NEW YORK -- The Astros built a 10-game lead in the American League West by the end of May and ran away with the division from there. Other than what turned out to be an inconsequential battle with the Indians for the best record in the AL as the season
NEW YORK -- The Astros built a 10-game lead in the American League West by the end of May and ran away with the division from there. Other than what turned out to be an inconsequential battle with the Indians for the best record in the AL as the season wound down, they cruised through the regular season without being pushed by another team.
Now they're facing elimination.
The Yankees blanked the Astros, 5-0, in Game 5 on Wednesday night to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven AL Championship Series presented by Camping World.
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"This series isn't over," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "This game is. We're going to get back to Houston and get to an off-day with our families and come back ready to play."
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Veteran catcher Brian McCann and veteran designated hitter Carlos Beltran -- a pair of former Yankees -- spoke up in a team meeting in the moments following the Game 5 loss, and they reminded their teammates the series is far from over. The Astros have won 15 of their past 17 at home, including the posteason.
"We'll be ready," McCann said. "This team, we've played extremely well all season long and nothing is going to change. We'll get ready for Game 6."
Beltran said he told his teammates they can't feel sorry for themselves.
"That's the mentality," he said. "I told them that it wasn't going to be easy. Even though you win the first two games, you have to understand that we're coming here to their home and they've been able to play good games here. That's what they did. They played good games, they pitched well, they were able to come through with guys in scoring position. You have to give them credit, but at the end of the day, we have to be able to, as a team, turn the page and move on to what's ahead of us."
Beltran, a 20-year veteran, was on Houston's 2004 team that carried a 3-2 National League Championship Series lead into Games 6 and 7 in St. Louis and lost both of them. He told the young guys not to get down on themselves.
"Now it's time for us to go home and play better baseball," Beltran said.
Veteran outfielder Josh Reddick said the Astros are trying to do too much at the plate. They've been outscored by 12 runs (21-9) in the series and are hitting a collective .147 in the five games, with one homer and eight RBIs. That's a far cry from the team that had the most potent offense in baseball in the regular season.
"Everybody's trying to be the one guy who can put the team on their back with one swing, and that's one thing we can't get too focused on," Reddick said. "We've got to keep the line moving. We've been so great all year chaining together hits one after another, and we've got to get back to that and just quit trying to do everything ourselves."
When asked how the team is going to respond, third baseman Alex Bregman beamed with confidence.
"We're going home, and we've got to fight back and keep fighting and do what we've done all year, and that's fight and compete and play the game hard," he said. "Our effort's been there. We've been playing the game hard the entire time we've been here, and we go home in front of our home fans with big [Justin Verlander] on the mound and show up ready to go."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.