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Watch: Masahiro Tanaka helps tie Yankees’ strikeout record

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Masahiro Tanaka saved his best start for last. The Yankees’ right-hander spun seven innings without a run or a walk during Friday’s series opener, holding the Blue Jays to three hits and polishing off his 13th win of the season with a career-best 15 strikeouts.

Tanaka stunned the Jays with 10 strikeouts in the first 14 at-bats, preserving his perfect game bid until it was snapped by an Ezequiel Carrera line drive in the fifth.

Carrera made it to second base on his 10th steal of the season, but couldn’t find a way to come home to score after he was picked off during the next at-bat. Tanaka returned with another five strikeouts in two innings, besting the 14-strikeout record he set against the Rays back in July.

The Blue Jays didn’t fare much better against the bullpen. David Robertson twirled a scoreless eighth and a pair of strikeouts from Aroldis Chapman boosted the Yankees’ total to 18, matching a franchise record for most strikeouts in a nine-inning game.

While Tanaka’s gem stands alone as one of the best performances the Yankees have delivered this season, it also kept the club in the running for their first AL East title since 2012. They stand to clinch the division should they sweep the Blue Jays and see the Astros sweep the Red Sox this weekend.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).