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2017 American League Championship Series
|2017 American League Championship Series|
101 - 61 in the AL
|4 - 3
|New York Yankees|
91 - 71 in the AL
The 2017 American League Championship Series featured a match-up between the Houston Astros, winners of the AL West, against the New York Yankees, who had had to go through the Wild Card Game to get this far. The two teams had met in the 2015 American League Wild Card Game, with the Astros winning by shutout at New Yankee Stadium. The core of that Astros team was still around, and their reaching the ALCS this year was part a well thought-out multi-year plan. However, the Yankees had turned over much of their roster since that 2015 encounter, and truth be told, had not expected to go very far in what was dubbed a rebuilding year. However, now that they had eliminated the Cleveland Indians in the Division Series, a team many considered as the favorite to win the World Series, they were brimming with confidence. The Astros were still the consensus pick to win this series, though.
It took seven games to determine a winner, with the home team winning each game. The Astros had the home field advantage, based on their better regular season record, and as a result won the series after trailing three games to two when the two teams left New York, but won two must-win games to take the series. The win gave them their first American League pennant, their second overall after having won one in the National League back in 2005. That made them the first team to have won a pennant in both leagues. Pitcher Justin Verlander, author of two superlative performances on the mound, was named the winner of the ALCS MVP Award.
- Gary Cederstrom (crew chief), Mark Carlson, Chad Fairchild, Chris Guccione, Jerry Meals, Jim Reynolds, Hunter Wendelstedt
Carlson was a replay official at MLB Headquarters in New York for the first two games of the series, after which he switched roles with Fairchild. Mike Muchlinski was the other replay official.
|1||New York Yankees 1 Houston Astros 2||October 13||Masahiro Tanaka (0-1) Dallas Keuchel (1-0)||8:00 pm|
|2||New York Yankees 1 Houston Astros 2||October 14||Luis Severino (0-0) vs. Justin Verlander (1-0)||4:00 pm|
|3||Houston Astros 1 New York Yankees 8||October 16||Charlie Morton (0-1) CC Sabathia (1-0)||8:00 pm|
|4||Houston Astros 4 New York Yankees 6||October 17||Lance McCullers (0-0) Sonny Gray (0-0)||5:00 pm|
|5||Houston Astros 0 New York Yankees 5||October 18||Dallas Keuchel (1-1) Masahiro Tanaka (1-1)||5:00 pm|
|6||New York Yankees 1 Houston Astros 7||October 20||Luis Severino (0-1) vs. Justin Verlander (2-0)||8:00 pm|
|7||New York Yankees 0 Houston Astros 4||October 21||CC Sabathia (1-1) vs. Charlie Morton (1-1)||8:00 pm|
Game 1 @ Minute Maid Park
|WP: Dallas Keuchel (1-0); LP: Masahiro Tanaka (0-1); SV: Ken Giles (1)|
|Home Runs: NY - Greg Bird (1)|
- Attendance: 43,116
The Astros won Game 1 at home behind a great performance by starter Dallas Keuchel, aided by one brilliant defensive play. His opponent on the mound, Masahiro Tanaka, also did well, but two runs by the Astros in the 4th inning proved to be the difference. For New York, Matt Holliday was starting at DH for the first time this postseason, but otherwise, there were no real surprises in the two teams' line-ups.
The two starters began the game the same way, issuing a walk in the 1st but stranding that runner on base, and following with a perfect 2nd inning. It was clear from the beginning that this would be a pitchers' duel in which runs would come at a premium. In the 3rd, Brett Gardner notched the first base hit of the game with a two-out single off Keuchel, but he moved no further. Starlin Castro also hit a two-out single in the 4th, but he was left stranded too. The Astros were still hitless heading into the bottom of the 4th, but Jose Altuve changed that with a one-out single that went through Tanaka's legs and was fielded by 2B Castro, whose throw to first could not beat the speedy Altuve. He then stole second base and Carlos Correa followed with a single to left that scored the Astros' dynamo. Correa then took second on a grounder by Marwin Gonzalez and scored when Yuli Gurriel singled up the middle. Houston had a 2-0 lead, one that would hold to the end.
