When Gary Sanchez leaned on his plate on the fifth inning on Wednesday, it was not a sparrow coming from Houston Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel. It was an invitation.
A gaping hole on the right side of the infield waved. When Sanchez showed only frustration with 19 punches without punches and with continual ball tilt, he did not cause another heavy blow.
Instead, he stretched out his arms as if he were a waterskiing rider hanging from a rope
Sanchez made just enough contact with the bumper pad to ground it slowly through the hole created by a shift and into the right field for a two-run single that promoted the Yankees to a 5-3 victory.
It was the last regular season meeting between the teams that played a captivating American League Championship Series last year, and few would surprise when they meet again this October.
The Yankees won five of the seven encounters this season, but many of them played back and forth, just like on Wednesday. Four weeks ago, the Yankees survived eight shutout innings by Justin Verlander in Houston, scoring three goals in the ninth round for a win. They won on Tuesday after Brett Gardner had made a home race in the ninth round.
While the Astros showed the best star rotation in baseball in the first two months of the season, the Yankees could at least turn to Luis Severino to continue his status as one of the best pitchers in the American League – and one who continues to beat the best shines.
He had not beaten the Astros in four career starts – including two in the playoffs – until he had a four- In Houston on May 2, he had a shutout. He followed with another jewel on Wednesday, allowing only four strokes and one gear while beating 11th.
The only flaw came in the fifth, when Marwin Gonzalez slipped a 3: 2 slider to take a one-time walk, and after Evan Gattis was grounded, Max Stassi hit a fast, 99-mph fastball far across the midfield wall , The two-run homer put the Astros in the lead, 2: 1
That was the stage for Sanchez – and good luck for the Yankees.
With two Out and Austin Romine, Aaron Judge was pinched by Keuchel and met a harmless-looking pop-up on the flat right field. But the right-fielder Tony Kemp was stationed far from the line and had no chance of reaching the ball that plopped into the grass when Romine finished third.
Keuchel was ahead of Giancarlo Stanton with two quick hits, but perhaps he was terrified. At the two homeruns Stanton struck him in Houston at their last meeting. Or the scheduled ride in the first inning, in which the Centerfieler Jake Marisnick captured a hit, or the single Stanton, which was centered in the middle.
Finally Stanton took a walk to load the bases. Keuchel jumped quickly in front of Sanchez, 0-2, but could not fish him to a plummet directly from the plate. Keuchel then came into the game with a fastball that Sanchez lazily pulled over the third baseline, seemingly causing him to leave again.
But with the second baseman Jose Altuve playing on the left side of second base, the abyss on the right side The side of the infield was too tempting to ignore Sanchez. He hit the ball just before the end of his club, and he slowly rolled onto the outfield to give the Yankees the lead, 3-2.
The Yankees based their lead on 5-2 in the sixth with a little more randomly placed hit. Gleyber Torres put a double in the left corner and came in third, scoring when Did Gregorius – who lost out to Keuchel in his first two punches – hit a liner that narrowly missed a diving Altuve.
That was the last blow for Keuchel, the former nemesis of the Yankees, whom they have beaten three times in a row.
Collin McHugh followed, but the Yankees added another run as Romine left and with two away a two-out Blop scored double left by Aaron Hicks.
The Astros' best chance of getting back into the game came in the seventh Severino final. With two on and two off, the geezer George Springer put down a 2-2-shifter from Severino, who then fired a fastball through him to escape.
Springer threw down his bat, helmet and elbow pad in disgust
He had another chance in the ninth. After Stassi brought Aroldis Chapman closer to Yuli Gurriel and shortened the Yankees to 5-3, Springer stepped onto the court. But after looking at two fastballs for strikes, Springer swung his way through a letter-high, 102-mile heater to end the game.