The Astros were nine outs away from shutting down the New York Yankees on Tuesday and taking the 3-1 American League Championship Series lead. The Yankees came from behind to win that game 6-4, and on Wednesday, the Yankees took the early lead and never looked back, winning 5-0 and taking the 3-2 ALCS lead.
The Astros were unable to hit the ball in Game Five. The Astros pitchers struggled, and now the team that appeared to be on the brink of the World Series is on the verge of going home for the season.
MASAHIRO TANAKA: Tanaka, the Game One loser, was clearly the best pitcher on the field Wednesday. He struck out eight Astros batters in seven innings, giving up just three hits and walking only one batter. The Astros were clueless at the plate, flailing away at just about every pitch that got within 15 feet of the plate, except for the pitches that came across the middle of the plate which the Astros decided to not swing at.
AARON JUDGE: Judge struck the Astros again in Game Five. He doubled in one run and scored. He also got on base by walking, and it is clear that whatever issues he was having at the plate at the start of the series have disappeared.
GARY SANCHEZ: The Astros were struggling to keep the game close until the fifth inning when Sanchez strode to the plate. He deposited the pitch from Brad Peacock into the stands for a two-run homer, making the score 4-0 and effectively putting the game out of reach.
YULI GURRIEL: Gurriel was only one-for-four for the day. But he was the only Astro batter who had any idea of what he was doing at the plate. He was also the only one who had a clue as to what he was doing in Game Four.
THE DFAs (Designated for Assignment)
DALLAS KEUCHEL: With the way the Astros offense has been misfiring, it was imperative that Kuechel pitch as near perfect a game as possible. That did not happen. Keuchel lasted just 4 2/3 innings. He gave up seven hits and four runs. It was not all Keuchel’s fault. He did strike out eight Yankees. But while his bad pitches were clobbered by Yankee hitters, Houston was unable to generate anything off of Tanaka’s mistakes.
JOSE ALTUVE: Let’s be truthful, every Houston hitter (but for Gurriel) could be listed here. But Altuve is a MVP candidate who is one of the best offensive players in baseball. Yet he went up to the plate four times and came away with nothing. The Astros do not win many games when Altuve fails to get a hit.
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JOSH REDDICK: Reddick was a big zero for the game. He struck out twice and had no hits in four at bats. Reddick is batting a big fat .000 for the ALCS, and that is unacceptable from the No. 2 hitter in the lineup.
THE ASTROS OFFENSE: The Astros regular season slash line was .282/.346/.478 and the team had the lowest strikeout percentage in baseball. The ALCS slash line is .153/.254/.220. The Astros in Game Five were zero for eight with runners in scoring position, and is 4-for-27 (.148) for the entire ALCS. That’s not good. Even the playoff version of the Killer Bs thinks that number is bad. The Yankee pitching staff is good, but the Astros beat up the New York pitchers in the regular season, so the results now are rather inexplicable. The offense needs to wake up on Friday or this season is going to be over.
Justin Verlander takes the mound for the Astros in Game Six on Friday night. Verlander was acquired for big games like this Game Six. Verlander definitely delivered in Game Two, pitching a complete game masterpiece while limiting the Yankees to just one run. But with the way the Astros offense has been, Verlander may not be able to afford even to give up one run. The game starts just after 7 p.m. on FS1, and Verlander will be up against Luis Severino.
And remember, for the Astros, it’s win or go home.