The Yankees replied immediately in the 5th, with a lead-off single by Greg Bird. Holliday hit a soft grounder to Altuve at second, who tried to pick it up and tag Bird all in one move, but the result was that the ball popped out of his glove for an error and both runners were safe. Keuchel then got Todd Frazier to line out and struck out Gardner, but next up was Aaron Judge, who dropped a single into left field. Bird got a good jump and was on his way home, but was cut off by an absolutely perfect throw by LF Gonzalez, a bullet directly to C Brian McCann who tagged him out. The Yankees called for a video review, but the call stood. That was a huge play, but Houston was unable to make its lead more comfortable as they were retired in order in the bottom of the 5th and then in the 6th, stranded Altuve on second base after he had reached that position with a one-out single followed by a wild pitch. For his part, Keuchel was perfect in the 6th and 7th again, completing his night's work with seven scoreless innings and 10 strikeouts.
Chad Green replaced Tanaka in the bottom of the 7th and while he allowed a two-out infield single to Alex Bregman, he also shut down the Astros. In the 8th, Chris Devenski walked Gardner after one out, prompting A.J. Hinch to immediately call on his closer, Ken Giles. He quickly unleashed a wild pitch, but got Aaron Judge to ground out, and after walking Gary Sanchez, struck out Didi Gregorius to end the inning. Green added another scoreless inning in the 8th, in spite of Altuve's third hit of the night, then Giles came back for the 9th. He struck out Castro and Aaron Hicks, before Bird took him deep to right to end the shutout bid. It was proverbially too little too late, however, as Giles turned around to strike out Jacoby Ellsbury, pinch-hitting for Holliday, to end the game.
Game 2 @ Minute Maid Park
|WP: Justin Verlander (1-0); LP: Aroldis Chapman (0-1)|
|Home Runs: HOU - Carlos Correa (1)|
- Attendance: 43,193
The Astros won Game 2 behind a superb pitching performance by Justin Verlander who managed the rare feat in this day and age of pitching a complete game, putting his team in a position to win with a run off closer Aroldis Chapman in the bottom of the 9th. In 9 innings of work, he gave up just 5 hits, walked 1 and struck out 13 opponents. His control was out of this world, as out of 124 pitches, he threw 93 strikes. He had only one bad spell of two batters in the 5th, when the Yankees were able to score a run and tie the game. His opponent, Luis Severino, was also very good, but after he allowed a solo homer to Carlos Correa in the 4th, manager Joe Girardi asked for a medical visit, and after he took a ball off his knee to record the last out of that inning, he did not return. His two successors on the mound, Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson, were just as outstanding, hardly giving up anything over the next four innings, before the Astros put together the winning rally in the 9th.
The Astros did put a couple of men on base in the 1st, with a two-out single by Jose Altuve and a walk to Correa, but Severino got Marwin Gonzalez to ground out to end the inning. The Yankees had a chance with two outs in the 3rd, when Brett Gardner drove a ball to the right field corner for extra bases. He ran full tilt until third and was originally called safe, but a video review showed that the relay from RF Josh Reddick to SS Correa to 3B Alex Bregman beat him by a hair and he was called out. It was the second nice defensive play by Houston, the first having come in the 2nd, when with a defensive shift on, Greg Bird lifted a pop-up to shortstop; both Bregman and Correa converged on the ball, and with the loud noise in Minute Maid Park, both tried to catch it; it went into Bregman's glove, then popped out briefly and ended up in Correa's for the out.
Houston scored first when, with one out in the 4th, Correa hit a line drive into the first row of seats in right field. The ball was hit so hard that RF Aaron Judge did not have time to reach it, as he could have caught it had he been just a couple of steps closer. But the Yankees managed to reply immediately, after two outs in the 5th. Aaron Hicks doubled and scored when Todd Frazier doubled as well, his ball getting stuck in the chain link fence in left field. But Verlander got Chase Headley to fly out, and was absolutely dominant for the remaining four innings. The only question was whether he would pitch the 9th inning as well, as he was already over 100 pitches, but he was doing so well that there was apparently no hesitation to send him back. For the Yankees, after Kahnle and Robertson had both pitched two excellent innings each, closer Chapman was called in for the 9th. He struck out Josh Reddick, but Altuve followed with a single - his fifth hit in two games. Correa was up next and he drove a ball to right center. Judge had to run to get it, threw to second too late to get Correa, but meanwhile Altuve was running home. SS Didi Gregorius turned around and fired the ball to C Gary Sanchez, the ball arriving well ahead of Altuve. However, Sanchez was unable to handle the short hop, and Altuve slid in safely for the winning run.
