MLB playoffs: Astros edge Yankees in ALCS Game 4, complete sweep to reach 4th World Series in 6 seasons

The New York Yankees made them work for this one, but the Houston Astros still prevailed. The preeminent AL juggernaut won a back-and-forth ALCS Game 4, 6-5, to complete the sweep and advance to the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Astros overcame an early 3-0 deficit on rookie shortstop Jeremy Peña's latest heroics, then flipped a one-run hole into a series-ending advantage on Alex Bregman's go-ahead single in the seventh inning. The bullpen fired four scoreless innings in relief of Lance McCullers Jr.

Game 4 counted as a serious improvement for the Yankees' offense. Anthony Rizzo drove in two, and Harrison Bader homered for the fifth time this postseason. But it wasn't enough.

Starting pitcher Nestor Cortes Jr. left after 2+ innings — shortly after allowing Peña to tie the game with a three-run homer — with a groin injury that sapped his fastball velocity. Manager Aaron Boone later told the TBS broadcast Cortes had been dealing with the injury since early in the playoffs.

The Astros' decisive rally in the seventh began with ground balls. Jose Altuve beat out a grounder to first on an unfathomably close play. Then Gleyber Torres and Isiah Kiner-Falefa mishandled a potential double play ball. Yordan Alvarez and Bregman followed up with singles to tie and take the lead.

Having reached their sixth consecutive ALCS, the Astros come up victorious for the fourth time and move on to the World Series, still without a loss on their record in the 2022 playoffs. Manager Dusty Baker, 73, will take his third trip to the Fall Classic looking for the one thing that has eluded him as a manager: A ring.

The Astros' only championship came in 2017, a title later tainted in the public imagination by the sign-stealing scandal. Several stars from that team — George Springer, Carlos Correa among them — have left. But the organization keeps pumping out new productive players like Peña, Alvarez and surprise ALCS impact bat Chas McCormick.

They will move on to face the Phillies boasting a terrifying collection of arms. Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier each allowed one earned run or less in starts against the Yankees, while the Astros' bullpen as a whole allowed one run in the entire series. They appear to be in for a challenge against a rowdy band of Phillies sluggers led by Bryce Harper. That series is set to begin Friday night.

In the Bronx, the Yankees exit the playoffs, but the spotlight won't dim as winter encroaches. Aaron Judge — the 62-homer sensation — made the final out in Game 4, and will now head into free agency. He posted an all-time great contract year after declining the Yankees' extension offer in the spring.

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