NEW YORK — The Houston Astros congratulated one another on the field Thursday night, ducked into the visiting clubhouse, and no one would have blamed them if they grabbed some goggles, sprayed champagne, and talked about facing the Washington Nationals.
This American League Championship Series is over.
The Astros ripped out the New York Yankees’ hearts with a 8-3 victory, silencing the sellout crowd of 49.067 at Yankee Stadium, and now are on the brink of their second World Series in three years.
The Astros lead the ALCS 3 games to 1, but considering they have Cy Young winner Justin Verlander on the mound Friday, this series should be over before the Astros board their chartered flight back to Houston.
Why, even if the Yankees somehow extend the series, the Astros still have Gerrit Cole in their hip pocket for Game 7.
Yes, the same guy who is 19-0 with a 1.59 ERA in his last 25 starts.
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Carlos Correa rounds the bases after hitting a three run homer. (Photo: Noah K. Murray, USA TODAY Sports)
It will be the Astros and Nationals in the World Series.
The Astros, with what they believe is one of the greatest teams in baseball history, are sitting at 115 victories and counting.
“We’re here to win,’’ Astros manager A.J. Hinch said, “and to win as fast as we can.’’
Certainly, they proved to everyone they can win postseason games even on the days Cole and Verlander are sitting in the dugout.
Of course, it helps when you happen to hit two, three-run homers in the same game, courtesy of George Springer and Carlos Correa.
It’s only the second time in Yankee postseason history, spanning 404 games, that the Yankees gave up two, three-run shots in the same game, one off starter Masahiro Tanaka and the other off Chad Green.
Correa, 25, became the youngest player in baseball history to hit 10 postseason homers.
The Yankees certainly were given every opportunity to win the game, and could have blown the game open in the first inning.
Really, it had all the makings of a miserable night for Greinke. He opened the game by walking leadoff hitter D.J. LeMahieu on four pitches, and walked three of the first six batters for the first time in his career, forcing in a run.
The Astros sent pitching coach Brent Strom to the mound to settle him down, and moments later, was on the bullpen phone, telling Brad Peacock to warm up.
Now, with the bases loaded, and Gary Sanchez given the chance to be a hero, he struck out on three pitches, extending his postseason blues.
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When Sanchez finally got his first hit of the series in the sixth inning, driving in his first runs with a two-run homers, it was too little, too late.
The Yankees already were done.
The Astros simply are beating the Yankees in every phase of the game this series. They’re showing more power, with six home runs. Playing better defense, committing just one error while the Yankees’ infield had four. The starting pitching has been elite, giving up six earned runs in their four starts. Even their relievers have been superior to the Yankees’ vaunted bullpen.
The Astros’ relievers were put to work after Greinke lasted just 4 ⅓ innings, but except for rookie Josh James’ homer to Sanchez, they were exceptional again.
Ryan Pressly, relieving Greinke, walked Aaron Hicks to load the bases with cleanup hitter Gleyber Torres and Edwin Encarnacion due up next. Hinch stuck with Pressly, who had surrendered a 21.60 ERA this postseason.
Torres struck out swinging. And Encarnacion went down the same way.
It was that kind of night, with Astros reliever Will Harris, Joe Smith and Roberto Osuna flawless in the final three innings.
Now, if the Astros close out their series Friday, they will not only have a fresh bullpen for the World Series, but will be able to line up co-aces Cole and Verlander for Games 1 and 2, and 5 and 6.
As for the Yankees, they will be sitting home.
For the first time in a century they’ll have gone a full decade without reaching the World Series.
Their season is over.
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George Springer strikes again. His 12 #postseason HR since 2017 are tied for the most in @MLB in that span with his teammate @JoseAltuve27. pic.twitter.com/OzwIkC6HSS
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