The Yankees recognized that they would have to find a way to defeat Dallas Kuechel or Justin Verlander in order to advance, and they attacked that challenge head-on. Having toppled one of the Astros’ aces to move within one win of the 41st World Series in franchise history, they will now focus their attention on the other.
The Bombers’ new core of Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Didi Gregorius all contributed run-scoring hits to back Masahiro Tanaka’s dominant effort as the Yankees remained unbeaten at home this postseason, defeating the Astros, 5-0, in Wednesday’s Game 5 of the American League Championship Series.
“Getting on a great pitcher like Kuechel early is key,” Bird said. “You try and take advantage of those situations. It puts pressure on him early. It doesn’t let him settle in. That’s big.”
“This was a big game for us,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “Every game is a big game, and you’re just trying to win one game. But as we’ve seen, runs have been tough for us to score off of Keuchel. And for us to get four, I give our guys a lot of credit, because he’s really tough.”
Tanaka has been terrific at home of late, improving to 7-1 in his past eight starts at Yankee Stadium, and the right-hander again rose to the occasion. Leaning heavily on his slider, Tanaka generated 10 outs on the ground and eight via strikeout, limiting Houston to three hits and one walk over seven scoreless innings.
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As the ALCS shifts back to Houston’s Minute Maid Park for Game 6 on Friday, the Yanks will have two chances to advance to their first World Series since 2009. Teams that have won Game 5 in a tied best-of-seven series have gone on to win that series 41 times in 58 chances (70.7 percent).
“We’re not going to think about that yet. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” Judge said. “We’ve still got a job to do in Houston.”