Game 3 @ New Yankee Stadium
|WP: CC Sabathia (1-0); LP: Charlie Morton (0-1)|
|Home Runs: NY - Todd Frazier (1), Aaron Judge (1)|
- Attendance: 49,373
In Game 3, New York recorded its first win of the series, and at the same time finally managed to get its bats going after being pretty much shut down in the first two games in Houston. The final score of 8-1 did not really reflect the way the game went, however: the Yankees only had 7 hits, and scored all of their runs in two outbursts of 3 and 5 runs in the early innings, thanks to a number of hits on balls that were not particularly well struck. However, a strong performance by CC Sabathia and the relievers that followed him, limiting the Astros to 4 hits, made sure that their opponents were never in the game. Facing a lefthander, the Astros made a few changes to their line-up, with Evan Gattis catching and Cameron Maybin playing left field, but the net effect was to weaken a defence that had been excellent, while not providing any obvious dividends offensively.
Both Sabathia and his opponent, Charlie Morton, started off the game well, with a pair of strikeouts in the 1st. Didi Gregorius got a two-out hit for the Yankees by surprising the defence with a beautiful bunt down the third base line, but he was then immediately picked off first base by Morton. With two outs in the 2nd, however, Starlin Castro managed a base hit on a soft liner between third base and short, on a pitch that had completely handcuffed him. Aaron Hicks then managed to drop a single into left field, and Todd Frazier followed with a bizarre homer, as he lunged for a pitch that was low and outside and lifted it to the opposite field, where it fell in the stands; replays showed that Frazier was not only completely off-balance when he hit the ball, but also had his eyes closed, while that ball would have been an easy out in any ballpark other than New Yankee Stadium and its hitter-friendly right-field porch. It was a bad break for Morton, but New York was up 3-0, and a huge weight was lifted off the Yankees' shoulders, as they had scored more runs on that one swing than in the previous 19 innings of the series.
The Astros could have got back into the game immediately in the 3rd but wasted a golden opportunity when, with two outs, George Springer drew a walk and moved to third on a single by Alex Bregman, then Jose Altuve walked as well to load the bases. However, Carlos Correa was unable to cash in any of the runners, as he popped out to shortstop to end the inning. In the top of the 4th, Aaron Judge, who hadn't done much with the bat in the series yet, made a tremendous play by running full speed into the right field wall to catch a line drive off the bat of Yuli Gurriel and deprive him of extra bases, and possibly a homer. In the bottom of the inning, however, LF Maybin failed to make a play on a very catchable ball by Greg Bird to start the inning. He pulled up and let it drop in front of him, and it then took a high bounce, landing in the stands for an automatic double. Morton got the next two batters to make outs and should by all rights have been out of the inning, but then things unraveled. He seemed to deliberately pitch around Frazier, walking him on five pitches, then Chase Headley followed with an infield single to second, on another ball that was not hit very well. Bird scored and, incidentally, it was the first hit by a Yankees DH all postseason, as they had gone a collective 0-for-29 before that. Morton then hit Brett Gardner with a pitch, and gave way to Will Harris. Morton ended up with a pretty bad pitching line, but in fact had pitched quite well and had his good stuff, and except for a few unlucky breaks, would have kept his team in the game. In any case, Harris put the game completely out of hand by uncorking a wild pitch that bounced over C Gattis's head and made the score 5-0, and then seeing one of pitches be crushed to left field by Judge for a no-doubt three-run homer. With an 8-0 lead with the 4th inning not even completed, it was time to close the books, and the last few innings were just perfunctory.
