Astros Fall to Yankees, Head Home for Game 6

Justin Verlander was roughed up in the first inning of game five in New York.
Justin Verlander was roughed up in the first inning of game five in New York. Photo by Jack Gorman
With their season on the line and the Astros ace on the hill, the Yankees battled back after two straight losses with a 4-1 win in Game 5 to extend their postseason for at least one more game. Justin Verlander was stellar in seven innings with one significant exception. In the first inning, he gave up four runs including a pair of home runs and that was all the Yankees needed.

The Astros had their only run in the first inning as well. And despite putting some pressure on starter James Paxton, they had little luck at the plate collecting only five hits scattered across seven innings, the only run coming off a George Springer infield single followed by a passed ball, groundout and wild pitch.

Outside of that first inning, the Yankees weren't much better. They too had five hits but four of those came in the opening frame. DJ LeMahiu led off with a home run to right center followed by a single from Aaron Judge and a double from Gleyber Torres. Two batters later, Aaron Hicks homered to right for a four-run lead.

Despite the rough outing to start the game, Verlander went seven innings, striking out nine with zero walks. Brad Peacock pitched a perfect eighth.

New York's pitching staff was equally sensational. Paxton went six innings despite a rather high pitch count early and finishing with one run on four hits, nine strikeouts and four walks. The only other hit was surrendered by reliever Tommie Kahnle in the seventh.

Now, the teams return to Minute Maid Park on Saturday with the pitching situation still in flux. If there is a game seven, it is fairly clear it would be Gerrit Cole versus Louis Severino meaning game six is likely to be a bullpen game. The Astros gave nearly their entire staff the night off and haven't had to go to the 'pen nearly as much as the Yankees. Expect them to start Jose Urquidy and go with situational pitching throughout the game.

The Astros remain favored to win the series given that they have both remaining games at home and one of those will have Cole on the mound, but they would prefer to finish out the series on Saturday, giving the team two full days rest before the first game of the World Series against the Washington Nationals.

Until then, the focus remains on game six. The Astros will almost certainly need to muster more than the single run they had in game five if they don't want to play again until Tuesday.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke