up zero runs and striking out eight Yankee batters. Since joining the Astros, Verlander is 9-0 with a 1.23 ERA with 67 strikeouts. According to the FS1 TV broadcast, Verlander has now thrown 24 consecutive scoreless innings in elimination games. There’s this feeling when Verlander is on the mound that he's not going to let the Astros lose. And in Game Six, he did not let the Astros lose.

JOSE ALTUVE: Altuve had a brutal three games in New York. And he didn’t look that great during his first couple of trips to the plate. But then came the fifth inning. The Astros had already scored one run on Brian McCann’s double, but with the bases loaded and two outs, Altuve came through with his biggest hit of the season as his single knocked in two more runs to put the Astros up 3-0. Then Altuve led off the eighth inning with a homer to the Crawford Boxes to put the Astros up 4-1.

BRIAN MCCANN: McCann was hitting a bleak .000 for the ALCS coming into Game Six. But in the fifth inning, with Alex Bregman on second base and Even Gattis on first with just one out, McCann finally made contact and hit a ground-rule double that bounced into the right field stands. The two-bagger scored Bregman and put the Astros up 1-0.

GEORGE SPRINGER: Springer didn’t have any hits, but anybody who watched Justin Verlander’s reactions in the top of the seventh inning realized Springer may have made the most important play in the game. With Verlander beginning to tire and two Yankees on base with just one out, Todd Frazier connected on a pitch to the deepest parts of center field that looked, at the start, like it might be a game-tying home run. But Springer sprinted back to the wall and leaped to make the catch for the out. The ball would not have cleared the fence, but if Springer would have botched the catch, it’s possible that at least two of the Yankees runners would have scored.

THE DFAs (Designated for Assignment)

LUIS SEVERINO: The Astros offense finally broke out, and it broke out against Severino, chasing the Yankee starter after 4 2/3 innings. He gave up just three hits, but he also walked four batters. Two of those hits and three of those walks came in that fifth inning which saw the Astros grab the lead.

DAVID ROBERTSON: Aaron Judge teed off for a home run in the top of the eighth inning to bring the Yankees to within 3-1 of the Astros. The Yankees went to Robertson, one of their top relievers out of the bullpen to keep the score close. He failed. He gave up a homer to Altuve to lead off the bottom of the eighth, but the Astros weren't done as they scored four runs on four hits off Robertson. Robertson left the game with the Astros up 7-1, without recording a single out.

AARON HICKS: Hicks had an awful night at bat. He was zero-for-three with three strikeouts while leaving three Yankees stranded on the bases.

FOX SPORTS: The most exciting event in sports is a playoff game seven. And viewers would think that such a game would air on the parent broadcast network because that would make the game viewable to just about any person who has access to a television. Instead, the Astros and Yankees will once again be shown on FS1 while the all-important TCU-Kansas Big 12 showdown is broadcast on Fox.

Game Seven starts a little after 7 p.m. on Saturday. The Yankees will start CC Sabathia, the man who shut down the Astros in Game Three. The Astros have opted to start Charlie Morton but have pretty much made it known that every pitcher on the staff but Justin Verlander is available to pitch. The loser goes home for the season. The winner heads out to Los Angeles for Game One of the World Series.

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