HOUSTON (AP) — The New York Yankees will have to win one more elimination game to get to their first World Series since 2009.
This time, the Baby Bombers will play a Game 7 after missing a chance to close out the AL Championship Series against the Houston Astros.
“I guess it just didn’t feel right,” Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier said. “We’ve got to play with our backs against the wall again and see what happens.”
Luis Severino had another abbreviated start in Houston and Aaron Judge struck out two more times to match a major league record for strikeouts in a postseason before a towering home run in the Yankees’ 7-1 loss in Game 6 on Friday night.
New York will have veteran left-hander CC Sabathia on the mound for Game 7 on Saturday night. Sabathia, reliever David Robertson and left fielder Brett Gardner are the only holdovers from the Yankees’ last World Series team eight years ago — in Joe Girardi’s second season as their manager. Sabathia is 10-0 in starts following a Yankees’ loss this year, including Game 3 of the ALCS.
“You never take these opportunities for advantage. That’s why it’s special to pitch and play in October,” said Sabathia, who got a no decision after starting a winner-take-all Division Series clincher in Cleveland. “It will feel good to get out there tomorrow and have an opportunity to try to pitch this team to the World Series.”
With a series lead for the first time this postseason after winning all three ALCS games in the Bronx, the Yankees were again stifled by Justin Verlander — just like in Game 2. The big right-hander didn’t go the distance this time, but he did get his ninth win in nine appearances since being acquired by Houston.
“Verlander was making his pitches, doing what he was doing,” Judge said. “We’ve got a Game 7. … What an opportunity. We wouldn’t want it any other way.”
It will be the first Game 7 for the Yankees since the 2004 ALCS, when the Boston Red Sox came back to claim the AL pennant after losing the first three games in that series.
The Yankees haven’t lost when facing elimination this postseason. After beating Minnesota in the win-or-go-home AL wild-card game, New York lost the first two games in the best-of-five ALDS against Cleveland before winning three straight to advance.
“It’s a situation our guys have been in a lot,” Girardi said. “I think you have to keep tonight’s game in perspective. We still have a shot to do what we want to try to do.”
Judge’s third homer of this series — he hit two in New York — was a soaring shot off reliever Brad Peacock in the eighth projected to 425 feet by Statcast.
But in his other three at-bats, Judge grounded into a double play and struck out twice. That’s 26 strikeouts this postseason for the rookie slugger, matching the record set by Alfonso Soriano while with the Yankees in 2003.
Severino got into trouble against the bottom half of the Astros order in the fifth. After No. 6 batter Alex Bregman walked to lead off, Evan Gattis drew a one-out walk and No. 9 batter Brian McCann got his first hit in the ALCS with a ground-rule double that drove in the first run.
George Springer, the Astros leadoff hitter still hitless in the ALCS, then drew a walk, and Jose Altuve ended an 0-for-12 slide with a two-run single that made it 3-0 and chased Severino.
Severino threw only 62 pitches — exactly half as many as Verlander — in Game 2. The 23-year-old right-hander didn’t even take the mound for the fifth in that game after he uncharacteristically wound his arm several times after giving up a solo homer to Carlos Correa, and was struck on the wrist of his non-throwing hand on the last out.
Robertson gave up a solo homer to Altuve, and four runs without recording an out, in the eighth.
Verlander has thrown 16 scoreless innings in two ALCS wins over the Yankees.
The closest New York came to scoring against him in Game 6 was after Greg Bird drew a walk to lead off the seventh and Starlin Castro was hit by a pitch — though Girardi had to issue a replay challenge after home plate umpire Jim Reynolds initially just called the pitch a ball. The ball clearly hit off Castro’s arm.
But Aaron Hicks struck out and Todd Frazier hit a deep drive to center field, where Springer made a leaping catch on the warning track and came down against the wall. Chase Headley, already with two more hits Friday to give him seven in nine at-bats after starting the postseason 0 for 18, then ended the inning with a groundout.
“Right off the bat, I could have sworn it was going out,” Frazier said.
So did Verlander.
“I thought homer,” Verlander said. “That was obviously one of the big turning moments in the game.”