Houston likely wasted its last slim chance of getting back in the game when it failed to capitalize after placing two runners on with one out in the top of the 5th. One of the few positive things to come out of the game for the Astros was that Collin McHugh, activated before the start of the series, pitched well in relief after coming in in the bottom of the 5th, allowing just one walk in his four innings of work, and providing something that had been particularly rare all postseason: a solid outing in long relief. The Astros put two more men on base in the 6th, with a single by Correa that deflected off Gregorius's glove at shortstop and an error by Gregorius, but it was again for naught as Josh Reddick grounded out to Sabathia to end the inning. The Yankees' veteran left after six strong innings, and Adam Warren followed with two innings in which he gave up only a walk. The Astros avoided a shutout when Dellin Betances took over on the mound in the top of the 9th and walked Marwin Gonzalez and pinch-hitter Derek Fisher back-to-back to start things off. Joe Girardi had to call in Tommy Kahnle to sweep up the budding mess, something he would have preferred not to have to do. Kahnle gave up a single to Maybin that loaded the bases, then after a first out, walked Bregman to force in a run. Altuve then ended the game by grounding into a double play. Having just completed a comeback from being two games down against the Cleveland Indians in the Division Series, the Yankees were now heading into Game 4 brimming with confidence following their strong performance.
Game 4 @ New Yankee Stadium
|WP: Chad Green (1-0); LP: Ken Giles (0-1); SV: Aroldis Chapman (1)|
|Home Runs: NY - Aaron Judge (2)|
- Attendance: 48,804
The Yankees tied the series at two wins apiece with a great comeback in a game that started out as a pitchers' duel, then seemed to be fully in the Astros' grasp, only to fall into the Yankees' lap, 6-4, thanks to 6 runs in their final two turns at bat. The Astros' hitting woes continued, as even though they scored 4 runs, they were limited to just 3 hits. On the mound, both teams decided to go with a fourth starter, mid-season acquisition Sonny Gray for New York and Lance McCullers, who had struggled badly in the second half, for Houston. The Yankees also made a change on defence, with Austin Romine playing catcher and Gary Sanchez moving over to the DH spot, while Houston returned to the line-up that had won the first two games.
The first three innings were dominated by the starting pitchers, who allowed few baserunners and stranded those who did make it. There was a bit of strangeness in the 4th when Aaron Judge started the inning by drawing a walk. After one out, the Yankees put on a hit-and-run but Sanchez lifted a ball to right field. Judge had already passed second base and should have been doubled off easily, but RF Josh Reddick's throw to first base was poor, and by the time 1B Yuli Gurriel stepped on the base, Judge was there almost simultaneously even if the original call was that he was out. The Yankees asked for a video review and while the tape showed that Judge had just beaten Gurriel to the bag, it also revealed he had failed to retouch second base while returning to first. So the Astros immediately made an appeal play at second. Knowing he was at fault, Judge had a brilliant idea: he took off for second, trying to confuse the Astros; it worked in that 2B Jose Altuve abandoned his attempt to complete the appeal play and instead tried to tag Judge, but Altuve did manage to touch him, so the weird play went down as a caught stealing. Had he missed his tag, however, it would have negated the appeal play and Judge would have been safe at second...
After that brief entertaining interlude, the two pitchers went back to mowing down their opponents, until the top of the 6th, when George Springer drew a lead-off walk against Gray, then Reddick was awarded first base on catcher's interference (already the third time the normally rare play had occurred this postseason). That was the signal for Joe Girardi to call for his bullpen, although he waited for Gray to start off Altuve with a ball before making his move; in a bizarre footnote, Gray left a postseason start for the fourth time without having seen his teammates score even one run for him. David Robertson took over but completed the walk to Altuve to load the bases with no one out. He did strike out Carlos Correa but Gurriel followed with a huge clutch hit, ripping a ball into the left field corner to clear the bases. He got caught in no man's land between second and third and was put out, but Houston led 3-0. They then added another run in the top of the 7th as Marwin Gonzalez doubled with one out, then scored when Brian McCann hit a ground ball towards 2B Starlin Castro, who was playing deeper than his usual position because of a defensive shift. Castro was off-balance when he caught the ball on a bounce, and when he transferred it to his throwing hand, he inadvertently tossed it into right field.
McCullers had given the Astros a tremendous six-inning performance, but he had not pitched that deep into a game since June. A.J. Hinch should probably have removed him at that point, but he let him start the 7th, and on his first pitch, Judge hit a huge homer to deepest center field to put the Yankees on the scoreboard. That was the signal to call on Chris Devenski, but he allowed a triple to the first batter he faced, Didi Gregorius and Sanchez followed with a sacrifice fly to cut the lead to 4-2. Devenski then walked Greg Bird, prompting Hinch to yank him in favor of Joe Musgrove who managed to get the final two outs of the inning, but the fans were back in the game.
