NEW YORK -- There is no quit in these "Baby Bombers," and as their youthful exuberance fuels an incredible postseason run, they have summoned the excitement of Bronx Octobers past. The triple decks of Yankee Stadium are being transformed into a deafening, swaying party zone on a nightly basis.
Aaron Judge homered and delivered a game-tying hit, while Gary Sanchez crushed the go-ahead double in a decisive four-run eighth as the Yankees stunned the Astros with a 6-4 victory in Game 4 on Tuesday to even the American League Championship Series at two games apiece.
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"That ballpark is alive. It was unbelievable," Judge said. "That stadium was rocking, the fans were going crazy. I didn't know what to do after I touched home plate. That's why we play this game, for a moment like that."
Nine outs away from having to face Dallas Keuchel with their season on the line, Judge sparked the Yankees' comeback from a four-run deficit with his third homer of the postseason, a solo drive to Monument Park that chased starter Lance McCullers The Yanks rallied for six unanswered runs, ensuring the ALCS presented by Camping World will be completed in Houston. In best-of-seven LCS, teams that win Game 5 to go ahead 3-2 have gone on to win 13 of 16 times.
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"It was special again tonight," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Every home game has been special. I just feel like the fans are back, and I see things that I haven't seen in a while. It reminds me a lot of when I was playing here, so it's been fun to watch."
The Yankees are aiming to become the fourth team in LCS history to rally from an 0-2 deficit in a best-of-seven series. The Astros, though, are sending Keuchel, who's dominated the Yanks in his career, to the mound in Game 5.
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"I think today we got punched in the mouth and we're going to show up ready to compete tomorrow," third baseman Alex Bregman said. "They put together a good comeback and I think tomorrow is a brand-new day. We're going to get some sleep, come to the field, go through our same routine we've gone through all year and get ready to go."
In the seventh, Didi Gregorius greeted reliever Chris Devenski with a triple before scoring on a Sanchez sacrifice fly. Todd Frazier and Chase Headley opened the eighth with singles off Joe Musgrove, and Brett Gardner knocked home the Yankees' third run with a grounder to the right side against closer Ken Giles.
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That set up Judge to tie the game by digging out an 86.2-mph slider, denting the left-field wall for a run-scoring double. Sanchez gave the Yanks their first lead with a two-run double up the gap in right-center field.
"The emotions are raw," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "You're standing on second base and can't even control them. It was a big hit there to help your team and go ahead there in the bottom of the eighth. The emotions are coming out and hard to contain."
Behind six dominant innings from McCullers and Yuli Gurriel's bases-clearing double, the Astros appeared poised to move one win from the second World Series appearance in franchise history. Instead, the Yankees remained undefeated at home this postseason, heading into a crucial Game 5 showdown.
"The series wasn't over after two games," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "It's certainly not over after four."
Yankees starter Sonny Gray matched McCullers before running into trouble in the sixth, charged with two runs (one earned) and one hit in five-plus frames. The Astros pushed their lead to four runs in the seventh when Starlin Castro committed his second error of the game, booting a Brian McCann grounder on the outfield grass.
"We're not going to hit the panic button because we've lost two games in a row," Astros shortstop Carlos Correa said. "We've got Keuchel going tomorrow so we're going to play behind him and hopefully come up with a win."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Yuli clears 'em: The Astros were 1-for-12 with the bases loaded in the playoffs prior to Gurriel's double. Houston loaded the bases with none out in the sixth without a base hit. Springer walked and Reddick reached on catcher's interference before Girardi lifted Gray in favor of Player Page for David Robertson. Altuve drew a walk and Robertson struck out Correa swinging before Gurriel's big hit. More >
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"I thought we had the game, but our bullpen had been pitching well and doing the job, so I thought those three runs were enough for us to get a win," Gurriel said.
Bullpen succumbs in eighth: The Astros' bullpen couldn't provide any relief in the eighth, when the Yanks sent 10 batters to the plate to score four runs and take a 6-4 lead. Brought into the game with runners at second and third and none out, Giles allowed both inherited runners to score and gave up two more runs on Sanchez's double. The breakdown by the Astros was reminiscent of Game 4 in the 2015 AL Division Series against the Royals, in which Kansas City scored five times in the eighth to wipe out a four-run deficit and win the game against Houston's bullpen. More >
"We just couldn't get the inning to end," Hinch said. "We were trying to match up and make pitches. They were putting really great at-bats together. Even their outs, they had productive outs. Nobody likes that term, but they got 90 feet whenever they needed to, whether it was the sac fly or Gardner's ground ball to second base."
"This is the loudest it's been. I said that earlier in the playoffs with that Wild Card Game and those two games against the Indians. It feels like the old Stadium. It makes a huge difference. It's intimidating to come here and play when the crowd is as big as it's been and has been." -- Carsten Sabathia, on Yankee Stadium
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Astros were held to three hits -- all doubles -- in Game 4, marking the second time in their playoff history that they didn't get a single in a game (Game 2 of 1999 National League Division Series vs. Braves).
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Judge was called out to conclude a wild sequence in the fourth inning. With one out and Judge at first base, Sanchez lifted a shallow fly ball to right-center field that was caught by Josh Reddick, who threw to first base to double off Judge. The Yankees challenged the call at first base, and replay showed that Judge had beaten the ball back to the bag. However, Judge did not touch second base on his way back to first base. When play resumed and McCullers stepped off to appeal at second base, Judge broke for second and was caught stealing to end the inning. More >
"The coaching staff kind of gave me a heads-up, so I said, 'All right, let's go,'" Judge said. "You've got to try something."
Hinch unsuccessfully challenged a call at second base in the eighth, as Headley singled to push Frazier to third and subsequently slipped rounding first. Headley got up and avoided a rundown by scurrying to second, where he slid headfirst and narrowly beat a tag from Altuve. Replay confirmed the call, giving the Yanks runners on second and third with none out.
"We had an out," Hinch said. "Jose tries to get 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."
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Astros: Keuchel, who threw seven scoreless innings in Game 1 against the Yankees, will start Game 5 of the ALCS on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. In eight career starts, including the playoffs, Keuchel is 6-2 with a 1.09 ERA against the Yanks. He's held them scoreless over 13 innings in two career postseason starts.
Yankees: Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (1-1, 1.38 ERA in postseason) returns to the mound on Wednesday as the Yanks face the Astros in Game 5 of the ALCS. Tanaka will be starting for the third time this postseason, coming off his Game 1 outing vs. Houston in which he took the loss despite permitting only two runs in six innings. He has received a total of one run of support across his three postseason starts.