Astros rout Yankees 7-1 behind Verlander, force Game 7

Justin Verlander was amazing in Game 6 with 7 shutout innings. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

After a terrible offensive showing in the three games in New York  put them down 3-2 in the series, the Astros offense came back to life at home Friday night led by Jose Altuve, and were backed by another dominant start from Justin Verlander, and have forced a winner-take-all Game 7.

Verlander pitched seven shutout innings with eight strikeouts while Altuve knocked in three runs including a solo home run as the Astros won Game 6 of the ALCS 7-1.

Brett Gardner got Game 6 started with a leadoff single to left-center field in the top of the first, but was followed by a double play as Justin Verlander got Aaron Judge to ground the ball to Carlos Correa. Verlander then got a pop out to end the top of the inning. Luis Severino was also able to face the minimum, getting a popout and two groundouts in the bottom of the inning.

In the top of the second, Gary Sanchez reached on a dribbler to third base for an infield single. Verlander was able to strand him, though, retiring the next three batters on a flyout and two strikeouts. Severino was able to work around a one-out walk to Yuli Gurriel to get through the bottom half of the inning to send the game to the third still with no score.

Chase Headley hit a one-out single in the top of the third but became the third Yankee stranded in as many innings thanks to Verlander getting a flyout and strikeout to end the half inning. Severino retired the Astros in order on 10 pitches in the bottom of the inning to send the game to the fourth tied 0-0.

Verlander had his first hitless inning in the top of the fourth, including his fourth strikeout in as many innings. In the bottom of the inning, Correa was able to get the first hit of the night for the Astros on a two-out single but was left stranded after a Gurriel flyout to end the inning and leave the game scoreless going into the fifth.

Verlander was able to throw another perfect inning in the top of the fifth, including two more strikeouts to keep the Yankees off the board. Alex Bregman led off the bottom of the inning with a walk, then moved to second on a groundout by Marwin Gonzalez. Evan Gattis took a four-pitch walk with one out and was followed by a ground rule double by Brian McCann to get the first run on the board for a 1-0 Astros lead. George Springer was up next and was walked on four pitches to load the bases still with one out. Severino was able to get Josh Reddick to pop out to shallow center for the second out, but Altuve came through as the next batter with a two-RBI single to right to make it 3-0 Astros, and also end Severino's night for the Yankees. Chad Green was first out of the bullpen for New York and was able to get the last out of the inning, but the damage had been done as the game went to the sixth 3-0 in the Astros' favor.

Headley hit his second single of the night to start the top of the sixth, then later with two outs was moved to second on a single by Didi Gregorius. Both were left stranded, however, as Verlander got a groundout to end the threat. Green returned to the mound for the bottom of the sixth and was able to work around a two-out walk to send the game to the seventh still 3-0.

They got at Verlander again in the seventh. Verlander walked the leadoff batter, then grazed Starlin Castro with a ball inside to put runners on first and second with no outs. Verlander got behind Aaron Hicks 3-0 in the next at-bat but fought back to get his eighth strikeout in a 10 pitch battle. Todd Frazier lifted a ball in the next at-bat that looked like a home run off the bat but was caught in a spectacular grab by Springer as he jumped and slammed into the center field wall. Verlander got a groundout for the third out to keep the shutout of the Yankees going. Green threw another hitless inning in the bottom half, keeping the game 3-0 headed to the eighth.

With Verlander's terrific night done, Brad Peacock came in from the bullpen to start the eighth inning. Judge got ahold of Peacock with one out, hitting a towering solo home run to left-center field to make it a 3-1 game. Peacock was able to bounce back, though, getting a pop out and a strikeout to put the Astros three outs away from the win. David Robertson came in for the bottom of the eighth and gave up a leadoff solo shot by Altuve to make it 4-1 Astros. Correa followed and hit a double to the left-field corner, then moved to third on a single by Gurriel. Bregman added more insurance runs for the Astros with a two-RBI double, making it 6-1 Astros and ending Robertson's appearance before he could record an out. Dellin Betances was out next and gave up a sac fly to Evan Gattis which scored Bregman to make it 7-1 before he was able to get out of the inning and send the game to the ninth.

Ken Giles came in for the top of the ninth and despite a one-out single by Castro and walk to Hicks was able to get through the inning and seal the 7-1 victory.

Game 7: It all comes down to this. First pitch of Game 7 is scheduled for 7:08 PM Central tomorrownight from Minute Maid Park. The Yankees will start CC Sabathia while the Astros have yet to announce who will start for them. Sabathia was fantastic in a dominant six-inning start in Game 3 of the ALCS and will look to repeat that effort, while the Astros will look to build off the offensive spark they found in Game 6 to punch their ticket to the World Series.

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Correa knows it's time for his payday. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Rangers made a big splash over the weekend when they agreed to terms on a 7-year $175 million contract with infielder Marcus Semien. Apparently, that was just the tip of the iceberg. According to multiple reports, the Rangers have also added arguably the most coveted player in free agency, Corey Seager. Seager and the Rangers have agreed to a massive 10-year $325 million contract.

Before the Seager news broke, many were starting to wonder if teams would be willing to hand out 10-year deals for over 300 million dollars with the lockout just around the corner. Now we have our answer, and Carlos Correa has to be a very happy man to see how the market is shifting. The Rangers not only added two incredible players, but they also made it pretty much a certainty that Correa will either leave Houston, or the Astros will have to sign him to a long-term $300 million deal, which is not likely based on their stance on multi-year big money contracts.

The Rangers aren't the only team in the AL West making blockbuster moves. The Mariners agreed to terms with 2021 AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray on Monday. Ray and Seattle agreed to a 5-year, $115 million contract.

The Angels joined in on the action a couple of weeks ago when they signed Noah Syndergard to a 1-year 21 million dollar deal.

Clearly, the AL West is on notice that they're going to have to make big changes if they want to compete with the Houston Astros who have dominated the AL recently with 5 straight ALCS appearances and 3 trips to the World Series. With Correa likely out the door in Houston, these teams might believe this is a perfect time to make a run at the division and finally knock off the Astros. Only time will tell if these deals will work, and the Astros look to have a terrific team this season whether Correa returns or not.

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