Then came the 8th inning, and it was a nightmare for Houston. Todd Frazier led off with a single, then Chase Headley, pinch-hitting for Romine, hit a single to left, advancing Frazier to third. However, Headley stumbled rounding first and was caught between the two bases, but the Astros botched what should have been a simple rundown, allowing him to end up safe on second as 2B Altuve tried to tag him from behind the base, and not in front of it, among a number of things that went wrong on the play. Houston was now in serious trouble with the tying run on second and no one out. Closer Ken Giles was called in and he got Brett Gardner to ground out to second, but that allowed Frazier to score and Headley to take third base. Next up was Judge, and he continued his string of hot hitting started the previous day by doubling to left field to tie the game. Gregorius singled to move Judge to third, then Sanchez doubled to center, driving in both runners for a 6-4 lead. After an intentional walk, Giles gave way to Luke Gregerson, the third pitcher of the inning, who walked Castro to load the bases. However, he got Aaron Hicks to hit a grounder to Gurriel, who threw home to force Sanchez, and Frazier came up again and ended the inning with a grounder to third. Houston was now completely demoralized, however, and Aroldis Chapman made easy work of them in the 9th, striking out Gurriel and Alex Bregman and getting pinch-hitter Evan Gattis to fly out to left for the final out.
Game 5 @ New Yankee Stadium
|WP: Masahiro Tanaka (1-1); LP: Dallas Keuchel (1-1)|
|Home Runs: NY - Gary Sanchez (1)|
- Attendance: 49,647
After having seen the Yankees' bats awaken in the first two games played at New Yankee Stadium, the Astros thought they had what it took to turn the tide with one of their two aces, Dallas Keuchel, on the mound in Game 5. Not only did it not work, but their own batters continued their deep hibernation that had lasted all series, as Masahiro Tanaka completely muzzled them over 7 innings. The Yankees ended up winning a 5-0 shutout and were now one game away from the World Series.
The two starters had a solid 1st inning, then in the 2nd Yuli Gurriel hit a lead-off double for Houston. He moved to third on a ground ball by Alex Bregman, but the Astros proved not be adept at situational hitting, as the next two batters failed to drive him in. Worse, the Astros did not know this at the time, but Gurriel's double would be just about the only hard-hit ball off Tanaka all game, as he kept his pitches down and continually frustrated opposite batters. When the Yankees also had a scoring chance in the bottom of the inning, they did not waste it, however. Starlin Castro doubled with two outs and Greg Bird followed with a single to right for a 1-0 lead. In the 3rd, George Springer hit a weak one-out single for the Astros, but got no further than second base, then the Yankees once again showed they were opportunistic. Chase Headley led off with a single off Keuchel but was forced out by Brett Gardner, which placed a faster runner on base. Aaron Judge followed with a double and Gradner ran all the way home to give the Yankees their second run as the fans in the stands were already smelling victory at this early stage, chanting endlessly.
Both pitchers retired the side in order in the 4th, and in the 5th Marwin Gonzalez hit a one-out single for Houston, then reached second on a wild pitch. Tanaka issued a walk to Brian McCann but then struck out Springer and Josh Reddick to squash that opportunity as well. And then New York drove another nail in Houston's coffin with two runs in the bottom of the inning, coming on a one-out single by Headley, a walk to Judge after a second out, and singles by Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius. That spelled the end of the day's work for Keuchel, who could not even complete the 5th. But credit should be given to the Yankees' batters, who hit some good pitches, in sharp contrast with Houston's batters, who were mostly flailing away at the plate. Will Harris got the final out of the inning, but there was little life left in the Astros now. They were completely dominated by Tanaka and were just going through the motions. The Yankees added a fifth and final run in the 7th when Sanchez connected for a homer against Brad Peacock, while Tommy Kahnle pitched the final two innings, giving up just one hit. The only consolation for Houston after that listless performance was that the home team had won all five games so far and that the next two games would be played at Minute Maid Park - but they had to find their winning ways again quickly or everything would end for them in the next game.
