The Astros won Game 2 of the ALCS on Sunday night in Houston, 3-2, on an 11th-inning walk-off home run by Carlos Correa off Yankees left-hander J.A. Happ. The Houston win means that the best-of-seven series is now tied 1-1 and headed to New York for Tuesday's Game 3. Coming in, the Yankees had been 4-0 in the 2019 postseason.
The Astros were on the board first in Game 2 thanks to an RBI double by Correa, but then the Yankees took the lead on a two-run Aaron Judge home run off Justin Verlander in the fourth. In the fifth, the Astros tied the score at 2-2, as George Springer hit his 12th postseason home run in just his 39th playoff game, this one a solo shot off reliever Adam Ottavino.
The other story of Game 2 was the excellent bullpen performances on both sides. After Verlander exited, the Astros' bullpen worked 4 1/3 innings and allowed no runs on one hit. As for the Yankees, starter James Paxton was lifted after just 2 1/3 innings, which meant the New York bullpen had to do the heavy lifting and then some. Eight Yankee relievers, including Happ and CC Sabathia, appeared in this game and recorded 23 outs without allowing a run before Correa's walk-off. Eventually, though, Houston broke through to even the series. In all, 15 different pitches appeared in Game 2. Needless to say, the travel day on Monday will be welcomed by both staffs -- especially the Yankees, who will start a limited-pitch count Luis Severino in Game 3.
How the Astros won
While the brilliant bullpen performance is noted above, let's give this one to Correa. His double in the second put the first Houston run on the board, and in the sixth he just missed homering to dead center (it surely would've been a home run if the regular season baseball had been in play). And speaking of the sixth, get a load of this heads-up play and throw to cut down DJ LeMahieu at the plate:
If Correa doesn't make that play, then he probably doesn't get the chance to hit that home run in extras. Let's roll the tape:
He turned on a Happ cutter and sent it 394 feet and at 102.6 mph off the bat. That blast also means Correa now owns the Astros' record for most postseason RBI (27). It's also the first Astros postseason walk-off homer since Chris Burke's in 2005 NLDS. And of course, Correa's homer calls to mind his walk-off double against the Yankees in Game 2 of the 2017 ALCS. He and David Ortiz are now the only players in MLB history to have two postseason walk-offs against the same team -- the Yankees in both instances.
The thing of it is that Correa's back had been a real concern coming in. During the ALDS, Correa says he was forced to lay in the aisle on the flight to St. Petersburg because sitting down for long stretches makes his lower back act up. Prior to his legendary performance in ALCS Game 2, Correa this postseason had a line of .136/.136/.182 with 10 strikeouts against zero walks in 22 plate appearances. The sample is small, yes, but given his troublesome back it was easy to worry that he wouldn't be himself during the playoffs. Well, in Game 2 Carlos Correa was indeed himself.
Why the Yankees lost
This one's on the offense. Just twice during the regular season did they make it to extra innings while scoring two runs or fewer. Just 11 times did they manage just one extra-base hit or fewer in a game. In all, they left seven runners on base. This from an offense that during the regular season hit more than 300 home runs and led the AL in runs scored.
Perhaps most painful from the Yankee standpoint is how the top of the 11th inning ended. Gary Sanchez came up with two on and two out, and an 11-pitch battle with Josh James ensued. Sanchez got a reprieve when what should've been strike three was ruled a foul tip. However, he was shortly thereafter punched out on a pitch that was off the plate.
Game 3 in the Bronx is Tuesday afternoon. As noted, Severino will go for the hosts, and it's not likely he'll be able to work deeply into the game. For Houston, Gerrit Cole, who's probably the most dominant pitcher in baseball right now, will take the mound. The matchups favor the Astros, but the Yankees will be at home. The question for the Yankees is how much will the surely tired bullpen be rejuvenated by the Monday travel day.
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