There’s been a glaring lack of power in the playoffs after the regular season produced record-breaking home run figures. But the Houston Astros and New York Yankees were able to dip back into that well for some clutch offense in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.
Carlos Correa clubbed a walk-off homer in the 11th inning and the Astros defeated the Yankees, 3-2, to even the ALCS at Minute Maid Park on Sunday night. Correa wasted no time, drilling J.A. Happ’s first pitch into the right-field seats. The 25-year-old shortstop was also responsible for the Yankees’ previous walk-off loss in the postseason, that time on a double to end Game 2 of the 2017 ALDS in Houston.
After collecting just three hits in his first 22 postseason at-bats, Correa also opened the scoring Sunday with an RBI double in the second inning and made a heads up throw to the plate after Jose Altuve muffed a Brett Gardner chopper to secure the final out of the sixth inning.
In addition to Correa’s walk off blast, Aaron Judge drove a Justin Verlander slider into the bullpen in center for a go-ahead two-run homer in the fourth inning, and George Springer greeted Adam Ottavino with a game-tying solo shot in the next frame. It was the first long ball of the postseason for all three sluggers, but a particularly relieving moment for Springer, who was 3 for 26 (.115) in October until that point.
Both bullpens came up big in the extra-inning contest, combining to allow just two hits over 12 total innings. Correa’s homer was the Astros first hit after the sixth inning. Gardner singled off Ryan Pressly in the 11th to account for the Yankees’ only hit against a Houston reliever.
Verlander, back on regular rest, bounced back from his difficult performance in Game 4 of the ALDS. The 36-year-old limited the Yankees to two runs on five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings. He yielded just one hit, Judge’s fourth-inning solo shot, in his first 4 2/3 frames.
New York matched a postseason record with nine pitchers used in the contest after James Paxton scuffled early and was lifted at the first sign of trouble in the third inning. Paxton wriggled out of a second-inning jam with a pair of strikeouts, stranding two Astros in scoring position, and was charged with a run on four hits and a pair of walks with three punchouts over 2 1/3 innings.
Ottavino allowed another hit after the Springer homer and has only recorded seven outs in five postseason appearances. Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman both pitched around a walk in a scoreless inning to force extras.
Happ cleaned up after Jonathan Loaisiga, who issued a pair of one-out walks, to retire the side in the 10th. CC Sabathia wasn’t on the ALDS roster but came in to retire Michael Brantley to start that inning.
WHO MADE THE DIFFERENCE
Roberto Osuna: A.J. Hinch opted to go to his closer against the 3-4-5 hitters in the Yankees’ lineup with one out in the eighth inning. Osuna retired all five batters to face him, including a pair of strikeouts.
Joe Smith: It’s been almost a week since he last appeared, but Smith worked around a walk in 1 2/3 hitless innings. Josh James got four outs, three by punchout, in Game 1 and came in to strike out Gary Sanchez to strand a pair of Yankees in the 11th.
Chad Green: Aaron Boone wouldn’t have his starters on such a short leash if there weren’t reliable options like Green in the bullpen. Green, who has yet to allow a run this postseason, got two outs on three pitches to strand a pair of Astros in the third, then retired the next four batters he faced. Tommy Kahnle also recorded a pair of strikeouts in 2 1/3 hitless innings.
Blink and you might miss it, but Correa’s laser into the right-field stands brought an abrupt conclusion to a near-five-hour contest.
This angle of the Carlos Correa walk-off 🤩pic.twitter.com/nn5mu7aMJI— Yahoo Sports MLB (@MLByahoosports) October 14, 2019
WHAT THEY’LL BE TALKING ABOUT
Boone had a quick hook on Masahiro Tanaka, who was nearly perfect after six innings, in Game 1. He was even less patient with Paxton on Sunday. Green snuffed out the Astros’ third-inning rally, but a pattern is forming for Yankee starters, and it’s putting relievers in situations they may not be comfortable. Ottavino pitched to only one batter in the fifth inning or sooner throughout the regular season.
There was a fifth-inning delay after a security guard was hit by a Brantley line drive in the Astros dugout. It was the second significant instance of someone getting hit by a foul ball at Minute Maid Park this season.
The series continues Tuesday at 4:08 p.m. ET with a shift to Yankee Stadium, where the Bombers have won five of their past seven postseason contests. Luis Severino (1-1, 1.50 ERA) starts for New York in his fifth appearance of the season, while Gerrit Cole (20-5, 2.50 ERA) looks to continue an incredible run in which he’s 18-0 with a 1.66 ERA and 11 consecutive double-digit strikeout performances in his past 24 starts.
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