The New York Yankees made them work for this one, but the Houston Astros prevailed anyway. The preeminent AL juggernaut won a home-and-away ALCS Game 4, 6-5, to complete the sweep and advance to the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Astros overcame an early 3-0 deficit on the latest exploits of rookie shortstop Jeremy Peña, then turned a one-point hole into a series-ending advantage on Alex Bregman’s single in the seventh sleeve. The bullpen went four scoreless innings in relief of Lance McCullers Jr.
Game 4 counted as a serious improvement for the Yankees offense. Anthony Rizzo drove in two and Harrison Bader homered for the fifth time this playoffs. But it wasn’t enough.
Starting pitcher Nestor Cortes Jr. left after more than 2 innings – shortly after allowing Peña to tie the game with a three-run homer – with a groin injury that undermined his fastball speed . Manager Aaron Boone later told the TBS show that Cortes had been dealing with the injury since the start of the playoffs.
The Astros’ decisive rally in the seventh started with ground balls. Jose Altuve beat a ground player for the first on an incredibly tight game. Then Gleyber Torres and Isiah Kiner-Falefa mishandled a potential double play ball. Yordan Alvarez and Bregman followed it up with singles to equalize and take the lead.
After reaching their sixth consecutive ALCS, the Astros claim victory for the fourth time and advance to the World Series, still unbeaten on their record in the 2022 playoffs. Manager Dusty Baker, 73, will make his third trip to the Fall classic in search of the one thing that eluded him as a manager: a ring.
The Astros’ only championship came in 2017, a title later tainted in the public imagination by the sign-stealing scandal. Several stars of this team – George Springer, Carlos Correa among them – left. But the organization continues to pump in productive new players like Peña, Alvarez and surprise ALCS impact batter Chas McCormick.
They will face the Phillies with a terrifying collection of weapons. Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier each allowed one earned run or less in starts against the Yankees, while the Astros bullpen as a whole allowed one run in the entire series. They appear to be up for a challenge against a rowdy group of Phillies sluggers led by Bryce Harper. This series is scheduled to begin Friday evening.
In the Bronx, the Yankees are exiting the playoffs, but the spotlight won’t falter as winter encroaches. Aaron Judge — the 62-home run sensation — made the Game 4 final and will now head to free agency. He posted an all-time great contract year after declining the Yankees’ spring extension offer.
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