Verlander Ks 11 leads Astros over Yankees 4-2 in ALCS

HOUSTON (AP) – Justin Verlander struck out 11 in six strong innings and Yuli Gurriel, Chas McCormick and Jeremy Peña led the Houston Astros to a 4-2 victory over the New York Yankees in the AL Championship Series opener on Wednesday night.

The Astros are in their sixth straight ALCS, looking to advance to the World Series for the fourth time in that span, against a New York team in the LCS for the first time since being eliminated by Houston in 2019.

The game was tied 1-all in the sixth, when Gurriel singled off reliever Clarke Schmidt on a solo shot into the seats in left field to put Houston on top. Two batters later, McCormick sent a sinking Schmidt into right field to make it 3-1.

Verlander set a major league record with the eighth double-figure hitting game of his postseason career and surpassed Clayton Kershaw (213) to become the all-time playoff hit leader with 219.

Peña, whose 18th-inning home run ended the scoring against the Mariners in the ALDS, beat Frankie Montas’ homer to start the seventh and extend the lead to 4-1. Montas played for the first time since Sept. 16 due to a shoulder injury that kept him out of the Division Series roster.

Anthony Rizzo hit Rafael Montero with two outs in the eighth to bring the Yankees within two. Giancarlo Stanton singled before Josh Donaldson walked to prompt Astros manager Dusty Baker to bring in closer Ryan Pressly.

He struck out Matt Carpenter to end the inning and pitch a 1-2-3 ninth to save four outs.

After struggling in Game 1 of the ALDS against Seattle, Verlander looked shaky early in this game, giving up a second-inning homer to Harrison Bader to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead. But the Astros tied it in the bottom of the inning on Martín Maldonado’s RBI double.

The Astros had a few days off after eliminating Seattle on Saturday. The Yankees managed a quick turnaround after winning a rain-delayed Game 5 over the Guardians at home on Tuesday before heading to Houston.

They had runners on second and third with one out in the third after Stanton’s double, but Verlander struck out Donaldson and Carpenter to avoid the jam.

It was the first of six consecutive hits by Verlander, who tied the postseason record. It’s the second time he’s tied the game after also fanning six in a row in Game 3 of the 2013 ALCS while playing for Detroit.

New York whiffed 17 times to the Astros’ two – the largest margin ever in a postseason game.

Verlander didn’t allow a baserunner after the third inning, retiring his last 11 straight with nine strikeouts. When he struck out Carpenter to end the sixth, he pumped his fist and yelled before walking off the field to a standing ovation from the mostly orange-clad home crowd.

He allowed three hits and one run in his 32nd career postseason start, 11th in the series opener. It was his first playoff win since 2019.

Peña doubled twice before his homer in the seventh to give him seven hits this postseason. The performance of the rookie, who took over for Carlos Correa at shortstop this season, helped the Astros this October as superstar Jose Altuve struggled.

Altuve, a three-time hitting champion, went 0 for 3 with a walk and dropped to 0 for 19 this postseason.

Stanton played left field on Wednesday while Aaron Hicks is out for the remainder of the postseason with a sprained knee suffered in a collision on the field on Tuesday. It was Stanton’s first appearance on the field since July 21, and his rust showed early when he couldn’t grab a ball that Peña hit for a double with one out in the first.

New York starter Jameson Taillon walked Yordan Alvarez after that, but Aaron Judge robbed Bregman of the hit and saved at least one run, and maybe more, when he singled to right field for the second inning.

Taillon allowed four hits and a run in 4 1/3 innings.

Judge was 0 for 4 with a strikeout after hitting his second home run of the postseason on Tuesday.


Astros third base coach Gary Pettis was out Wednesday with an illness.

First base coach Omar Lopez replaced Pettis, and quality control coach Dan Firova coached first base.


Roger Clemens, who played for both the Yankees and Astros in a 24-year MLB career in which he won seven Cy Young Awards, threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Wednesday.

He stepped a few feet in front of the tire before making a perfect hit to Houston starter Lance McCullers.

“Every time I go out there, he’s looking farther and farther (away),” Clemens, 60, said. “So I’m glad he got there.”

Asked for a series prediction, Clemens didn’t give any insight on who he’ll pull this week.

“I think it will go to seven games,” he said. “And that is it.”


Houston’s Framber Valdez (0-0, 3.18 ERA) faces Luis Severino (0-0, 4.76) when the series resumes Thursday night. Valdez allowed four hits and two runs in 5 2/3 innings in Game 2 of the ALDS, but did not factor into the decision.

Severino also didn’t factor into the decision in his last start when he allowed eight hits and three runs in 5 2/3 innings in Cleveland’s 6-5 win in Game 3 of the division series.


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