On the edge of elimination, a game away from having to say, “Wait ’til next year,” the New York Yankees have forced a Game 6 in the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros. And now, anybody who had their World Series plans already mapped out might just need to wait out the weekend. Two teams head to Houston, but only one will be headed to the World Series by Monday.
What’s on tap
8:08 p.m. ET: Yankees at Astros, Game 6
The most important thing of the day: With both teams going to bullpen games, you’d think that plays into the Yankees’ hands, given the season-long dominance of their relief crew. But in uncharted waters like this, it’s an opportunity for all sorts of unexpected playoff heroes from either team to mint their own moments.
The view from inside the ballpark
HOUSTON — Well, if you’re reading this early, no one is here yet. But in a few hours, it is going to be rocking at Minute Maid Park. With no travel day, a double-bullpen game Saturday night and Gerrit Cole vs. Luis Severino looming in a potential Game 7 … this ALCS is looking a lot more interesting than it did Friday morning. — Matt Marrone
A stat to impress your friends: According to Elias Sports Bureau data, Game 5 of the ALCS marked the first game in MLB history — across all 1,609 games ever played in the postseason — in which both teams scored in the first inning and then went scoreless the rest of the way.
The Yankees’ offense threatened to explode in Game 5 of the ALCS, and despite coming out with the victory, New York came up short of that explosion after Justin Verlander did some major damage control. The Yankees’ bats are bound to break through against a Houston relief crew that has held New York to a 1.13 WHIP in the ALCS, after posting a 1.85 WHIP in the division series against the Rays. Yankees 7, Astros 5 — Marly Rivera
There could very well be a Game 6 dud ahead of us after a season-saving win for the Yankees in the Bronx. But as we head to Houston, it feels like this series suddenly deserves a Game 7. So why not. Yankees 8, Astros 5 — Marrone
About last night
Stud of the night: Let’s give Big Maple his due, because James Paxton provided the Yankees the kind of postseason start they were dreaming of when they acquired him in that big trade with the Mariners last November. His nine strikeouts in an elimination game was one shy of tying the Yankees’ postseason record (held by Roger Clemens in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series and Bob Turley in Game 5 of the 1958 World Series), and his 112 pitches were the most thrown by any Yankees pitcher in any game this season.
Dud of the night: For one inning, Justin Verlander, because his four-run first frame marked the first time in his career he had given up that many runs in any inning in the postseason, as well as the first time he has given that many runs up in an inning since Aug. 11, 2014, against the Padres, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Anybody can be forgiven a bad inning from anybody once in five years, but having it happen in the first inning of an elimination game was definitely not what anybody in the Astros’ dugout — or Yankee Stadium — expected.
Highlight of the night:
James Paxton answers the bell against the Astros with nine strikeouts over six innings of one-run baseball in Game 5 of the ALCS.
Off the diamond
Social media says:
Aaron Hicks pimped that one, lordy
— Yankees Videos (@snyyankees) October 19, 2019
Quote of note: “I knew we were going to Houston when I woke up.” — Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge after their win in Game 5.
Best of the playoffs so far
Our running postseason MVP: How good is Gerrit Cole right now? Everyone agrees he was a little off in Game 3 of the ALCS, yet he nonetheless shut out the Yankees over seven innings for a huge Astros win. For the postseason, Cole is 3-0 with a 0.40 ERA and 32 strikeouts, giving up one run, 10 hits and eight walks in 22⅔ innings. Needless to say, he is on track for one of the best postseasons ever for a starting pitcher.
The play of this October: We’re going to cheat and make this plays: the back-to-back home runs by the Nationals’ Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto off the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw in the eighth inning of Game 5 of the National League Division Series. Kershaw in the wake of Soto’s tying bomb could end up as the lasting image of these playoffs.
Game of the postseason so far: Nationals-Dodgers, Game 5 of the NLDS. The Dodgers ambushing Stephen Strasburg, Strasburg settling down and keeping the Nats in it, Walker Buehler‘s mastery, Kershaw’s big strikeout before his eighth-inning implosion, Howie Kendrick‘s 10th-inning grand slam, questions for Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. There’s a lot to unpack here, and this was a true postseason classic.