Masahiro Tanaka dazzles, Yankees blank Astros 5-0 to pull within one win of reaching World Series

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Masahiro Tanaka once again pitched a gem, leading the Yankees past the Astros 5-0 in Game 5 of the ALCS on Wednesday evening. The Yankees now hold a 3-2 series lead and have a chance to clinch a World Series berth on Friday.

The Astros had a few opportunities to score, but Tanaka executed when he needed to most. The right-hander held the Astros hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position. The Astros are now 2-for-19 (.105) with RISP since the start of Game 3 and 5-for-25 (.200) overall in the ALCS.

The Yankees opened the scoring in the second inning as Greg Bird knocked in Starlin Castro with a single. Aaron Judge added another run in the third inning with an RBI double. In the fifth, Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius each hit RBI singles to up the score to 4-0. Gary Sanchez tacked on a solo home run in the seventh. That proved to be more than enough run support for Tanaka.

Tanaka exited after seven innings, giving up just three hits and a walk with three strikeouts on 103 pitches. That matches his ALDS Game 3 start against the Indians in which he also tossed seven shutout innings.

Tommy Kahnle took over in the eighth, working an easy nine-pitch 1-2-3 inning. He returned to the mound in the ninth, working around a one-out double from Carlos Correa. He induced a ground out from Yuli Gurriel, then got Alex Bregman to line out to center field to end the game in a 5-0 victory for the Yankees.

Game 6 of the ALCS will start at 8 PM ET on Friday in Houston at Minute Maid Park. The Astros will attempt to stave off elimination by sending Justin Verlander to the mound. The Yankees will counter with Luis Severino. They will be attempting to return to the World Series for the first time since 2009, when they beat the Phillies in six games.

Ramón Laureano made an absolutely ridiculous play yesterday

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I talked about it in the recaps, but dear lord does Oakland A’s outfielder Ramón Laureano’s play in yesterday’s game against the Blue Jays deserve it’s own post.

Jays first baseman Justin Smoak led off the second with a single Then Teoscar Hernández then came up and hit a long drive to center. In what, in and of itself, would’ve lead the highlight reels yesterday, Laureano ranged back to the wall and reached over to rob Hernández of a homer.

Laureano is known best for his arm, though, and that’s when he unleashed that hose, attempting to double off Smoak at first base all the way from the warning track. The throw was not on target — indeed, it sailed way past first base — but that was itself impressive as all get-out. As A’s pitcher Brett Anderson said after the game, he’s pretty sure the throw went farther than Hernández hit the ball in the first place. The arm strength on display there was simply phenomenal. But it was also lucky.

Lucky because the throw went so far into foul territory that it gave Smoak the courage to break for second base. Laureano was not the only one playing great defense on the play, though: A’s catcher Nick Hundley backed up the play, got Laureano’s errant throw and fired it down to second, nailing Smoak. And heck, Hundley’s throw was nothing to sneeze at either:

That did not go as an outfield assist for Lauerano, obviously, as his bad throw — which would’ve been an error had Smoak managed to advance, we must admit — broke that up. So, in the books it goes as an F7 and then a separate 2-4 putout. Still, it just shows Laueano’s incredible defensive abilities, both with the leather and with that cannon he has for an arm.

An arm that, this play not withstanding, gets him plenty of assists. Indeed, he has has five assists this season already and has 14 assists in just 70 games, which is a lot. To put it in perspective, it usually takes somewhere between 12-18 to lead the league in a full season with 20 being an outlier of sorts, only seen once every five years or so.

So, if you’re gonna hit it to center against the A’s, make sure you hit it all the way out. And if Laureano gets to it, for god’s sake, don’t run on him.