Don’t count the New York Yankees out yet.
Behind a four-run first-inning rally against Justin Verlander and a bounce back outing from James Paxton, New York kept its season alive with a 4-1 victory against the Houston Astros in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series.
The Astros still lead the series 3-2, meaning the Yankees will face another must-win in Game 6 on Saturday at Minute Maid Park.
All of the game’s scoring came in the first inning. After Houston scored one in the top half, DJ LeMahieu greeted Verlander with a rocket home run to the short porch in right field. Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres followed with a pair of solid hits, which set the stage for Aaron Hicks to deliver New York’s biggest blast of the series. The outfielder lined a three-run home run off the right-field foul pole to give the Yankees the lead.
Paxton deserves credit for maintaining order in the first inning. The veteran left-hander’s outing got off to a sloppy start following his own misplay, a passed ball by catcher Gary Sanchez and a walk to Michael Brantley. That set the table for Houston’s lone run. Paxton avoided further damage and was able to clean things up moving forward, stringing together five scoreless innings to close out his outing.
Tommy Kahnle, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman combined for three innings of scoreless relief to guarantee a return to Houston.
WHO MADE THE DIFFERENCE
• Aaron Hicks: The Yankees only had one real scoring opportunity against Justin Verlander in Game 5. Thanks to Hicks, they made that one chance count. If the Yankees manage to complete a comeback in this series, Hicks’ home run will be the defining moment.
• James Paxton: It looked like Paxton might be a first-inning casualty in Game 5. Instead, he bounced back strong and earned the confidence of manager Aaron Boone.
Paxton’s 112 pitches were the most in a game by any Yankee pitcher this season.
— Jeff Quagliata (@yestoresearch) October 19, 2019
The prized offseason acquisition went six innings, allowing one run on four hits to go along with four walks and nine strikeouts.
• DJ LeMahieu: The Yankees leadoff man has been a tone-setter all season. That continued here as he also atoned for his two-error game on Thursday. LeMahieu immediately energized Yankee Stadium with his first-inning home run. LeMahieu has at least one hit in seven of New York’s eight postseason games. A couple innings later he made a fantastic sliding catch in foul territory to help out his starter.
Hicks’ home run may have been a season-saver for New York. There was no bigger or more must-see moment in Game 5.
WHAT THEY'LL BE TALKING ABOUT
The Yankees resilience was on display again. We saw it throughout the regular season. Despite a record-setting number of injuries, many of which occurred to key, every day players, the Yankees managed to win 103 games. Now, with their backs against the wall in October, the Yankees found a way to solve Verlander and slow down Houston’s offense just enough to stay alive.
Can they do it again in Game 6?
Winning was the only thing that mattered on Friday. Going into Game 6, manager Aaron Boone might have to consider changing up his lineup. Giancarlo Stanton returned from a quad issue but was unproductive, going 0 for 3 with two strikeouts. Catcher Gary Sanchez is struggling mightily as well. He was 0 for 3 with three strikeouts and is 2 for 20 overall in the series.
Due to the rain out on Wednesday, the teams will immediately fly to Houston for Game 6. First pitch is scheduled for 8:08 p.m. ET. All indications are that both teams will go with bullpen games rather than rush Game 3 starters Gerrit Cole and Luis Severino back on short rest.
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