Astros Beat Yankees as Bullpen Battle Ends With One Swing

HOUSTON — Carlos Correa stopped halfway to home plate as his Houston Astros teammates bounced around in delight. As J.A. Happ and the rest of the Yankees trudged off the field after Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, Correa tossed his helmet like a basketball into the circle of delirious Astros and charged into the celebration.

After nearly five hours of taut baseball between the two best teams in the American League, the Astros defeated the Yankees, 3-2, in 11 innings as Sunday night turned to Monday. Correa’s walk-off home run evened the best-of-seven series at a game apiece and exposed the underbelly of the Yankees’ bullpen. It was a missed opportunity by the Yankees to beat the Astros in a game started by Justin Verlander, who is part of Houston’s vaunted starting rotation.

“As soon as I hit it, I knew it was going to go over the fence,” Correa said. “The adrenaline started pumping like crazy. I don’t even know what I did. I’ve got to go watch the video. But I know I was so hyped.”

The series now shifts to Yankee Stadium for Game 3 on Tuesday afternoon. Gerrit Cole, in the midst of a remarkable run of success, will take the mound for the Astros, while Luis Severino, making only his fifth start of the year because of injuries, will counter for the Yankees. The Astros have not lost a game started by Cole since July 12.

James Paxton, the Yankees’ starting pitcher on Sunday, had been nearly as dominant since Aug. 2. In that span, he had a 2.74 earned run average and had guided the Yankees to 12 wins, including in the postseason.

But when his command faltered early in Sunday’s game, Yankees Manager Aaron Boone decided not to play with fire. Postseason baseball operates by different norms than the regular season. It didn’t matter that the Yankees trailed by only one run at the time, or that there was one out in the third inning. Boone wanted the strength of his team’s pitching staff, the bullpen, to face one of the best offenses in baseball.

And with no game on Monday and 10 relievers at his disposal, Boone asked his bullpen to get 20 outs to get through nine innings.

“You’re playing it to win the game,” Boone said. “You’re not playing it to, ‘What if we go 13, you know?’ You’re playing it to, ‘What gives us the best chance to win here?’ And the bottom line is we end up giving up a third run in the 11th inning. I’d say from a run prevention standpoint it went pretty well.”

After the Astros tied the score against one stout Yankees reliever and outlasted the others, they pounced on Happ, a starter with a 4.91 E.R.A. during the regular season. Happ escaped a jam he inherited in the 10th inning, but the first pitch he threw to Correa in the 11th — a high fastball not far enough inside — was blasted over the right-field fence. It was the Astros’ first hit since the fifth inning, but it ended the game.

“Before the game, Carlos told me, ‘Jose, I’m going to do something big tonight,’” Astros second baseman Jose Altuve said, “and thank God he did.”

Before Sunday’s game even started, the Yankees were dealt an all-too-common blow during this injury-ridden year. Left fielder Giancarlo Stanton, who missed most of the regular season with a litany of injuries but returned a month ago, was out of the lineup with a right quadriceps strain. Stanton sustained the injury beating out an infield hit in the second inning of Game 1. He continued to play and later hit a home run, and didn’t report any issues until after the game.

Whether Stanton would need to be replaced on the A.L.C.S. roster was still an unknown; the Yankees said they hoped Monday’s day off would give Stanton some time to rest and then be re-evaluated. Cameron Maybin, one of the many fill-ins who kept the Yankees afloat this season amid the wave of injuries, started instead in left field on Sunday.

Even without Stanton, the Yankees had plenty of firepower for their battle against Verlander, one of the best pitchers in baseball. Verlander survived his fading command long enough to get two outs in the seventh inning and departed after 109 pitches. Paxton, on the other hand, notched just seven outs total with his uneven command.

“I obviously wanted to stay in the game,” Paxton said. “But it’s the postseason and I understand the decisions.”

In the third inning, Paxton again fell behind in counts and coughed up singles to Astros left fielder Michael Brantley and Altuve. Trailing by 1-0 and wary of falling further behind against Verlander, Boone pulled Paxton. Right fielder Aaron Judge erased that deficit with a go-ahead two-run homer in the fourth.

