Astros 8 Yankees 3
NEW YORK —What a brutally bad loss.
With their postseason stud on the mound Thursday night opposing a pitcher who was hit hard in Game 1, the Yankees’ chances of evening this American League Championship Series at two games apiece looked good.
Instead, Masahiro Tanaka didn’t have the same stuff he did in Game 1 and the Yankees’ bats stayed as chilled as the weather that moved in overnight.
As a result, the Yankees’ 103-win season is one loss from being over after an ugly 8-3 loss to the Astros in Game 4 in front of 49,067 at the Stadium.
To extend the series, and their season, the Yankees will have to beat 21-game winner Justin Verlander in Game 5 on Friday night. James Paxton, badly outpitched by Verlander in Game 2, will go for the Yankees.
Even if the Yankees were to win Friday, they’d still have to win two games at Minute Maid Park, with Gerrit Cole looming in one of those matchups, to advance to the World Series for the first time since 2009.
Tanaka, 5-2 with a 1.32 ERA in seven career postseason starts entering the game, allowed four runs (three earned), four hits and two walks in five innings-plus. The righthander, who struck out seven in Game 1, struck out only one Thursday.
He allowed a three-run homer by George Springer in the third that made it 3-1 and Chad Green surrendered a three-run shot by Carlos Correa in the sixth that made it 6-1. The Yankees also made four errors that contributed to three unearned runs.
But the bigger story by far again was the cold Yankees bats. They entered the night 4-for-20 with runners in scoring position and had stranded 23. They were 0-for-7 with nine stranded through eight innings, with Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres and Edwin Encarnacion striking out in bases-loaded situations.
Sanchez, who has drawn the ire of Yankees fans all postseason for his October slide, struck out on three pitches —the third of which was in the dirt —to end the first-inning bases-loaded threat against an erratic Zack Greinke, who had just walked Brett Gardner with the bases loaded. Sanchez did hit a two-run homer in the sixth to make it 6-3.
The Astros tacked on an unearned run in a hideous eighth inning as DJ LeMahieu and Torres each committed an error. That inning also featured perhaps the last pitches thrown by CC Sabathia in his major-league career. He pitched to four batters and retired two of them before leaving with an injury. Sabathia departed to a long and loud ovation as he walked to the dugout with his team trailing 7-3.
Robinson Chirinos led off the third with a four-pitch walk and Josh Reddick singled to right. Tanaka fell behind Springer 1-and-0, then hung a splitter that wound up in the leftfield seats for a 3-1 Houston lead. The Astros then put runners at the corners with none out, and second and third with one out, but Tanaka escaped without any further damage.
In the fifth, LeMahieu singled with one out and Aaron Judge walked. Ryan Pressly replaced Greinke and walked Aaron Hicks to load the bases for Torres, who was unable to check his swing and struck out on a pitch in the dirt. Encarnacion also struck out to end the inning.
A semi-deflated crowd completely deflated a half-inning later. Alex Bregman reached on an error by LeMahieu on a cue shot that had some bizarre spin and Green replaced Tanaka. One out later, Yordan Alvarez collected his first hit of the series and Correa rocketed a 0-and-1 fastball to left for a three-run homer and a 6-1 lead. The only noise in the building at that point came from the Astros’ dugout and a small group of Houston fans in the crowd.