The Houston Astros took the early lead in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series when George Springer got around the bases in a strange first inning sequence.
Springer hit to the middle infield but got to first base safely due to an error. With Jose Altuve at bat, Yankees pitcher James Paxton's wild pitch advanced Springer to second. Altuve hit into a fielder's choice that sent Springer to third. And then, another passed ball by Paxton brought in the first run of the game.
In the Yankees' half of the first, Astros pitcher Justin Verlander got dinged on his second pitch of his outing, allowing a lead-off solo home run to DJ LaMahieu. That score was followed by a base hit by Aaron Judge. Gleyber Torres was next with a double to the corner in left, and Verlander had two baserunners and no outs.
But Verlander broke through with his first out: a strikeout of returning slugger Giancarlo Stanton.
The ease on the mound was short-lived. The next batter, Aaron Hicks, sent Yankee Stadium into an eruption with a three-run shot off of a slider hanging over the plate to the right field pole. Astros trailed 4-1 heading into the second inning.
Verlander's four runs are the most he has ever allowed since he joined the Astros.
Verlander gives a 3 run shot to Hicks that hit the RF foul pole. Yankees up 4 - 1 in 1st. #Astros will need an epic comeback tonight. Long game still ahead.— Bob Slovak (@BobSlovak13) October 18, 2019
Justin Verlander has allowed four runs in the 1st inning for the first time (regular or Postseason) since August 11, 2014 against the Pirates. pic.twitter.com/WXpWxSNtN9— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 18, 2019
Carlos Correa led off the second with a walk to put the 'Stros on board. Yordan Alvarez, who got moved down the batting order to seventh in Game 5, battled Paxton to a swinging strikeout. No. 8 batter Robinson Chirinos followed suit, taking a three-pitch strikeout of his own. Jake Marisnick, who got the starting nod in centerfield, knocked in a blooper in shallow center for a base hit.
With two on, Springer returned to bat in a situation familiar from Game 4. He blasted a three-run homer in the third inning. This time, Paxton got the best of the former World Series MVP, striking out Springer and preventing any scoring threat by the 'Stros.
In Verlander's return to the mound in the second, the right-hander got Gio Urshela to fly out to center and Brett Gardner to groundout to third base, and LaMahieu to groundout to second. No further damage in the second.
The Astros, in desperation mode earlier than they wished, got an Altuve flyout to open the third. After a Michael Brantley strikeout, Bregman floated a line drive to center field for a base hit. But the 'Stros couldn't continue the threat after a popout in foul territory by Yuli Gurriel, who entered the game with only one hit in the series.
Verlander's third comprised of a Judge groundout to Bregman at third, a Torres flyout to center, and a groundout of Stanton, for his second straight 1-2-3 inning.
Correa led off the fourth with a base hit through the infield to put a runner on. Alvarez continued his ALCS futility with a flyout to leftfield. Chrinos followed with his second three-pitch strikeout. Marisnick couldn't follow up his hit from the second inning by going down on a three-pitch strikeout as well.
A stretchout grab by Yuli Gurriel at first began the fourth inning for the Yankees. The out was on Hicks.
Verlander next got a three-pitch swinging strikeout of Sanchez. Didi Gregorious was up next with a base hit off the end of his bat to shallow left, breaking up at that point Verlander's streak of retiring 10 straight batters. The Yankees threat ended, though, with an Urshela popout to center.
Springer led off the fifth with a strikeout looking, representing Paxton's seventh punchout of the game. After an Altuve walk, Brantley struck out swinging. Bregman ended the inning with a grounder to shortstop for the force out at second.
In the fifth, Verlander struck out Gardner swinging, followed by a LaMahieu flyout to right. The right-hander retired the side with a swinging strikeout of Judge.
A line out to right by Gurriel began the sixth. Correa followed with a full-count walk, his third time in the game on base. Alvarez followed with a strikeout on Paxton's 111th pitch of the game. On the 112th, Paxton induced Chirinos to a long flyout to left in front of the track, the closest the 'Stros got to that point to leaving the yard.
Verlander struck out two batters in the bottom of sixth, giving him seven strikeouts. Only one hit has been surrendered by Verlander since that disastrous first inning.
Tommy Kahnle entered for the Yankees in the seventh in place of Paxton, who struck out nine Astros. Springer reached base on a single to right field, then Altuve was walked on four straight pitches, putting Brantley up to bat as the tying run.
Zack Britton replaced Kahnle after the walk to Altuve. Brantley beat out a potential double play that sent Springer to third. With two on base Bregman popped out to centerfield, ending the top of the seventh with no runs scored.
To end the seventh, Josh Reddick caught a popout at the right field wall that originally looked like a ball headed for the Yankee Stadium stands. Verlander struck out two more and brought his total up to nine.
Brad Peacock entered for Verlander in the bottom of the eighth. Verlander finished with seven innings pitched, five hits, four earned runs and nine strikeouts. Peacock struck out Judge to send the game to the ninth and give the Astros one last chance to clinch the pennant Friday.
Aroldis Chapman came in for the ninth to finish the job for the Yankees. Chirinos, Aledmys Diaz popped out to left field and Springer grounded out to send the ALCS back to Houston.
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