Jose Altuve provided the spark the Houston Astros needed as they forced a game seven against the New York Yankees thanks to a 7-1 win on Friday.
The All-Star second baseman, and likely American League MVP, smacked a two-run single in the fifth and homered in the eighth to force a game seven in the American League Championship Series.
Altuve went two-for-four with three RBIs as the Houston bats finally woke up with five of their eight hits coming in the eighth inning. The lone Yankees run came courtesy of a monster home run by Aaron Judge, who also struck out twice. The rookie outfielder has struck out 26 times this postseason to tie Alfonso Soriano for the most all-time in a single postseason.
HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE IS A THING
The home team have yet to lose in this series, which could come into play for Saturday's game seven back at Minute Maid Park. The Astros may have gotten the confidence they needed Friday, scoring four runs in the eighth inning after the Yankees got on the board in the top of the inning.
It was all started by Altuve's home run to the Crawford Boxes in left field. Even when the Astros won the first two games of the series, it was by identical 2-1 scores. The Astros, who led MLB in scoring this season, scored just nine runs off 22 hits through the first five games of the ALCS.
Coincidentally, the Astros were involved in the last postseason series when the home team won every game. That was the 2004 NLCS when the St Louis Cardinals closed out a seven-game series over the Astros at Busch Stadium.
VERLANDER WAS LOCKED IN
While Altuve provided the offense, Justin Verlander had everything working Friday, including a nasty curveball that completely fooled Todd Frazier to end the top of the fifth.
Verlander struck out eight over seven scoreless innings and has tossed 24 consecutive scoreless innings in postseason elimination games. He joins former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz as the only pitchers in MLB history to make three scoreless starts when facing elimination in the postseason. Verlander is now 5-2 in ALCS games over his career and is 9-0 since the Detroit Tigers traded him to Houston.
TIMELY HITTING SAVED ASTROS
The Astros had just three hits before the eighth-inning eruption, but one was a two-out, two-run single by Altuve in the fifth inning. That came after Brian McCann's RBI ground-rule double with one out following walks to Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis. Yankees starter Luis Severino was lights out through the first four innings, but the leadoff walk to Bregman was the beginning of the end for Severino. The Yankees' right-hander was chased by Altuve's two-run single. Altuve, who answered Judge's eighth-inning home run with one of his own in the bottom of the inning, continues to be Houston's only consistent hitter.
If the Astros are going to win game seven, they need someone else to step up. One person who needs to snap out of his funk is Josh Reddick, who was 0-for-four Friday and is 0-for-23 during the ALCS.
YANKEES AT ASTROS
There will be a game seven as the Yankees will send CC Sabathia to the mound. The Astros will counter with either Charlie Morton or Lance McCullers Jr. with a World Series spot on the line. Sabathia has been excellent this postseason, with a 2.30 ERA in three starts, and will try to get the first win for the road team during this year's ALCS.