As the game progressed, Boone’s strategy of leaning on his bullpen appeared to be working until Adam Ottavino entered. Despite pitching well this season, Ottavino has been shaky lately. Five of the 10 batters he had faced this postseason entering Sunday had reached base. That continued in Game 2.

After Chad Green delivered two scoreless innings on 26 pitches, Ottavino entered in the fifth inning to face the top of the Astros’ lineup, the type of assignment he has drawn all year. But the first pitch he threw was a poor slider over the heart of the plate that Astros outfielder George Springer blasted to left field for a homer that tied the score at 2-2.

“I have a lot of confidence in my slider, obviously, but credit to him: He didn’t miss it when I made the mistake,” Ottavino said.

The rest of the game was a tense affair. Players hit balls hard into the air that died at the warning track. A potentially fruitful scoring chance for the Yankees in the sixth inning fizzled when Altuve booted a ground ball but Correa, the shortstop, smartly raced over to recover it. The Yankees third-base coach, Phil Nevin, waved D.J. LeMahieu home from second base but Correa’s throw beat him by 20 feet.

“It’s the right call and a heck of a play,” LeMahieu said.

For about two hours late in the game, neither team mustered anything, with Brett Gardner’s sixth-inning single standing as the only hit by either team. Like Boone, Astros Manager A.J. Hinch deployed his bullpen to neutralize the Yankees’ lineup. In the top of the 11th inning, Sanchez struck out looking on a pitch outside the strike zone with two men on base — after his at-bat was prolonged by an errant foul call.

“We had them basically on the ropes basically all game and weren’t able to seal the deal,” Judge said.

After Boone used the Yankees’ best relievers — from Tommy Kahnle to Zack Britton to Aroldis Chapman to Green, some for multiple innings — he turned to C.C. Sabathia, Jonathan Loaisiga and Happ, all of whom struggled during the season. Sabathia got one out, but Loaisiga walked both batters he faced in the 10th inning. The absences of Dellin Betances (Achilles injury) and Domingo German (administrative leave) were felt. The Astros outlasted the Yankees — and won.

“There was no 0-2,” Astros third baseman Alex Bregman said of the series. “There was never going to be 0-2. We were going to win tonight.”

How the Astros beat the Yankees

Benjamin Hoffman tracked the game for The Times. Read on to follow it as it happened.

11th Inning: The Astros End It

After two quick outs, Edwin Encarnacion walked for the Yankees, leading Astros Manager A.J. Hinch to pull Joe Smith for Ryan Pressly. Brett Gardner, who had the game’s previous hit (in the top of the sixth) got another one, singling to right, and Hinch proceeded to replace Pressly with Josh James. That brought up Gary Sanchez with two on and two out, and the slugging catcher struck out looking in a fairly epic 10-pitch at-bat. Sanchez argued loudly with the call on a ball that appeared to be low and outside.

Carlos Correa then won the game on the first pitch of the 11th inning with a home run.

David Waldstein: Updating the situation earlier, with an injured person in Houston’s dugout, the Astros released a statement saying that it was a paramedic supervisor who was hit by a foul ball off the bat of Michael Brantley in the fifth inning. He was taken to a hospital and is in stable condition, the team said.

10th Inning: Lots of Pitchers, No Runs

Aaron Hicks made his postseason debut by pinch-hitting for Cameron Maybin. He proceeded to ground out to first against the reliever Joe Smith. Didi Gregorius popped out in foul territory, with Alex Bregman making the catch after a bit of a run, and D.J. LeMahieu hit a chopper back to Smith to end the half-inning.

With Aroldis Chapman having thrown 25 pitches in the ninth, Aaron Boone replaced him with C.C. Sabathia to start the 10th. The veteran starter is helping serve as a left-handed specialist in this series after having been left off the division series roster. He retired Michael Brantley on a grounder to second.

Sabathia was then replaced by Jonathan Loaisiga who walked Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman.

With the left-handed Yordan Alvarez due up, Aaron Boone replaced Loaisiga with J.A. Happ, and the starting pitcher struck out the rookie. Happ then fell behind, 3-0, to Yuli Gurriel, but retired him on a fly ball to left to end the threat.

