At the seventh inning stretch of ALCS Game 4 on Tuesday, the Yankees’ season appeared in deep jeopardy. They were down 2-1 in the series and 4-0 in the game, with the back end of the Astros’ bullpen poised to finish them off.
Then Aaron Judge homered off Lance McCullers. And Didi Gregorius tripled and scored off Chris Devenski. An inning later, eight Yankees combined for a four-run rally, featuring a game-tying double by Judge and a go-ahead two-bagger by Gary Sanchez. Aroldis Chapman closed out Houston in the ninth inning, giving the Yankees a 6-4 win that showcased the impressive young talent assembled in the Bronx. Just like that, the ALCS was tied at two games apiece.
#StartSpreadingTheNews, this series is TIED!
Final: Yankees 6, Astros 4. pic.twitter.com/nLN8uUZvKj
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) October 18, 2017
Tuesday’s game was a pitcher’s duel early, with Sonny Gray and Lance McCullers combining to allow no runs through the first five innings. The Astros took the lead in the sixth on a three-run double by Yuli Gurriel and added a run in the top of the seventh thanks to a Starlin Castro error. Up 4-0, Houston appeared destined to extend their series lead.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch sent McCullers out for the seventh but pulled him after Judge’s home run. The the momen the righty walked off the mound, he was the game’s biggest story. Having battled injuries during the second half of the season and struggled upon returning to the mound, McCullers was a surprise choice to start Tuesday. That he threw his first quality start since June 8 and allowed only two hits (the first of which was erased by a a bizarre base-running gaffe from Judge) was fairly incredible.
But with McCullers out of the game, things fell apart for Houston. Gregorius tripled off Chris Devenski and scored on a Sanchez sac fly. Joe Musgrove worked out of the inning but allowed a single to Todd Frazier and a double to Chase Headley (complete with a near-disastrous stumble on the bases) to lead off the eighth. Hinch called on closer Ken Giles, who promptly gave up an RBI single to Gardner, followed by Judge’s double, a Didi Gregorius infield single and Sanchez’s go ahead line drive to right-center. Luke Gregerson worked out of the jam, by which point the damage had decidedly been done.
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 18, 2017
Chapman pitched a drama-free ninth inning, shutting down the Astros in order.
Despite having lost two straight games, the Astros remain favorites in the series, with Dallas Keuchel pitching Wednesday in the Bronx and Justin Verlander going Game 6 back in Houston. Still, the Yankees have loads of reason to feel good, not only because they won the game but also because of how they won it: with a thrilling comeback led by their two young stars. For much of these playoffs, the Yankees have endured despite Judge and Sanchez’s performance. On Tuesday, they finally won because of it.