The Yankees beat the Astros, 4-1, in Game 5 of the ALCS on Friday night (box score). With the win, New York cut Houston's lead to 3-2 in the best-of-seven series and staved off elimination. The Astros are still just one win away from their second pennant in the last three years. The clubs will return to Houston to play Game 6 and Game 7, if necessary, at Minute Maid Park. Now let's hit four key takeaways from Game 5 in the Bronx.
1. Paxton came up clutch
In a rematch of Game 2, the Yankees sent out left-hander James Paxton to start the win-or-go-home Game 5 in the Bronx. Paxton settled down after George Springer scored on a wild pitch in the first inning. He struck out the side in the second inning, and put up five scoreless innings against Houston. Houston didn't advance a runner to scoring position after the second inning against Paxton.
Paxton notched eight swinging strikes on his fastball in Friday's win. Paxton threw a total of 112 pitches in the start, for the most in a game by any Yankee pitcher this season.
It was a much better outcome for Paxton after hislasted just 2 1/3 innings. The first-year Yankee showed up in a big way in front of his home crowd.
2. Verlander looked like himself... after five batters
With his start on Friday, Justin Verlander became the first pitcher to make eight postseason starts against the Yankees. He was 4-0 with a 2.38 ERA, a 0.97 WHIP and a 48-13 K-BB in his previous playoff starts against them. But, the Yankees lineup got Verlander early and it would be enough to secure the win.
Verlander was hit for four runs in the first inning, including a pair of home runs from DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Hicks. It was the first time in Verlander's career that he's allowed multiple first-inning home runs in a postseason game. Plus, LeMahieu's leadoff home run was just the second leadoff home run Verlander has allowed in his postseason career. The only other one was by Coco Crisp in Game 1 of the 2012 AL Division Series, where Verlander was pitching for the Tigers against the A's.
Although, after the Hicks homer, Verlander was spectacular. He sent down 20 of the next 21 batters he faced, and finished with nine strikeouts.
3. One inning was enough for Yankees
The Yankees' first-inning offensive outburst in Game 5 turned out to be enough to keep their season alive., Friday night's four-run first inning (New York scored a combined three runs from their Game 3 and 4 losses) erased an early deficit and revived a Yankees crowd.
Friday was the first time in franchise history that the Yankees had hit multiple first-inning home runs in the same postseason game.
4. Astros offense goes quiet
While the Yankees offense got hot (for an inning, anyway) in Game 5, the Astros offense went quiet. Yes, Houston struggled against Paxton. But when they were able to get a runner in scoring position, they weren't able to capitalize. In Game 5, they went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position. Not a whole lot better than the 4-for-33 they were heading into Friday night's game, but it's worse when the club needed the win to close out the series.
In the seventh inning, Houston came close to tying the game. After Tommy Kahnle relieved James Paxton, Kahnle gave up a one-out single to George Springer and walked Jose Altuve. With Game 5's tying run at the plate, Michael Brantley hit into a fielder's choice for the second out and Alex Bregman filed out to end the inning.