There has not been a hit in this game since Brett Gardner’s infield single in the top of the sixth, which resulted in a runner being thrown out at home.

David Waldstein: Sabathia pitched in relief in Game 5 of the 2011 American League division series against the Detroit Tigers. He went one and one-third innings and gave up a run on two hits in the middle of that game, which the Tigers won, 3-2, at Yankee Stadium. Max Scherzer also pitched in relief in that game for Detroit.

9th Inning: We’re Headed to Extra Innings

Roberto Osuna did his part in the top half of the inning. He got Brett Gardner to ground out to first, struck out Gary Sanchez and then got Gio Urshela to fly out to shallow center.

Aroldis Chapman was then summoned for the Yankees for the bottom half of the inning. He struck out Carlos Correa and Robinson Chirinos, but walked Aledmys Diaz, who had come in to pinch-hit for Kyle Tucker. That brought up George Springer, who struck out on a 100-mile-an-hour fastball to end the inning.

David Waldstein: In 32 regular season games against the Yankees, most of them while he pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays, Roberto Osuna has only allowed 3 earned runs in 34 innings, for a 0.79 E.R.A.

8th Inning: Bullpens Thriving

There was not a lot to show for the eighth inning.

Will Harris struck out D.J. LeMahieu to start the inning but after he walked Aaron Judge, A.J. Hinch came out to the mound to make a change. He delighted stat-heads everywhere by going straight to his best reliever, Roberto Osuna, in a high-leverage situation. And Osuna delivered, retiring Gleyber Torres on a fly ball to right and striking out Edwin Encarnacion with a 97-mile-an-hour fastball.

Yankees reliever Zack Britton came out for the bottom half of the inning and immediately got Jose Altuve to ground out to second. He walked Alex Bregman but recovered to strike out Yordan Alvarez, who showed some impressive strength by reducing his bat to splinters as he slammed it to the ground after the at-bat. Yuli Gurriel then lined out to center to end the inning.

David Waldstein: Alvarez’s frustration is starting to bubble over. Alvarez hit 27 home runs during the regular season, and his longest stretch without a home run was eight games. But including the postseason, the rookie has not homered in 12 games. When he struck out flailing at a Zack Britton breaking ball that was way out of the strike zone in the eighth, he slammed down his bat, which broke, and Alvarez snapped it in two as he walked back to the dugout.

7th Inning: Verlander’s Day Is Done

The Yankees finally got rid of Justin Verlander, but the game remains knotted, 2-2.

Verlander started the inning by striking out Gary Sanchez. He needed only one pitch to dispatch Gio Urshela, who flied out to center, but then he walked Cameron Maybin, pushing his pitch count for the night to 109. He did not get to 110, as A.J. Hinch replaced him with Will Harris, who is tough on lefties, to face Didi Gregorius. The move worked, as Harris struck out Gregorius to end the inning.

Tommy Kahnle, who had already recorded four outs, was back out to start the seventh inning. He struck out Kyle Tucker, with the rookie flailing fairly haplessly at a changeup. George Springer hit a towering pop-up that D.J. LeMahieu handled easily at first, and Kahnle got out of the inning when Michael Brantley grounded out to second.

Springer limped into the clubhouse after his at-bat. The extent to which the center fielder was injured was not immediately clear. He took his position in center to start the eighth inning.

6th Inning: Carlos Correa Saves a Run

There wasn’t any scoring in the sixth, but that doesn’t mean the inning wasn’t interesting.

The Yankees made Justin Verlander throw a lot of pitches through five innings, and in the sixth it briefly felt as if that might bear fruit. D.J. LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres singled on either side of an Aaron Judge flyout to right, putting runners on first and second for Edwin Encarnacion with one out. The big right-handed batter, who typically thrives with runners on base, flied out to center.

From there things got a little weird. Brett Gardner hit the ball sharply to Jose Altuve at second, who was unable to field the ball cleanly, and as it shot out of his glove to his right, LeMahieu rounded third and tried to score. Carlos Correa crossed over the field from shortstop, picked the loose ball up and threw home, easily nailing LeMahieu at the plate for the third out.

