ALCS Game 7

Astros headed to the World Series after Game 7 win over Yankees!

Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa got the offense going for the Astros in Game 7. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Houston Astros are headed to their first World Series since 2005 and second in franchise history after a Game 7 filled with great pitching, stellar defense, and strong offense to beat the Yankees to win the ALCS and take the American League pennant.

Charlie Morton pitched five shutout innings, Lance McCullers backed that up with four of his own, Jose Altuve and Evan Gattis homer, and Brian McCann drives in two on a huge hit as the Astros shutout the Yankees 4-0 in Game 7 of the ALCS.

Morton started Game 7 with a three-pitch strikeout of Brett Gardner for the first out of the night in the top of the first. Morton followed that with a groundout and another strikeout for a 1-2-3 top of the inning. George Springer hit a leadoff single in the bottom of the inning off of CC Sabathia but became the first stranded batter after three consecutive groundouts end the inning.

Gary Sanchez led off the second inning with a single for the Yankees' first hit, but Morton was able to work around it with a fly out, groundout, and strikeout to end the half inning. In the bottom of the inning, Aaron Judge robbed Yuli Gurriel with an amazing leaping catch as he crashed into the right-field wall for the first out. McCann took a four-pitch walk with two outs, then moved to second on a bloop single by Marwin Gonzalez, but both were left stranded as Josh Reddick continued his hitless streak with a pop out to send the scoreless game to the third.

Morton continued to look strong in the top of the third, getting through the hitless half inning thanks to a couple of great defensive plays behind him from Altuve. Alex Bregman reached on an infield single in the bottom of the inning with one out, then moved to second on a walk to Altuve. Carlos Correa grounded into a fielder's choice for the second out, followed by Gurriel grounding out to leave two on base and keep the game tied 0-0 going into the fourth.

Morton had another quick inning in the top of the fourth, retiring the Yankees in order and finishing his fourth inning with his pitch count at only 36. After an extended at-bat by Gattis against Sabathia to start the bottom of the inning, Gattis won the battle and hit a solo shot to left-center field to put the Astros ahead 1-0 and get the first score of the game. McCann followed with his second walk of the game but was out at second on a fielder's choice by Gonazlez for the first out. Reddick finally got his first hit of the series, putting runners on first and second with one out and ending Sabathia's night. Tommy Kahnle was first out of the bullpen and was able to get a double play on his first pitch to end the inning and take the 1-0 game to the fifth.

Greg Bird led off the fifth with a double to the right-field corner then moved to third on a wild pitch from Morton on ball four to Aaron Hicks, putting runners on first and third with one out. Todd Frazier hit a ground ball to Bregman in the next at-bat which he lasered home just in time to get Bird for the second out and save the run. Morton got Chase Headley to hit a ground ball to Altuve for the big third out to end the threat and preserve the 1-0 lead. Kahnle returned to the mound for the bottom of the fifth but was met with a one-out solo homer from Altuve to extend the Astros lead to 2-0. Correa followed with a single, then moved to third on a single by Gurriel, putting runners on first and third with one out. McCann drove a ball into the right-field corner with two outs, scoring two more runs to make it 4-0 Houston, prompting another call to the bullpen. Adam Warren was out next for the Yankees and was able to get the last out to end the extended inning and send the 4-0 game to the sixth.

A.J. Hinch ended Morton's night after five great, scoreless innings and brought in McCullers to start the top of the sixth. McCullers gave up a leadoff single to Gardner but worked around it by getting the next three batters out. Warren pitched again in the bottom of the inning and put the Astros down in order to keep the game at 4-0 going into the seventh.

Springer made another great grab in center field to lead off the seventh as he leaped over Gonzalez to make the catch on a Bird fly out to the wall. McCullers retired the next two batters to finish the 1-2-3 half inning. David Robertson was next out of the bullpen for the Yankees in the bottom half and worked around a one-out single by Correa to get through the inning.

McCullers looked to be in trouble when he started the eighth with a leadoff walk to Frazier on four pitches but battled back with two strikeouts and a flyout to get the next three batters in order. Robertson came back out for another inning of work for the Yankees and retired the Astros in order to send the game to the ninth still 4-0 in the Astros favor. 

McCullers returned for his fourth inning of work in the top of the ninth and put the Yankees down in order to earn his first career save and complete the 4-0 shutout to send the Astros to the World Series.

World Series Game 1: The World Series will kick off Tuesday, October 24th at 7 PM Central at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and can be seen on Fox. Starting pitchers have not yet been announced. 

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These next six games will be very telling. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

Houston has six games left in the 2022 regular season, two three-game series in which they need just one more win, or a Yankees loss, to secure the top seed for the AL side of the postseason bracket. They've accomplished what they set out to do over the 162-game drudge that is the regular season, so you're likely to see them use the opportunity to get some players off their feet in the remaining games.

Even so, having one of the best teams means that while putting out a lineup with some starters missing, they can still beat most teams on any given day. So then, what could that mean for the teams still vying for postseason spots or positioning in the remaining games?

Affecting the NL playoffs

It's a relatively sure bet that if they haven't locked up that top seed by the time they enter the final three games, they will before that last series is over. That means that when the Phillies come to Minute Maid Park to close out the season next week, Philadelphia will have much higher stakes in those games than Houston.

Under the expanded playoff format starting this season, the two best teams in each league receive a bye, while the remaining four teams square off in a Wild Card series, with all those games taking place at the better seed's stadium. That means teams will be very motivated to secure their best Wild Card positioning.

As of now, the Phillies hold just a half-game lead over the Brewers for the third and final Wild Card spot for the National League. Things could change this weekend, but whether they still lead or have fallen back and have ground to makeup, the games will matter to them against the Astros.

They also sit 2.5 games behind the Padres, meaning that Philadelphia could potentially be looking at a chance to jump into the second Wild Card spot. However, it's questionable if that's an envious position or not. With the juggernaut battle between the Mets and Braves coming down to the wire, with one team winning the NL East and a first-round bye and the other starting with home-field advantage in a Wild Card series, whoever gets the second Wild Card spot is going to be heading to face a really tough, and potentially angry, team on the road.

It will make things interesting for the Phillies when they face the Astros. They could be playing for their playoff lives or jockeying for position. Either way, the games will be meaningful.

Affecting the AL playoffs

There's a similar scenario at play for the American League side of things with the Astros' three-game series against the Rays this weekend. Just like the Phillies, the Rays enter the weekend holding on to the third and final spot in the AL Wild Card race.

Tampa Bay is only 0.5 games back of the Mariners for the second spot and two games back of the Blue Jays for the first Wild Card spot. Farther behind, the Orioles still have a chance for something crazy to happen, sitting five games behind.

So based on the result of their series with the Astros and how the other teams fare this weekend and in the final stretch of games, the Rays have a range of outcomes that could cause havoc in the AL bracket. They could end up taking the top Wild Card spot and hosting a series, traveling to face the Blue Jays, Mariners, or Guardians, or, less likely, missing the playoffs altogether.

This variance in positioning could have ramifications for the Astros directly in the ALDS round as well. The Astros are likely to be favored regardless of the three potential teams they face; however, some matchups would make things easier.

Houston went 2-4 against the Blue Jays this year and are currently up 3-0 on the Rays with the three games remaining in the season series. And while the Astros took the season series 12-7 against division-rival Seattle, that could give the Mariners all the more reason to be ultra-motivated for the ALDS if they faced the Astros.

So, while the Astros may not have any direct milestones to play for other than locking up their top seed, these remaining six games will have plenty of storylines and drama to follow for them and their opponent.

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