NEW YORK -- When breaking down the Yankees' epic 6-4 comeback victory in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday, both Yanks third baseman Todd Frazier and Astros manager A.J. Hinch pointed to Chase Headley's mad scramble to second base in the eighth inning as the biggest play of the game.
After plating two runs in the seventh to cut Houston's lead to 4-2, the Yankees returned with a four-run rally in the eighth that knotted the ALCS presented by Camping World at two games apiece.
The eighth started with Frazier's leadoff single against Astros reliever Joe Musgrove. Then, Headley, serving as a pinch-hitter, sent a single to left-center field, stumbled on his way to second base, fell and set in motion a critical play.
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Headley recovered his balance and, as the relay throw from shortstop Carlos Correa sailed over his head to first baseman Yuli Gurriel, attempted to reach second base. Gurriel immediately threw to second baseman Jose Altuve, who was set up left of the bag as the tag was just tardy. Hinch challenged the call, but it was confirmed, keeping runners at second and third with no outs.
"That was the biggest play of the game, 100 percent, him finding a way to get to second base," Frazier said. "We were able to get going after that."
That led Hinch to call on closer Ken Giles, but Brett Gardner's ensuing groundout plated a run and Aaron Judge followed with a game-tying RBI double. Gary Sanchez then dealt the final blow with a two-run double.
"The key rally in that inning is not turning Headley's ball into an out," Hinch said. "We had an out, obviously Carlos was making an athletic play, Yuli makes an athletic play, Jose tries to tag him, it goes to replay and we don't get the out. Looking back, I think that was a big play, because it set up a ton of pressure on us for the rest of the inning with guys all over the place."
If Headley is out, the Yanks' win percentage would've been down to 23 percent, based on a win expectancy matrix created by MLB.com's Tom Tango. But after being ruled safe, it rose to 46 percent.
"Talk about going from extremely excited to extremely panicked in a matter of seconds," Headley said. "I didn't hit the base where I'd like to, and I just stumbled and stumbled and stumbled. I finally came down, and when you're in that position, you've got to make a decision one way or the other. Fortunately, it worked out."
Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius, who was watching from the bench, said Headley tricked Correa, as he forced the Astros' shortstop to double-clutch on his throw to Gurriel, instead of making a quicker throw to first or a throw to second to get Headley in a rundown.
"He was in no-man's land, but I think he kind of deked Correa," Gregorius said. "That just got the dugout more hyped up. It got the team going. That shows everything right there."
Headley explained that he was on the ground when Correa got the ball, and he expected the throw to go to first, so he promptly broke for second as soon as he could get up.
"My thought was, 'I'm on the ground.' I knew that Correa wasn't looking at me, so I knew he was going to be getting yelled at to throw the ball to first base," Headley said. "As soon as he made the throw, I'm going the other way and hopefully I can sneak in there. You've got to make the best out of a bad situation."
Headley did just that, and now the Yanks guaranteed the series will head back to Houston for Game 6.