Baseball: Astros stay alive with 7-1 win over Yankees

New York Yankees’ Didi Gregorius leaps to catch a ball thrown in from the outfield as Houston Astros’ Carlos Beltran is safe at second with a double during the American League Championship Series. (AP)
Updated 21 October 2017
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Baseball: Astros stay alive with 7-1 win over Yankees

LOS ANGELES: The Houston Astros kept their hopes of a World Series berth alive Friday, beating the New York Yankees 7-1 to level the American League Championship Series at three games apiece.
Houston ace Justin Verlander pitched another post-season gem and the Houston offense came alive at home after the Astros dropped three straight games in New York.
Verlander threw seven scoreless innings for the Astros, allowing five hits with one walk and eight strikeouts.
He extended his streak of consecutive scoreless innings in elimination games to 24 and passed Hall of Famer Randy Johnson for sixth place on the career post-season strikeouts list.
Verlander now has 134 career playoff strikeouts to the 132 Johnson recorded over 121 post-season innings.
Brian McCann and Jose Altuve drove in runs in a three-run fifth inning for the Astros that chased Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino.
Altuve added a solo home run, his fourth of these playoffs, to lead off the eighth — when the Astros added four more runs.
Before the Astros stretched their lead, Verlander had worked out of trouble in the sixth and seventh, leaving two Yankees baserunners stranded in the sixth and notching his eighth strikeout in the seventh in a 10-pitch duel with Aaron Hicks.
Verlander was clearly tiring in the seventh. After his battle with Hicks, New York’s Todd Frazier sent a fly ball to deep center field, but George Springer leapt for the catch and Chase Headley then grounded out on Verlander’s final pitch of the night.
“Those things are game-changers,” Verlander said of defensive plays like Springer’s. “These guys make it a lot easier for me to go out and trust my stuff.”
The Astros will host game seven on Saturday.
The winner of the series takes on the National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series starting on Tuesday in Los Angeles.
“I know both teams are going to go out and leave everything they have because this (will be) the last game for the one that loses the game,” Altuve said of the looming game seven.
While Verlander allowed a hit in each of his first three innings, Severino kept the Astros without a hit until Carlos Correa lined a two-out single to right center field in the bottom of the fourth.
Severino escaped the inning, but the Astros soon had his number and were able to produce runs in support of Verlander.
“Severino was going really good early,” Verlander said. “You just knew it was going to be one of those ballgames where the first person to blink was likely going to come up a loser.”
In the top of the eighth, Aaron Judge’s towering home run off Astros relief pitcher Brad Peacock trimmed Houston’s lead to 3-1.
But fears that Houston’s bullpen wouldn’t be able to maintain after Verlander’s departure proved unfounded.
“Nothing is over yet,” Altuve cautioned. “Not for the Yankees, not for us. We’ve got to go out there and play the game tomorrow.”


Saudi Arabia’s Young Falcons through to Asian Games knockout stages despite 3-0 defeat to North Korea

Updated 20 August 2018
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Saudi Arabia’s Young Falcons through to Asian Games knockout stages despite 3-0 defeat to North Korea

  • Young Falcons have wings clipped but still fly into second round after heavy defeat.
  • Saudi Arabia qualify as one of the best third-placed teams.

JAKARTA: From flying high to almost flying home, Saudi Arabia’s Young Falcons came within a goal of going from group leaders to bottom of the table after losing 3-0 to North Korea in their final Group F match at the Asian Games. They ultimately squeaked through as one of the best third-placed teams.
Arriving full of confidence and with one foot already in the knockout stages, coach Saad Al-Shehri rested seven of the 11 players who started the win against Myanmar on Friday. That meant a much-changed back five, with Al-Ittihad’s Amin Al-Bukhari in goal and Al-Ahli duo Mohammed Al-Zubaidi and Mohammed Al-Bassas, both making their Asian Games debuts alongside ever-presents Abdullah Tarmin and Awn Al-Saluli.
The rejig, however, backfired as, inside two minutes and with their first effort on goal, North Korea were ahead. A corner from Kwang-myong Jo was met by the head of Yong-il Kim who directed it past Al-Bukhari with ease while his defenders looked on in confusion; the marking as tight as a wizard’s sleeve.
The Young Falcons had arrived at the Wibawa Mukti Stadium top of Group F and virtually assured of a place in the Round of 16, yet the strike shifted everything. Suddenly, a three-goal Myanmar win against Iran would put the Saudi Arabia’s place in the knockout stages in serious jeopardy. 
The players seemed to understand the consequences of conceding that early goal as nerves took hold. Al-Bukhari, the debutant goalkeeper, allowed a pass to run under his foot, scrambling back desperately to avoid further embarrassment, while loose balls were hoofed clear in panic. Al-Shehri crouched on the sideline, as motionless as his midfield.
North Korea, well-beaten by the Iranians three days earlier, looked more dynamic and determined, pressing intensely and holding back nothing in their tackles. Saudi Arabia, in contrast, were meek. In the 25th minute, they fell further behind. Woeful defending allowed Korea a free shot at goal from close range and Al-Bukhari’s parried save was turned into the net by striker Yu-song Kim.
Al-Shehri refrained from making changes at half-time, yet his side did not improve. Just six minutes after the restart, and again from a corner, Korea notched their third. At 1.94m, Ittihad’s Awn Al-Saluli was the tallest outfield player by some distance, yet he was slow to react when Yu-song Kim squeezed in front of him to header home his second goal of the afternoon.
The rushed introduction of Nawaf Al-Habasi and Haroune Camara gave the Young Falcons more of a physical presence and Abdulrahman Ghareeb saw his shot tipped around the post, but it was Korea who came closest to the game’s fourth. Al-Zubaidi was dispossessed while playing out from the back and raced back to make a last-ditch tackle, winning the ball cleanly. Tajikstani referee Nasrullo Kabirov, however, deemed it a foul and produced a red card only to change his mind after speaking with his fourth official.
With news filtering through that Myanmar were beating Iran 2-0 and chasing a third, Saudi pushed forward seeking a lifeline. It was not to arrive, but neither was Myanmar’s, allowing the Young Falcons, wings clipped, to stumble through to the knock-out stages.