The New York Yankees forced game six on Friday after defeating Houston Astros 4-1 in game five of the American League Championship Series.
A pair of early home runs and impressive starting pitching from James Paxton helped to get the job done.
Aaron Hicks hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the first inning on a night where all five runs came in the team's opening frame.
The Astros will have to defend home turf in an attempt to avoid game seven, with one win sending them to the World Series. New York must win the last two games to earn a berth in the Fall Classic.
New York found quality pitching when it mattered most
The Yankees have made it a point to utilise a host of pitchers in the ALCS, but they got a great performance from starter James Paxton and a trio of relievers in a critical game that could've ended their season. Paxton gave up four hits and one earned run in six innings of work, notching nine strikeouts. Then Tommy Kahnle, Zack Britton, and Aroldis Chapman combined to give up one hit for the remainder of the contest once Paxton was taken out.
The Astros' five hits in the contest were their second-lowest total in the series after being held to just three in their game one loss.
The stage wasn't too big for Aaron Hicks
Aaron Hicks was an unlikely hero for the Yankees on Friday. Although the outfielder was initially ruled out for the season in August after suffering a flexor strain in his elbow, he returned from a two-month hiatus to face Houston and help his team with its World Series push. He blasted a three-run homer off the foul pole in the first inning and that made all the difference.
New York scored all four of its runs in the first inning before going on a scoring drought, but it didn't matter as the Astros experienced a drought of their own. Now the Yankees will likely benefit from a bullpen game on Saturday, and there will be ample opportunity for other players to unexpectedly tee off without facing the best of Houston's starters.
Justin Verlander continues to be plagued by home runs
Justin Verlander gave up a career-high 36 home runs in 2019 and that trend has followed him into the post-season. Even though Hicks' home run nearly hooked right of the foul pole, DJ LeMahieu also hit a solo homer and those were the decisive moments in the game. Verlander has given up 10 runs and five home runs in his last three appearances.
Verlander rebounded tremendously from his poor start in his seven-inning outing, tallying nine strikeouts, but the offense couldn't get flowing and now Houston faces a difficult situation. The Astros' trio of starters has been heralded as the best in MLB, but Gerrit Cole won't be ready to go on short rest in game six.
New York has coasted on power hitting all season long and now they can take advantage of not having to face elite starters as they look to force game seven.
|MLB not planning to strip Astros and Red Sox of titles|
|Jeter and Walker voted into Baseball Hall of Fame|
|Astros will be in World Series again – Altuve bullish after sign-stealing scandal|
|Giants hire Nakken as MLB´s first full-time female coach|
|Springer, Astros settle on one-year deal|
|Mets manager Carlos Beltran leaves before a single game amid sign-stealing scandal|
|Red Sox part with manager Cora amid sign-stealing investigation|
|Hinch ´deeply sorry´ for not stopping Astros´ sign stealing|
|Astros fire GM and manager after duo are banned by MLB|
|Brewers manager Counsell extends contract|
|Yankees pitcher German suspended for 81 games|
|Dallas Keuchel agrees three-year, $55.5m deal with White Sox|
|Cole officially unveiled by Yankees in record deal|
|Rangers acquire two-time Cy Young winner Kluber from Indians|
|All-Star Rendon agrees huge seven-year Angels deal|
|MLB, union agree to remove marijuana as ´drug of abuse´|
|World Series MVP Strasburg agrees seven-year Nationals deal|
|Hamels signs one-year, $18m deal with Braves|
|Pirates hire Derek Shelton as manager|
|Abreu signs $50million, three-year White Sox deal|
|White Sox sign Yasmani Grandal|
|Gettin´ Jiggy Wit It – Braves sign Will Smith|
|Trout wins third AL MVP, Bellinger takes NL prize|
|Mets ace DeGrom & Astros´ Verlander scoop Cy Young Award honours|
|Giants name Kapler as manager|
|Twins´ Baldelli, Cardinals´ Shildt crowned Managers of the Year|
|Alonso, Alvarez named Rookies of the Year|
|Cardinals manager Shildt signs contract extension|
|Nationals celebrate World Series with Trump at White House|
|Mets introduce Beltran as manager|
|Betts, Arenado headline Gold Glove Award winners|
|Strasburg hails Nationals´ fighting spirit after World Series win|
|Nationals make history with World Series win over Astros|
|Was the Astros´ season a failure after World Series loss?|
|Nationals´ Strasburg named World Series MVP|
|Why the Nationals won the World Series|
|BREAKING NEWS: Nationals win MLB World Series|
|This is about the Nationals playing lights out – Dave Martinez deflects controversy|
|Nationals force World Series decider after beating Astros|
|Pittsburgh Pirates fire GM Neal Huntington, put manager search on hold|
|Astros poised for World Series glory after Game 5 win over Nationals|
|Nationals´ Max Scherzer will not start Game 5 of World Series|
|Astros rout Nationals to level World Series|
|Astros alive in World Series after Washington win in game three|
|Yankees GM defends not landing starting pitcher after ALCS loss|
|Phillies appoint former Yankees manager Girardi|
|Cubs hire David Ross as manager|
|Nationals take 2-0 lead over Astros in World Series|
|Astros ace Verlander makes MLB postseason history|
|Cubs expected to hire David Ross as manager|
|Soto has the ´it factor´ - Hinch|
|Nationals draw first blood against Astros in World Series|
|CC Sabathia bids farewell to baseball after 19 MLB seasons|
|MLB umpire Eric Cooper dies aged 52|
|Astros´ Altuve caps ALCS heroics with MVP award: I can´t wait for World Series|
|Altuve´s walk-off homer sends Astros to World Series|
|Yankees keep World Series hopes alive with game five win|
|CC Sabathia removed from Yankees´ ALCS roster|
|Astros on the cusp of World Series after extending ALCS lead against Yankees|
|ALCS Game 4 postponed due to incoming storm|
|Los Angeles Angels hire Maddon as manager|
|´Old guys´ vital in Nationals´ season turnaround – Scherzer|
|Nationals reach first MLB World Series after sweeping Cardinals|
|Cole shuts out Yankees as Astros take 2-1 lead in ALCS|
|Nationals one win away from World Series after taking 3-0 NLCS lead|
|Correa hits walk-off homer as Astros level ALCS with Yankees|
|Yankees slugger Stanton not starting ALCS Game 2, considered day-to-day|
|Yankees rout Astros in ALCS opener|
|Freese announces retirement after 11 MLB seasons|
|Nationals move 2-0 ahead of Cardinals in NLCS|