The home team had won all five games of the 2017 American League Championship Series, entering Friday night, and the Astros needed to hold serve to keep their season alive.In front of a raucous crowd at Houston's Minute Maid Park, the Astros did just that -- in emphatic fashion.:: ALCS
The home team had won all five games of the 2017 American League Championship Series, entering Friday night, and the Astros needed to hold serve to keep their season alive.
In front of a raucous crowd at Houston's Minute Maid Park, the Astros did just that -- in emphatic fashion.
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Houston's 7-1 victory over the Yankees ensured we'll see a winner-take-all Game 7 of the ALCS presented by Camping World on Saturday night to determine who will play the Dodgers in the 113th World Series presented by YouTube TV, which begins Tuesday. Game 6 was defined by another performance for the ages by Astros starter Justin Verlander, and an awakening by Houston's dynamic offense, setting up what should be a thrilling Game 7 between these rising AL powers. Neither team has played a Game 7 since 2004, but the Astros will have a slight historic advantage playing at Minute Maid Park.
Since 1985, home teams are 18-7 in all Game 7s. That includes 10-5 in the LCS, including three straight wins going back to 2007. However, the Yanks can take solace in the fact that road teams captured Game 7 of the World Series last year (Cubs) and in '14 (Giants).
Before the Astros and Yankees put their seasons on the line tonight, here are the facts and figures you should know about Houston's clutch Game 6 victory.
JV brings his varsity stuff once again
• Verlander racked up eight strikeouts in Game 6 to follow up his 13-strikeout performance in Game 2. That made him just the fourth pitcher to record at least 20 strikeouts in a postseason series against the Yanks, and he joins three of the more legendary performances in postseason history: Bob Gibson (31 strikeouts) in the 1964 World Series, Curt Schilling (26) in the 2001 World Series and Sandy Koufax (23) in the 1963 World Series.
• Verlander joined John Smoltz as the only pitchers to have three elimination-game starts of at least seven scoreless innings in his career. He moved past Mike Mussina and Madison Bumgarner, the only other pitchers to do that multiple times.
• Mussina (1997), Max Scherzer (2013), David Price (2015) and Verlander's teammate, Dallas Keuchel, in this series, were the only pitchers before Verlander to record multiple games with eight strikeouts in the same ALCS.
• Friday marked Verlander's fifth career start in a postseason game in which his team faced elimination. His ERA in those five starts is a microscopic 1.21 -- the lowest of any pitcher who has started at least four elimination games. That includes 24 consecutive scoreless innings from Verlander's start in Game 5 of the 2012 ALDS in Oakland to the final out he recorded in the seventh inning Friday night.
• Verlander has faced 59 batters in this ALCS without allowing an earned run. Only three pitchers had previously faced as many as 50 batters in an LCS without allowing an earned run: Steve Avery for the Braves (1991 NLCS against the Pirates), Mike Hampton for the Mets (2000 NLCS against the Cardinals) and Burt Hooton for the Dodgers (1981 NLCS against the Expos).
• Verlander's 11th career postseason win ties him with Schilling and Greg Maddux for fifth on the all-time list. He now is up to 136 career postseason strikeouts, passing Randy Johnson for sixth on the all-time list.
• Since he greenlit his trade from the Tigers to the Astros at the last possible second on Aug. 31, Verlander has gone 9-0 with a 1.23 ERA and 67 strikeouts, compared to only 11 walks, in 58 2/3 innings over nine appearances (regular season and postseason).
• Verlander did catch a break in the seventh inning, when Todd Frazier came up with two aboard and ripped a deep drive to center field. Based on the ball's 102.8 mph exit velocity and 29 degree launch angle, Frazier had an 81 percent hit probability, according to Statcast™. Batted balls with those specifications produced home runs more than seven of every 10 times, but Frazier found one of the deepest parts of the park, and George Springer made a leaping catch at the wall.
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The Astros' offense wakes up
• Brian McCann drove in the first run of the game with his RBI ground-rule double in the fifth inning, breaking an 0-for-11 slump to start the series and an 0-for-20 slump since Game 3 of the AL Division Series presented by Doosan. Going back to the 2012 NL Wild Card Game with the Braves, McCann had been in a 2-for-44 postseason slide, encompassing five different series (including two Wild Card Games) for three different teams.
• Jose Altuve struck out on three pitches in the fourth inning against Yankees starter Luis Severino to run his cold spell up to 0-for-12, but got back to what he does best with the bases loaded in the fifth. Altuve swung at the first pitch he saw in that at-bat, clubbing a two-run single to put Houston up, 3-0. Including the regular season and postseason, Altuve is batting .459 (67-for-146) when putting the first pitch of an at-bat in play in 2017.
• Thanks to McCann and Altuve, the Astros got as many hits with runners in scoring position in that inning as they did over the previous four games. Following RBI hits by Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel in the fourth inning of Game 1, Houston had gone 2-for-25 in those situations leading up to McCann's double.
Overall, the Astros had gone just 4-for-27 with runners in scoring position in Games 1 through 5, but shook off the rust with a 4-for-7 performance in those situations Friday night.
• Altuve added a solo home run into the left-field Crawford Boxes in the eighth to make the score 4-1. He now has four homers this postseason, tying Colby Rasmus (2015) and Lance Berkman ('04) for the second-highest single-postseason total in Astros history. Carlos Beltran holds the record of eight in '04.
• Altuve, who went a combined 0-for-10 in Games 3, 4 and 5 in the Bronx, has now reached safely in 14 of his 21 plate appearances at home this postseason.
• Over their final four innings in Game 6, the Astros scored as many runs (seven) as they did in the previous 44 innings, since the fifth inning of Game 1.
• Houston was batting .147 in the ALCS as a team entering Friday -- on pace to be one of the lowest team marks in any best-of-seven postseason series -- but batted a more healthy .258 (8-for-31) in Game 6.
Judge whiffs, wallops
• Aaron Judge struck out for the second time in the game against Verlander in the sixth inning, giving him 26 K's this postseason. That tied the single-postseason record set by the Yanks' Alfonso Soriano in 2003.
• But Judge struck back in the eighth, getting the Yankees on the board with a solo shot to left-center field. The high-arcing blast came off his bat at 112.1 mph and a 36-degree angle, traveling a projected 425 feet, according to Statcast™. With that, Judge broke his own record for the hardest-hit home run of this postseason, topping his 111.6 mph big fly from earlier in this series.
• Judge became the fourth rookie to homer at least four times in a postseason. Evan Longoria of the 2008 Rays holds the record (six), while Kyle Schwarber went deep five times for the '15 Cubs and Jose Cabrera four times for the '03 Marlins.
Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.