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.
|Coronavirus: Dolphins owner Ross says NFL season will ‘definitely’ happen|
|Michael Jordan v LeBron James: How the NBA greats´ playoff numbers compare|
|´There´s a significant place for it´ – Coles´ Celtics embracing AI and data|
|Coronavirus: Tampa Bay Rays open Tropicana Field for limited workouts|
|Coronavirus: Ewing released from hospital and ´getting much better´|
|Coronavirus: NHL releases framework for players to return to club facilities|
|Coronavirus: EuroLeague season cancelled, no 2019-20 champions|
|On this day in sport: Ali wins controversial Liston rematch, Liverpool pull off Istanbul miracle|
|Andrew Bogut leaves Sydney Kings, not retired yet|
|The Match: Tiger and Manning hold off rallying Mickelson and Brady|
|The Match: Tom Brady holes out from fairway to stun Tiger and Manning|
|The Match: Manning goes one up on Brady with Belichick and Foles jibes|
|Coronavirus: New York governor says pro teams can resume training|
|Legendary college basketball coach Eddie Sutton dies at 84|
|Ex-NFL quarterback Leaf arrested on domestic charge|
|Coronavirus: NBA targeting late-July return at Disney campus|
|Coronavirus: Celtics preparing for NBA season to return|
|Coronavirus: NHLPA executive board approves NHL´s proposed return to play format|
|Cleveland Browns offering fans chance to call plays|
|Coronavirus: NBA Hall of Famer Ewing tests positive for COVID-19|
|Joe Flacco: Jets sign former Super Bowl MVP|
|Coronavirus: Russell Westbrook donates meals to healthcare workers|
|Jerry Sloan: ´The Original Bull´ produced iconic Jazz team to take on Michael Jordan|
|Tom Brady: QB does not want to ´be the almighty´ with Buccaneers|
|Legendary Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan dies aged 78|
|NHL, players considering 24-team conference-based playoff format|
|Chiefs CEO says Mahomes extension talks will begin this summer|
|Kraft´s Super Bowl LI ring sells for $1.025m|
|Giannis wants to smoke a cigar like Jordan and celebrate Bucks´ NBA title in Mykonos|
|Coronavirus: NFL games without fans ´wouldn´t be fun´, says Rams star Donald|
|Brady exit leaves AFC East ´wide open´ – Jets RB Gore|
|Dolphins QB Fitzpatrick eager to compete with, mentor Tagovailoa|
|ESPN to make Tom Brady documentary series|
|Ja Morant ´deserves´ Rookie of the Year over Zion Williamson|
|The Last Dance: ´I was not just playing Michael´ - Malone speaks about facing Jordan and the Bulls|
|Teaching Bucs offense to Tom Brady is ´weird´ – Brate|
|Pierce leaves LeBron out of his top five NBA players of all-time|
|Coronavirus: Lakers´ Dudley ´90 per cent confident´ of NBA returning|
|Tocchet confident Taylor Hall will consider re-signing with Coyotes|
|Steelers WR Ryan Switzer says Ben Roethlisberger throwing with ´no restraints´|
|NFL reinstates DE Aldon Smith after five-year absence|
|Browns WR Jarvis Landry says his hip rehab is ´ahead of schedule´|
|Coronavirus: Redskins WR Gandy-Golden says he´s recovered from positive test|
|New England Patriots hand veteran safety Patrick Chung two-year extension|
|The Last Dance: Michael Jordan branded a liar and ´snitch´ by Horace Grant|
|Rangers would prefer to hold second spring training at new stadium|
|Coronavirus: Nationals to receive World Series rings in virtual ceremony|
|Coronavirus: NFLPA president says COVID-19 isn´t ´going to kneel down to almighty football´|
|Coronavirus: NFL chief medical officer expects positive tests, unsure when players can attend facili|
|NFL announces changes to increase diversity|
|Tom Brady works out with new Buccaneers team-mates at Tampa prep school|
|Coronavirus: LeBron not giving up on NBA season after revealing NFL training|
|LeBron James: I would´ve worked perfectly with Michael Jordan|
|Coronavirus: Rockets owner Fertitta tells Trump NBA will try to play again|
|Coronavirus: Devils G Schneider says restarting NHL season a concern|
|Colts coach Reich ‘very optimistic’ Rivers will be Indianapolis QB for multiple seasons|
|Roethlisberger shares video of himself throwing|
|Utah Jazz’s Bojan Bogdanovic to have season-ending surgery|
|Cam Newton: Chargers explain decision not to move for unsigned QB|
|The Last Dance: Michael Jordan says ´flu game´ was actually due to food poisoning|
|Last Dance Bulls would ´win championships in any era´, says ex-Chicago guard|
|Jordan sneakers sold for record $560,000 at auction|
|Quinton Dunbar and Deandre Baker released on bail, attorneys say|
|Vikings safety Anthony Harris signs franchise tender for 2020 season|
|Bills defensive tackle Oliver facing DWI, weapons charges|
|NFL cornerbacks Baker and Dunbar turn themselves in to police after alleged arm robbery|
|Kobe Bryant helicopter crash post-mortem results published|
|Michael Jordan: 35 years later, his Rookie of the Year campaign remains one of the best|
|Coronavirus: NBA players ´want to play bad´, says Chris Paul|
|Coronavirus: NFL facilities to partially reopen on Tuesday, pending local regulations|