Just like the many soggy Southeast Texans who did not let Hurricane Harvey defeat them, the Astros came back to Houston Friday night and turned back the New York Yankees, 7-1, to force a seventh game in the A.L.C.S. in a series where the home team has won every game.
Springer robs Frazier in 7th
(c) Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle
The #HoustonStrong energy was palpable and Justin Verlander fed off it to toss seven more shutout innings, the last two in high-pressure situations with runners on base that seemed to elevate his teammates.
Also elevating was George Springer who made a clutch grab against the center field fence on the 400-foot drive by Todd Frazier that threatened to tie the game in the seventh.
Elevating, too, was catcher Brian McCann whose RBI double off Luis Severino in the fifth snapped Houston's long scoring drought in the series and also snapped his open personal hitless spell. McCann added a single in the ninth for his first two hits in the L.C.S.
Then there was Mr. MVP, Jose Altuve who cracked a two-run single in the fifth to increase the lead to 3-0. He later added a kill-shot homer off David Robertson in the eighth that started a four-run flurry that finally allowed Houston fans a sense of relief. Mighty Mouse drove in three of Houston's first four runs and served as a cheerleader in the dugout keeping the energy up.
While Springer and Josh Reddick, the first two men in the Houston lineup continued to struggle, the batters after Altuve got back into the swing. Carlos Correa had two hits, including a double. Yuli Gurriel contributed a single and a walk while Alex Bregman drilled a two-run double into the alley in the eighth and scored both the first and the last of Houston's runs.
After Verlander was spent, Brad Peacock entered in the eighth and looked a bit shaky, no more so than when Aaron Judge hit a slider so far that Air Force jets were dispatched to track its flight. Fortunately, the bases were empty. Peacock settled down to get the next two outs in the inning.
With a 7-1 lead, Manager A.J. Hinch might have been wise to let another bullpen arm get the last three outs. Instead, he brought in closer Ken Giles who could make a six-run lead feel unsafe before he bore down to get the final outs to end the contest.
Now the scene moves to Saturday night and the second do-or-die event of the year. Experience is all on the Yankees' side. Who'd you rather bet on? Hinch or Joe Girardi? Giles or Aroldis Chapman? Charlie Morton or lefty veteran C.C. Sabathia who is 10-0 this season after a Yankee loss? The Bombers are 4-0 this postseason in elimination games.
What do the Astros have going for them? Momentum from Game 6, a home field advantage and wrestling icon Ric Flair who will try to WOO! the fans into a frenzy. At least Houston can say these Astros are 1-0 in elimination games after past squads were 1-11. It will be an uphill climb starting at 7 pm Central. The Los Angeles Dodgers and the World Series await the winners.
- Bob Hulsey