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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)
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.”

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