LOS ANGELES: The Houston Astros defeated the New York Yankees 4-0 on Saturday to book a Major League Baseball World Series showdown with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
After fending off elimination in game six on Friday, the Astros won the best-of-seven American League Championship Series four-games-to-three to reach the World Series for the second time in club history.
Evan Gattis and Jose Altuve homered for the Astros, who had won the first two games of the series at home before dropping three straight in New York.
Charlie Morton pitched five strong innings for the Astros, who were swept by the Chicago White Sox in their only prior World Series appearance, back in 2005 when they played in the National League.
“So far we have one more series to get the ultimate prize,” said Astros Manager A.J. Hinch, whose team opens the World Series in Los Angeles on Tuesday. “But there’s two teams left standing, and I don’t care what cities they’re from, one of them is from Houston.”
Gattis opened the scoring with a solo homer off Yankees starter CC Sabathia in the fourth inning.
Altuve’s homer in the bottom of the fifth sparked a three-run frame against Yankees relief pitcher Tommy Kahnle, who also surrendered a two-run double to Astros catcher — and former Yankee — Brian McCann.
Relief pitcher Lance McCullers pitched the final four innings and kept the Yankees at bay to seal the victory.
“These guys came out throwing strikes, quality strikes,” Hinch said. “They executed a great game plan.”
Morton gave up only two hits with one walk and five strikeouts.
After taking the loss in game three in New York, Morton attacked the strike zone early, needing only 28 pitches over the first three innings. That included 22 strikes.
He retired the side in order in the top of the fourth.
But after Gattis’ homer in the bottom of the fourth, Morton needed some help preserving the one-run margin in the top of the fifth — when the Yankees’ Greg Bird led off with a double.
Bird reached third on a wild pitch walk to Aaron Hicks. He tried to score on Todd Frazier’s ground ball to third, but Astros third baseman Alex Bregman charged to collect the ball and delivered a spot-on throw to McCann, who made the tag to retire Bird.
Pitcher Justin Verlander, traded to the Astros by the Detroit Tigers on August 31, was named Most Valuable Player of the ALCS after notching two wins — including in Friday’s game six to fend off elimination.
“Although our offense kind of floundered a little bit early in the series, we still managed to win baseball games,” Verlander said. “And later in the series our bats came alive and we won games with our offense and pitching.”
“We’ve got four more wins to win a World Series,” Verlander added, “and I do not regret my decision to come here.”
Yankees starter Sabathia, who pitched six scoreless innings in the Yankees’ game-three triumph, stranded five base runners over the first three innings and didn’t make it out of the fourth.
Aaron Judge, the rookie slugger who emerged as a star for the Yankees in his first major league season, made another stellar outfield catch to deny the Astros an early run.
But when he came to the plate with a runner on in the top of the eighth McCullers struck him out.
“There are things we need to get better on, and that will be a focus,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I’m extremely proud of this group, what they’ve accomplished up to this point, but I think there’s more.”
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