Game 6 @ Minute Maid Park
|WP: Justin Verlander (2-0); LP: Luis Severino (0-1)|
|Home Runs: NY - Aaron Judge (3); HOU - Jose Altuve (1)|
- Attendance: 43,179
The Astros forced a Game 7 with a 7-1 win in Game 6, although the game was much closer and more tense than the final score indicated. The Astros were betting everything on the presence of Justin Verlander on the mound and on being back in the friendly confines of their home ballpark, and it worked, as Verlander had his second great start in the series. He was not able to pitch another complete game, as he began to run out of steam in the the 6th, but still gave his team 7 scoreless innings, leaving with a 3-0 lead that the bullpen was able to hold, although there were some scary moments. The Astros' bats were stymied once again by a Yankees pitcher, this time Luis Severino, until the 5th inning, when a couple of clutch hits broke a scoreless tie, and they finally erupted in the 8th with a four-run outburst that put the game away. Both teams had all of their regulars playing, the only change being A.J. Hinch picking Evan Gattis as his starting DH over Carlos Beltran.
Brett Gardner put a scare in Astros fans by leading off the game with a single off Verlander, but he was immediately eliminated on a double play grounder by Aaron Judge on which SS Carlos Correa made a nice play. Verlander also gave up a lead-off single in the 2nd, to Gary Sanchez, but he did not advance further and Verlander again stranded a runner in the 3rd, Chase Headley, who had reached on a one-out single. He was not as dominant as in Game 2, but still had his side of the game under control. For his part, Severino, started off firing on all cylinders giving up only a walk to Yuli Gurriel through the first three innings. This looked like a repeat of Game 2 thus far and the 4th was little different, except that Houston got its first hit on a single by Correa with two outs. The Yankees then went down in order in the top of the 5th.
Houston finally showed some life in the 5th. The inning started by Severino walking Alex Bregman who took second on a ground out by Marwin Gonzalez. Gattis then drew a walk to put a second runner on, and Brian McCann, whose bat had been stone cold thus far, hit a ball hard, as it cleared the right field wall on one hop for an automatic double. Houston had a 1-0 lead and two runners in scoring position with one out. George Springer, another stone cold hitter, drew another walk to load the bases, but Severino got Josh Reddick to fly out to shallow center for the second out. Up stepped Jose Altuve, and he lived up to his role as an MVP candidate by getting the clutchiest of clutch hits, a single to left that scored Gattis and McCann to increase the lead to 3-0. That was it for Severino, who was replaced by Chad Green, and he got Correa to pop up to end the inning.
Verlander now had a lead to nurse, but he began to show some fatigue after breezing through the middle innings. Headley led off the 6th with his second single, and after two outs, including a strikeout of Judge, Didi Gregorius singled as well, bringing up Sanchez as the potential tying run. Verlander ran a three-ball count, but on the next pitch Sanchez tried unsuccessfully to check his swing and hit a grounder to third to end the threat. After Green had disposed of the Astros in the bottom of the inning, the Yankees threatened again in the 7th. Greg Bird drew a lead-off walk and Starlin Castro was grazed by a pitch, the hit batsman being confirmed after a video review. Aaron Hicks then settled in for a long at-bat, fouling off a number of tough pitches, including one ball that went 400 feet to right but foul, before Verlander finally got him to swing at an inside breaking ball on his 10th pitch. Todd Frazier followed with a ball to deep center which Springer caught with a perfectly-timed leap against the fence; he could have doubled off Castro at first, but his throw back to the infield was a poor one. The Yankees had another chance, but Headley grounded out to second to end another tough inning. Everyone congratulated Verlander as he returned to the dugout, as it was clear he was done, having given his team everything he had. Green followed with a perfect bottom of the 7th, and Hinch now had to trust his bullpen to close the game, a bullpen that had struggled mightily of late. Bypassing his usual set-up men, Will Harris and Chris Devenski, he brought in Brad Peacock to pitch. He got a first out when LF Gonzalez made a great play, catching a fly ball by Gardner in the tiny amount of space between the foul line and the wall before crashing hard into the fence, but holding on. Next up was Judge, and he absolutely crushed a fastball in the middle of the strike zone, as it exited the field in left about 100 feet above the fence. The crowd was hushed by the mighty blast, but it was still worth only one run. Closer Ken Giles began to warm up. Peacock got three balls on Gregorius before getting a strike, and then had him fly out to Gonzalez for out number two, then Peacock threw two quick strikes to Sanchez, followed with three balls, and then struck him out to end another tense inning.
