Houston will look to wrap up the series on Friday

Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: ALCS Game 5 Preview

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

After dropping the first game of this series to start on the wrong foot, the Astros have roared back to rattle off three straight wins, including the first two of the three games at Yankee Stadium, to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series. With games 4 and 5 shifting back a day due to Wednesday's rainout, that has allowed both teams to go back to their Game 2 starters.

The Yankees will send out James Paxton as they try to avoid elimination, while Houston will look to their ace, Justin Verlander, to try and clinch the AL pennant for the second time in three years. Here is a preview of ALCS Game 5 that will take place Friday:

Game Facts

When: Friday, 6:08 p.m Central.

Where: Yankee Stadium - The Bronx, New York.

TV: FS1.

Streaming: Fox Sports App.

Pitching matchup: Justin Verlander vs. James Paxton

Series: Astros lead 3-1.

Series schedule

Date & Time (Central)LocationPitching matchup
Game 1Yankees 7, Astros 0Minute Maid Park, Houston TXGreinke (L) vs Tanaka (W)
Game 2Astros 3, Yankees 2 (11 innings)Minute Maid Park, Houston TXVerlander (ND) vs Paxton (ND)
Game 3Astros 4, Yankees 1Yankee Stadium, Bronx NYCole (W) vs Severino (L)
Game 4Astros 8, Yankees 3Yankee Stadium, Bronx NYGreinke (ND) vs Tanaka (L)
Game 5Friday 10/18, 6:08 PMYankee Stadium, Bronx NYVerlander vs Paxton
Game 6*Saturday 10/19, 7:08 PMMinute Maid Park, Houston TXTBD vs TBD
Game 7*Sunday 10/20, 6:38 PMMinute Maid Park, Houston TXTBD vs TBD

* If necessary
+ Projected Starters

Game Storylines

Verlander on the mound to go for the clinch

As soon as Game 5 was announced to be moved to be on Friday, it was a no-brainer to put Verlander on the mound for it. Even before the Game 4 win when Houston was ahead 2-1, you would still want Verlander on the bump even if the series was a 2-2 split. The fact of the matter is, if you have Justin Verlander on regular rest, you start him, period. Now, even more so, with a chance to finish off the Yankees and clinch the series and earn a few days of rest before Tuesday's World Series Game 1, you hand the ball to your ace.

Verlander fell victim to one big swing from Aaron Judge in Game 2 of this series, which resulted in two runs that at the time gave the Yankees a one-run lead before the Astros would go on to tie and eventually get the walk-off win. Other than that, he was great in that outing, allowing just five hits over his six and two-thirds innings of work. Look for Verlander to come out with determination as he attempts to replicate that success against this potent Yankees lineup in Game 5 to come through for his team and finish this series with him on the mound.

Houston's bats need to keep rolling

It's no question that Houston's bats have won the battle at the plate in these last three games. New York has failed to capitalize on several opportunities to score and shift the momentum their way, and instead have allowed the Astros to steal it by manufacturing runs through "small ball" or big-time home runs. Houston should look to do more of the same in Game 5 by staying confident at the plate starting in the top of the first inning.

If they can score early to start controlling the story of the game, they may be able to repeat the success of Game 4 and push the Yankees off their game and get after an already thin pitching staff for New York. With George Springer and Carlos Correa both coming through with big home runs in the previous games, it's time for some other struggling bats like Yordan Alvarez and Yuli Gurriel to step up and break their slumps as the team is now in the driver's seat to make a World Series appearance.

Be sure to check SportsMap after the final out for an in-depth recap of the game, and follow me on Twitter for updates and reactions throughout each playoff game: @ChrisCampise

The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.

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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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