If you even remember what three players the Astros gave Detroit at the waiver wire trade deadline to acquire Justin Verlander*, you'll have to admit they will need to put together a Hall of Fame career between them to equal what Verlander has done for Houston in just a month and a half.
Altuve: Game-winning slide
(c) USA Today
On Saturday, Kate Upton's boyfriend won his third postseason game out of the six they've played thus far and this one was a classic. Refusing to bow out until the victory was secured, Verlander went all nine innings on 124 pitches, striking out 13 in a 2-1 triumph over the Yankees to give Houston a 2-0 lead in the A.L.C.S. by identical 2-1 squeakers.
Carlos Correa provided the offense. His solo homer into the front row of the right field seats in the fourth inning gave the Astros a 1-0 lead. The Yankees replied in the next half-inning when Aaron Hicks lined a two-out double to center then Todd Frazier followed with a drive that wedged into the screen of the left field bullpen for a ground rule double that tied the game.
Yankee starter Luis Severino left after four innings but New York is blessed with a very deep bullpen. Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson tossed two scoreless innings apiece. Meanwhile, Verlander gained a second wind after a difficult stretch in the middle innings.
Verlander had allowed only five hits and walked one in nine innings. Houston had just three hits through eight. Correa and Jose Altuve agreed it would be a shame to saddle Verlander with a no-decision after all that hard work. Both came up in the ninth and it would make the difference.
Cuban lefty Aroldis Chapman was once the most feared pitcher in baseball, often clocking above 100 mph. After Josh Reddick struck out, Altuve slapped a first-pitch single to left. Correa smashed a 3-2 pitch into the right-center alley. Altuve sped around third and kept running. The throw home to catcher Gary Sanchez arrived before Altuve did but Sanchez bobbled the throw and eventually dropped it as Altuve slid across the plate with the winning run.
The crowd exploded in joy as Altuve raced out to congratulate Correa. Houston can now fly to the Bronx with the pressure on the Yankees to not fall further behind.
Reddick deserves some recognition for his defensive gems in the third inning. First, he robbed Chase Headley of extra bases with a leap just in front of the right field fence. The next batter was Brett Gardner who struck a liner into the right field corner which Reddick plucked, spun and threw to Correa who threw to third and caught Gardner sliding into Alex Bregman's tag.
The two clubs have a travel day on Sunday. Charlie Morton has been announced as the starting pitcher for the Astros while lefty C.C. Sabathia, the Yankee ace, is the scheduled starter for New York.
Morton won his only appearance against the Yankees this year with a 10-strikeout performance despite allowing four runs in 5-2/3rd innings. The 37-year-old Sabathia did not pitch against Houston during the regular season.
(* - The Astros sent to Detroit minor league prospects Daz Cameron, Franklin Perez and Jake Rogers. Miss any of them?)
- Bob Hulsey