NEW YORK — The Houston Astros freight train will roll into the World Series.
Houston swept the New York Yankees on Sunday night, winning Game 4 by a 6-5 score in a battle that went back and forth as New York put up a fight to try to extend their season another night.
So far this postseason, the Astros have not lost, winning all three games against the Seattle Mariners in the ALDS and all four games against the Yankees in the ALCS. This is the fourth time Houston has made the World Series since 2017.
Astros rookie shortstop Jeremy Pena was named ALCS MVP after hitting .353 with two home runs and four RBIs in the series. He led all hitters with a 1.177 OPS.
The Yankees started off the evening’s scoring in the bottom of the first when designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton singled on a sharp line drive to Astros right fielder Kyle Tucker, scoring Yankees center fielder Harrison Bader. Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres followed up with a bloop single to right field that fell between Tucker and Astros center fielder Chas McCormick, allowing Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo to score a second run.
New York continued to add on to their total in the second, when Rizzo doubled on a ball down the left-field line, scoring shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa and extending the Yankees lead to 3-0.
Yankees starter Nestor Cortes cruised through the game’s first two innings, striking out two and facing just eight batters while allowing no runs. But as Cortes started the third inning, warning signs started to flash. New York’s crafty lefty started the evening with a fastball sitting between 91 and 92 mph, but as Cortes started the third, his velocity dipped to 87-88 mph.
And then the Astros came storming back. Cortes walked Martin Maldonado to start the inning, which prompted a visit to the mound from Yankees manager Aaron Boone and the team trainer. Cortes stayed in the game, but the results did not fare better. Astros second baseman Jose Altuve followed up with a walk before Cortes allowed a home run to shortstop Pena on a hanging 82.1 mph slider, allowing the Astros to tie the score up, 3-3.
The home run proved to be the nail in the coffin for Cortes on Sunday. Boone and the Yankees trainer promptly popped out of the dugout and took Cortes out of the game due to injury, later announced by the team as a left groin strain.
Yankees reliever Wandy Peralta entered the game, but struggled to keep the Astros in check. Houston left fielder Yordan Alvarez hit a line drive double to right and after an Alex Bregman flyout, Tucker followed up with an infield line drive single that hit Peralta’s hand.
That set the stage for Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel, who hit a single to right that scored Alvarez, giving Houston a 4-3 lead.
The Yankees struck back in the fourth inning. Bader kicked things off with a one-out, ground ball single into center field and after an Aaron Judge flyout, first baseman Anthony Rizzo notched a ground ball single to center field, scoring Bader and tying up the game, 4-4.
New York then took the lead in the sixth when Bader hit a homer over the left field fence on a 94.1 mph slider from Houston reliever Hector Neris.
But the Yankees lead proved to be short-lived.
A half inning later in the seventh, Altuve started things off with an infield single off of Yankees reliever Jonathan Loaisiga. New York then made a crucial unforced error. Pena hit a ground ball to Torres to set up a potential double play, but the Yankees second baseman shoveled the ball past Kiner-Falefa into left field, allowing the Astros shortstop to reach base.
Instead of two outs with nobody on, Houston found itself with two runners on with no outs and Alvarez took advantage, knocking an RBI single into right field scoring Altuve to tie the game.
The Yankees replaced Loaisiga with reliever Clay Holmes, who could not stop the bleeding, allowing Bregman to knock in the go-ahead run with an RBI single, scoring Pena and giving the Astros a 6-5 lead, the game’s final tally.
Houston will now host the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 1 of the World Series on Friday at Minute Maid Park. They opened at -180 to win the Fall Classic at Caesars Sportsbook.