October 14, 2019 / 5:26 AM / a month ago

Astros even ALCS with Correa's walk-off blast

EditorsNote: quotes added in addition to a graf about Paxton

Oct 13, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (27) works out prior to game two of the 2019 ALCS playoff baseball series against the New York Yankees at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

HOUSTON — Carlos Correa slugged a walk-off home run on the first pitch of the bottom of the 11th inning and the Houston Astros evened this American League Championship Series with a 3-2 victory over the New York Yankees on Sunday at Minute Maid Park.

Correa homered off left-hander J.A. Happ (0-1), the Yankees’ ninth pitcher of the game. Correa just missed a home run in the sixth inning when his 396-foot blast to straightaway center landed in the glove of Brett Gardner. His fifth at-bat ended with a 394-foot shot the opposite way to right and enabled Houston to square the series at 1-1 with Game 3 scheduled for Tuesday at Yankee Stadium.

The Astros trailed 2-1 entering the fifth when George Springer blasted a 418-foot homer off Yankees right-hander Adam Ottavino, his franchise-leading 12th postseason home run. Five Yankees relievers kept the Astros at bay until Correa bested Happ, with Houston finishing 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Astros right-hander Josh James (1-0) earned the win with his strikeout of Gary Sanchez that closed the top of the 11th with two runners on base.

“We just have really good players and really good feel for the moment,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said after the game. “It’s fun when you win a game like this. We’ve had some really big wins in this ballpark; it’s why we talk about how we love playing here. But specifically tonight, this was all about tonight. This team obviously we heard the talk in the last 24 hours. We got punched in the face yesterday. All that comes with playoff baseball, this was an incredible game of coming back. Just really proud of how our guys stayed in the moment.”

Astros right-hander Justin Verlander entered Sunday 4-0 with a 2.33 ERA over six career postseason appearances against the Yankees and, one trip through their batting order, he appeared primed for another dominating performance. Verlander did not allow a baserunner over his first three innings and had recorded four strikeouts, all swinging, entering the fourth.

Things changed quickly for Verlander and the Astros in the fourth, starting with his leadoff walk to Yankees first baseman DJ LeMahieu. Two pitches later, Judge drilled a hanging slider 423 feet out to center, recording a 110.9 mile-per-hour exit velocity while lifting the Yankees to a 2-1 lead. The blast marked the first home run for Judge this postseason and signaled a change for the Yankees, who started compiling competitive at-bats against Verlander in the fifth.

Verlander fanned Edwin Encarnacion and Gardner to close the fourth but did not record another strikeout until Sanchez whiffed on a 1-2 slider to open the seventh. The Yankees mustered four hits and a walk in the interim, including a sharp, two-out line drive in the sixth that ricocheted off Astros second baseman Jose Altuve with LeMahieu rounding third base and heading home.

Correa scooped up the carom and fired a throw to catcher Robinson Chirinos, who applied the tag on LeMahieu to end the inning and preserve the tie. Verlander capped his outing having allowed two runs on five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.

“It was a line drive in front of Altuve,” Correa said. “I knew it was going to be tough for him to catch it because it had a lot of topspin and you never know what those are going to do. I just tried creeping over and as soon as the ball hit him and went my way, I scooped it and he sent him so I had to gun him down.”

Verlander’s counterpart, Yankees lefty James Paxton, was pulled after only 2 1/3 innings, despite giving up only one run on four hits with two walks and three strikeouts at the time. Manager Aaron Boone lifted Paxton after he put runners on first and second with one out on back-to-back singles.

“You’re playing it to win the game,” Boone said of his decision to pull Paxton after only 51 pitches. “You’re not playing it to — what if we go 13, you know? You’re playing it to what gives us the best chance to win here. And the bottom line is we end up giving up a third run in the 11th inning. I’d say from a run prevention standpoint it went pretty well.”

—Field Level Media

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