Houston badly needed to add to its cushion, and it again was Altuve who stepped up. Leading off the bottom of the 8th against a new pitcher, David Robertson, he hit as short a homer as can be hit at Minute Maid Park, but it was enough to give Houston its three-run lead back. One could not help but compare that very short homer to the titanic blast by Judge, but in baseball, both were worth exactly the same. In any case, the homer seemed to finally loosen the Astros' bats (they had been limited to just three hits by Severino and Green). Correa followed with a double, then Gurriel hit a single and Bregman drove both of them in with a double, and advanced to third when SS Gregorius' throw home escaped C Sanchez. Gregorius was charged with an error on the play, and Dellin Betances replaced Robertson, who had failed to retire anyone. Dellances still struggled with his control, but he struck out Gonzalez, but Gattis hit a ball deep to right to Judge for a sacrifice fly, bringing the lead to 7-1. It was now up to Giles to end the game, although with a six-run lead, it may have been a better strategy for Hinch to give one of his two struggling set-up men a chance to rebuild their confidence, or even to leave Peacock to finish what he had started in the 8th. Giles was far from sharp, as he needed 23 pitches to get through the 9th, giving up a one-out single to Castro and walking Hicks before getting himself together to retire Frazier on a fly ball to left and striking out Headley to end the game.
Game 7 @ Minute Maid Park
|WP: Charlie Morton (1-1); LP: CC Sabathia (1-1); SV: Lance McCullers (1)|
|Home Runs: HOU - Evan Gattis (1), Jose Altuve (2)|
- Attendance: 43,201
Game 7 featured a match-up of veterans on the mound, with Charlie Morton, who had given up a lot of runs without being hit particularly hard in Game 3, facing off for the Astros against his opponent from that game, CC Sabathia, who had been absolutely brilliant pitching after a Yankees' loss all season. Respecting the pattern that had held all series, the home team won this game as well, with Houston coming out on top, 4-0, thanks to another great pitching effort, this one a tag-team performance between Morton and Lance McCullers, the Game 4 starter, who had wanted to start, but, seeing this wasn't to be, had told his manager A.J. Hinch that he wanted to pitch in the game, no matter what his role would be. The two kept the Yankees' batters off-balance all evening.
As expected, the game started out as a low-scoring affair. Morton set down the Yankees in order in the 1st, but Sabathia gave up a lead-off single to George Springer. Alex Bregman moved him to second on a soft tapper to the left of the mound that was the equivalent of a sacrifice bunt, but both Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa grounded out, stranding Springer on second. In the 2nd, Gary Sanchez led off with a single as well, but he was erased in a forced play as the next three batters made outs. In the bottom of the inning, Yuli Gurriel, leading off, had a homer taken away by RF Aaron Judge, who made a tremendous running catch while crashing into the wall. Sabathia then gave up a two-out walk to Brian McCann and a single to Marwin Gonzalez, but Josh Reddick, relegated to the ninth spot in the batting order due to his deep hitting slump, flied out for the final out. After another 1-2-3 inning by the Yankees in the top of the 3rd, the Astros again threatened vainly in the bottom of the inning. This time, Bregman singled with one out and Altuve followed with a walk, but Correa forced Altuve at second, and Gurriel grounded to third, to make it five runners left on base in three innings, as Sabathia clearly was not as sharp as in his previous postseason starts.
In the 4th, Morton continued to cruise, with another perfect inning, while Sabathia finally gave up a run, as Evan Gattis led off with a homer to left-center. McCann then drew a walk but was forced out by Gonzalez and Reddick finally broke his 0-for-21 skid with a single to put a second runner on. That was it for the struggling Sabathia. Joe Girardi called on Tommy Kahnle, and in a clutch performance, he got Springer to swing at his first pitch and hit a grounder to SS Didi Gregorius, who started an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. For all their baserunners, the Astros were just leading 1-0. They almost lost that lead in the 5th, as Greg Bird led off the inning with a double and Aaron Hicks drew a walk after a strikeout by Starlin Castro; Ball Four to Hicks got away from C McCann for a wild pitch, and Bird advanced to third. Next up was Todd Frazier, and in the key play of the game, he hit a ball to Bregman at third; Bird was running on contact, but Bregman made an absolutely perfect throw to McCann to nail him at home for the second out. Chase Headley then grounded to second, and Houston escaped with its 1-0 lead intact. Morton had just needed 54 pitches to get through 5 innings, and in a normal game would have kept going, but when he returned to the dugout, Hinch congratulated him for his effort, happy to have received five scoreless innings from his starter and not wanting to push his luck. He had McCullers warming up in the bullpen to start the 6th.
