EditorsNote: updates with quotes
NEW YORK -- James Paxton pitched six gritty innings, DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Hicks hit first-inning homers off Justin Verlander, and the New York Yankees beat the Houston Astros 4-1 Friday night in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series to stave off elimination.
The Astros still lead the best-of-seven series 3-2 with Game 6 set for Saturday night in Houston. The teams lost the travel day due to a rainout on Wednesday.
LeMahieu hit a leadoff homer to tie the game 1-1 in the bottom of the first, and Hicks followed four batters later with a three-run homer to complete the scoring.
"That was the game plan: to strike early," said Hicks after the game. "Get some good pitches to hit early in the count and try to be aggressive towards him early in the game, and we were able to score four off of him."
Paxton (1-0) allowed one run and four hits. He struck out nine and walked four while throwing a season-high 112 pitches and facing 26 hitters, 14 more than he opposed in his Game 2 start on Sunday.
Paxton pitched with at least one runner on in every inning. He stranded seven runners, and his velocity was still in the high-90s in his last inning.
The lefty encountered trouble from the outset, allowing an infield single to George Springer that deflected off second baseman Gleyber Torres' glove. A passed ball and a groundout moved Springer to third, and the runner scored on a wild pitch on the first pitch to Alex Bregman.
"I thought James was great today," Yankees' manager Aaron Boone said. "He came in with just an edge, a focus. And that first inning, which was work for him, he kind of whiffs on the Springer ball where he gets the soft contact, infield hit, and now all of a sudden, they piece together a run. First two innings he's deep into the pitch count but he just kept going and felt like he got better as the night went on."
Tommy Kahnle, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman combined on three scoreless innings. Britton retired all five batters he faced, and Chapman tossed a perfect ninth for the save.
Verlander (0-1) allowed four runs on five hits in seven innings. He struck out nine, walked none and settled in nicely after the homers, retiring 20 of the final 21 hitters he faced.
"He was incredible after the first," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "... I thought he recovered great and did his best to continue to keep us in the game, because that was a great recovery after an inning that looked like it was spiraling away from him. The two balls that they hit, unfortunately, went out of the ballpark."
Verlander, however, expressed disappointment in his performance, saying, "Fastball command wasn't very good, and the slider was just hanging. I just wasn't able to execute really anything. I thought I could have made some better pitches. "
After Paxton survived the first by allowing only one run, LeMahieu hammered an 0-1 fastball into the right-center-field seats.
Following a single by Aaron Judge and a double by Torres, Verlander struck out Giancarlo Stanton. Hicks then hit a full-count breaking ball down the right field line and off the foul pole for a 4-1 lead.
--Field Level Media