The Astros returned to Minute Maid Park needing two straight victories to advance to the World Series. Mission accomplished.Behind impressive pitching performances from Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers, and home runs from Evan Gattis and Jose Altuve, Houston defeated the Yankees, 4-0, on Saturday night in Game 7 of the
The Astros returned to Minute Maid Park needing two straight victories to advance to the World Series. Mission accomplished.
Behind impressive pitching performances from Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers, and home runs from Evan Gattis and Jose Altuve, Houston defeated the Yankees, 4-0, on Saturday night in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World.
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The first Game 7 victory in Astros history sends them on to the Fall Classic for the second time, following a sweep at the hands of the White Sox in 2005. The Yanks, meanwhile, fell to 6-8 all-time in winner-take-all Game 7s, falling just shy of becoming the 14th team to rally from a 2-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series.
Next up for Houston is Game 1 of the World Series presented by YouTube TV, set for Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium. But for now, here are some notable facts and figures from a thrilling Game 7.
• The 2017 ALCS was just the fifth best-of-seven postseason series in which the home team won every game. The most recent occurrence before 2017 saw the opposite fate for the Astros, who lost all four games to the Cardinals in St. Louis during the '04 National League Championship Series.
• Houston is the eighth team to win a best-of-seven postseason series after losing three straight games at any point. The last to do so was the 2004 Red Sox, who also pulled off the feat against the Yankees in the ALCS.
• The Astros' victory Saturday marked the first team shutout in an ALCS Game 7, the sixth in an LCS Game 7 and 15th in any winner-take-all Game 7. The most recent Game 7 shutout prior to Saturday came when the Giants beat the Cardinals, 9-0, in 2012 NLCS. Before that, the Braves beat the Cardinals, 15-0, in 1996 NLCS. Houston is the third team in history and first since the Dodgers in the 1965 World Series to allow three hits or fewer in a Game 7 shutout.
• This was the sixth postseason shutout in Astros franchise history and their first in a series-clinching victory. However, Houston's most recent shutout before Saturday also helped them advance in the postseason. It was a 3-0 win over the Yanks in the 2015 AL Wild Card Game.
• At Minute Maid Park in this series, the Astros won by scores of 2-1, 2-1, 7-1 and 4-0. That made them just the fourth team since 1921 to notch four wins with no more than one run allowed in any win in a postseason series. The Giants previously did it against the Cardinals in the 2012 NLCS, the A's against the Red Sox in the 1990 ALCS and the Royals against the Cardinals in the '85 World Series. But none of those other clubs got all four wins at home.
Morton, McCullers deal at Minute Maid
• With his five scoreless innings, Morton became only the second starting pitcher in the past 15 Game 7s not to allow a run, joining the Giants' Player Page for Matt Cain (5 2/3 innings) in the 2012 NLCS against the Cardinals. Before Cain, you have to go all the way back to Hall of Famer Tom Glavine's seven scoreless for the Braves in the 1996 NLCS against St. Louis.
• Morton is the sixth Game 7 starter to pitch at least five innings and give up no more than two hits. Matt Garza last accomplished the feat for the Rays against the Red Sox in the 2008 ALCS (seven innings, two hits).
• The average spin rate on Morton's curveball Saturday was 2,917 RPM, according to Statcast™, which is the highest average spin rate recorded on any pitcher's curveball in a postseason game dating back to 2015 (min. 25 curveballs thrown). Morton recorded five of his 15 outs with that high-spinning hook on Saturday night.
• McCullers took over for Morton in the sixth and took the shutout the rest of the way. He became just the third pitcher to lock down a save of at least four innings in a postseason series-clinching game, joining the Giants' Madison Bumgarner (five innings) in the 2014 World Series and the A's Vida Blue (four innings) in the 1972 ALCS.
• McCullers' six strikeouts were the most by any pitcher while recording a postseason save.
• Following a walk to Todd Frazier in the eighth inning, McCullers finished his outing with an astonishing string of 24 consecutive curveballs, 19 of which were strikes (seven swinging). The Yankees went 0-for-6 with four strikeouts against that barrage of hooks. McCullers' overall curveball usage rate of 76 percent was a career high and was responsible for all six of his K's.
Altuve strikes again
• Altuve's fifth home run of this postseason, which gave the Astros a 2-0 lead in the fifth inning, put him in sole possession of second place behind Carlos Beltran (eight in 2004) on Houston's all-time list for most homers hit in a single postseason.
• Only four other second baseman have hit as many as five home runs in a single postseason: Daniel Murphy (seven in 2015), Chase Utley (six in '09), Todd Walker (five in '03) and Davey Lopes (five in 1978).
• Despite an 0-for-10 stretch in Games 3-5 at Yankee Stadium, Altuve is hitting .400 (16-for-40) in the 2017 postseason. That average currently ranks as the second best by any Astros player with a minimum of 30 at-bats in a single postseason, trailing only Beltran's .435 average in 2004.
• Altuve is just the third player to hit a home run in both Games 6 and 7 of a best-of-seven series from the No. 3 spot in the lineup. The other two names are Hall of Famers: Mickey Mantle for the Yanks in the 1952 World Series and Roberto Clemente for the Pirates in the '71 Fall Classic.
• Altuve, who began Houston's postseason journey with three homers against the Red Sox in Game 1 of the AL Division Series, joins none other than Babe Ruth (1926) as the only players to both have a three-homer game and hit a Game 7 homer in the same postseason. Ruth went deep three times in Game 4 of the World Series that year and once in Game 7.
• Altuve's home run was the first that Yankees reliever Tommy Kahnle had allowed since Aug. 23. Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias, who's listed at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, hit that homer off Kahnle, whose average fastball velocity this season measured 97.8 mph. Altuve is listed at 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds.
Houston takes its hacks
• Evan Gattis opened the scoring with a homer to lead off the fourth off Yanks starter Carsten Sabathia. It was Gattis' second home run since July 29 and the first extra-base hit Sabathia had allowed this postseason after going 18 2/3 innings without one.
• Gattis was the first designated hitter to homer in this postseason. Up until that point, DHs had come to the plate 128 times, going 24-for-115 (.209) with nine doubles and a .287 slugging percentage.
In contrast, shortstops lead the way this postseason with 12 homers, followed by third basemen and second basemen with 11 apiece.
• Brian McCann's two-run double off Kahnle in the fifth inning increased the Astros' lead to 4-0. Prior to his go-ahead RBI double in the fifth inning of Game 6, McCann was just 2-for-44 in the postseason since 2012 with no extra-base hits and three RBIs. He has gone 3-for-5 with two extra-base hits and three RBIs since.
• Josh Reddick flied out in his first at-bat Saturday to make him 0-for-22 in the ALCS, tying Dal Maxvill of the Cardinals in the 1968 World Series for the longest streak of hitless at-bats to begin any postseason series. Reddick snapped that streak with a single in the fourth that knocked Sabathia out of the game.
Sabathia falls short
• Sabathia allowed just one hard-hit ball in play, defined by Statcast™ as one with an exit velocity of 95 mph or harder, over six innings during his Game 3 start against the Astros at Yankee Stadium. In 3 1/3 innings Saturday, Sabathia allowed six hard-hit balls against Houston.
• Sabathia's short outing means six of the past 10 pitchers to start a Game 7 have not recorded an out in the fifth inning.
This was Sabathia's first loss in a start directly following a Yankees loss during the entire 2017 campaign. The lefty was 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA following a Yanks loss this year entering Saturday's Game 7.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.
Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.
Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. Follow him on Twitter at @benweinrib.