But in the meantime, the Astros worked on giving themselves a more comfortable lead. Kahnle had been nearly unhittable all postseason, but with one out, he was surprised by Altuve, who pushed a ball to the opposite field, beyond Judge's great reach in right for a homer that doubled the lead. That opened the floodgates as Correa and Gurriel followed with back-to-back singles. Kahnle struck out Gattis for the second out, the first strikeout of an Astros batter all evening, but McCann had his second clutch hit in two nights as he pulled a ball into the right field corner to score both runners and make it a 4-0 lead. Adam Warren the came in to record the final out of the inning. McCullers now had a cushion to work with, but he was so masterful, he probably would not have needed it. Throwing almost exclusively curve balls, he gave up a lead-off single to Brett Gardner in the top of the 6th, but then got Judge to pop up, struck out Gregorius and got Sanchez to ground out. It was a sign of what was to come. Warren and David Robertson, atoning for his poor display the night before, did some good work of their own to keep the Astros from adding to their lead, but it was now McCullers' show. He went 1-2-3 in the 7th. There was a bit of a strange play on the first out, a fly ball to deep left-center by Bird. There was so much noise in Minute Maid Park, where the roof was closed, that LF Gonzalez and CF Springer both converged on the ball, not hearing eachother; Springer literally jumped over Gonzalez to snag the ball, holding on to it as he tumbled to the ground. After walking Frazier on four pitches to start the 8th, McCullers mowed down the next three batters. Hinch had no reason to take his pitcher out of the game, although he did ask closer Ken Giles to warm up in the 9th. It was an unnecessary precaution. McCullers struck out Gregorius on three pitches and Sanchez on four, the Yankees' catcher having managed a foul ball with two strikes. Then after a couple of balls, Bird lifted a ball to center field where Springer caught it easily to end the game. McCullers had thrown nothing but curve balls in that final inning, and the Yankees had been completely flummoxed. Houston was moving on to just the second World Series appearance in its history, and its first as an American League team.
- Mark Feinsand: "Future bright for Yanks despite ALCS defeat: Cashman: New York 'will be one of the hunted, not one of the hunters'", mlb.com October 22, 2017. 
- Brittany Ghiroli: "Upstart Yanks confident ahead of ALCS clash: New York heads to Houston for Games 1 and 2 on Friday and Saturday", mlb.com, October 12, 2017. 
- Bryan Hoch: "Yanks not hanging heads after memorable run: Club proud of what it accomplished, cites home-field advantage as big factor", mlb.com, October 22, 2017. 
- Bob Klapisch: "Astros never knew what hit 'em in the Bronx", USA Toady Sports, October 18, 2017. 
- Brian McTaggart: "Astros happy to stay home but wary of Yanks: Games 1 and 2 of ALCS will be at Minute Maid Park on Friday and Saturday", mlb.com, October 12, 2017. 
- Brian McTaggart: "Astros overcome much, fulfill expectations: Four years after losing 111 games, Houston rewarded after staying course in savvy rebuild", mlb.com, October 22, 2017. 
- Brian McTaggart and Bryan Hoch: "Y'all Classic! Astros oust Yanks in historic G7", mlb.com, October 22, 2017. 
- Jorge L. Ortiz: "Why the Houston Astros will win the AL Championship Series", USA Today Sports, October 13, 2017. 
- Jorge L. Ortiz: "Astros beat Yankees in Game 7, will meet Dodgers in first World Series since 2005", USA Today Sports, October 21, 2017. [Astros beat Yankees in Game 7, will meet Dodgers in first World Series since 2005]
- Jorge L. Ortiz: "No apologies needed as amazing Astros crash the World Series: 'We spoiled the party'", USA Today Sports, October 22, 2017. 
- John Perrotto: "Astros-Yankees American League Championship Series: 5 things to watch", USA Today Sports, October 12, 2017. 
- Manny Randhawa: "ALCS makes history as home teams dominate: Astros advance to World Series by winning four games in Houston", mlb.com, October 22, 2017. 
|Major League Baseball American League Championship Series