There were a lot of people talking up small-ball on Tuesday night during that Royals game. But to paraphrase a hero of mine, allow me to observe that hokey strategies and ancient weapons like bunts are no match for a good three-run homer by your side, kid.
Every game but that first wild card game has been decided by big innings and homers and today’s Orioles-Tigers game is no exception. The Orioles struck first with a two-run homer by Nick Markakis in the bottom of the third. But then in the top of the fourth the Tigers hit back in a big way:
Wei-Yen Chen gave up a single to Torii Hunter and a double by Miguel Cabrera to lead things off. Then Victor Martinez singled to score Hunter, putting runners on first and third for J.D. Martinez. All he did is hit a three-run homer. And unlike Markakis’ homer, which was reviewed by replay officials to make sure it cleared the fence, it was a no-doubter. The next batter was Nick Castellanos, who hit a solo shot of his own to make it 5-2. Those five runs scored on ten pitches. It was something of a blitzkrieg.
As I hit “post,” that remains the score as we head into the bottom of the fourth. Chen has been yanked.
Viva big ball.
The Yankees defeated the Astros 4-1 during Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night, staving off a potential postseason elimination and forcing the series to at least six games.
In just the third playoff appearance of his career, Yankees southpaw James Paxton turned in another impressive performance, limiting the Astros to four hits and four walks over six innings of one-run ball. According to MLB Stats, his nine strikeouts made him the second Yankees lefty to record multiple starts of 8+ strikeouts in the same postseason campaign, two decades after David Wells did so for the 1998 championship-winning club.
Paxton’s strong outing was backed by a handful of runs from DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Hicks, both of whom went deep against Astros ace Justin Verlander in the bottom of the first inning. LeMahieu’s leadoff solo shot marked his first postseason home run since Game 1 of the ALDS, while Hicks’ three-run 347-footer was his first home run of any variety since July 24 (and his first in the playoffs since the 2017 ALDS).
Neither team managed a single run after the first inning, leaving the two pitching staffs to duke it out for eight quick innings. Verlander outlasted Paxton — taking the game through the seventh with five hits, four runs, and nine strikeouts — but even with a flawless contribution from Brad Peacock in the eighth, there was little the hurlers could do to help the Astros solve Paxton and an airtight Yankees bullpen.
With the win, the Yankees will try to push the series to a full seven games in order to snatch the AL pennant from the Astros. They’ll have to do in Houston, however, as the Astros will regain home field advantage when Game 6 kicks off on Saturday at 8:08 PM EDT. Neither starter has been announced yet; per Houston skipper A.J. Hinch, it will likely be a bullpen day.