In the bottom half of the inning, Tommy Kahnle got some serious defensive help as well, with Gio Urshela climbing the ladder at third base to make a leaping grab of a hard liner by Yuli Gurriel that seemed destined for extra bases. Correa then hit a 400-foot out to center, possibly robbed by the dimensions of Minute Maid Park. Kahnle then ended the inning by getting Robinson Chirinos to fly out to right.

5th Inning: George Springer Ties Game

A questionable pitching change by Aaron Boone has this game tied after five innings.

After Justin Verlander pitched a quiet top half of the inning, Chad Green started the bottom half by striking out the rookie Kyle Tucker, who had come in as a pinch-hitter for Jake Marisnick. That made Green perfect through six batters, but with George Springer coming up, Boone brought in Adam Ottavino in hopes that the veteran’s wicked slider could neutralize Houston’s slugger.

It did not work. Springer homered to left-center field on the first pitch Ottavino threw — a slider.

After Springer’s homer, there was a brief delay in the game when a foul ball off the bat of Michael Brantley struck a member of the security staff in Houston’s dugout. Brantley, who looked stricken after the incident, proceeded to strike out but reached first when Gary Sanchez could not corral the wild pitch in the dirt.

With Brantley running on the pitch on the first pitch of the next at-bat, Jose Altuve hit a sharp grounder to Didi Gregorius’s right that the shortstop was able to knock down but was unable to make any sort of play on, putting runners at first and second for Alex Bregman, with the crowd exploding with “M.V.P.!” chants. Ottavino struck out Bregman, but then was pulled in favor of Tommy Kahnle, who struck out Yordan Alvarez to end the inning.

David Waldstein: Michael Brantley hit a hard foul ball into the Astros dugout and it hit someone, apparently a security guard. Several of the Astros players, including Brantley, were visibly shaken by it and A.J. Hinch had to come out and reassure Brantley as the guard was attended to by the Astros’ medical staff. Eventually, the guard was able to walk out of the dugout, escorted by one of the trainers.

Brantley still appeared to be shaken while he was on second base and during a pitching change he was called over to the Astros dugout, where Gerrit Cole came out and chatted to him briefly. Whatever Cole told Brantley — hopefully it was that the guard will be fine — it seemed to cheer Brantley up a bit because he patted Cole on the back and jogged back to second base.

4th Inning: Judge’s Homer Gives Yankees the Lead

Things had looked dire for the Yankees through three innings, but they are now leading, 2-1, after four.

They finally got their first base runner off Justin Verlander when D.J. LeMahieu walked to start the top half of the fourth and Aaron Judge made Verlander pay for that mistake by blasting a slider over the center-field fence for a 423-foot home run. It was Judge’s first home run of the postseason.

Verlander settled down after the homer. He got Gleyber Torres to fly out to right and then struck out both Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Gardner to end the half-inning.

Staked to a lead, Chad Green was back for more work in the fourth and got through things quickly, retiring Yuli Gurriel on a liner to center, striking out Carlos Correa and getting Robinson Chirinos to line out to left.

David Waldstein: So much for Verlander’s slider being good. He left one up and over the plate for the Judge homer. Verlander has given up 70 earned runs this season, including the postseason, and 39 have come on home runs (36 in the regular season).

The Astros have had seven base runners and scored only one run through three innings. The Yankees have had two and both scored. They will need to do more damage when they have the chances.

3rd Inning: Yankees Go to the Bullpen Early

With Justin Verlander dealing and the Yankees already in a hole, Manager Aaron Boone went to a reliever with just one out in the third inning, meaning this will be a long night for the Yankees’ bullpen.

It’s hard to blame Boone for feeling desperate, as Verlander has yet to allow a base runner. In the top half of the inning, he retired Gio Urshela on a fly ball to right, struck out Cameron Maybin on three pitches, and got Didi Gregorius to fly out to right. He’s up to four strikeouts and has seemed even more dominant than that.

James Paxton, on the other hand, was good, but not quite good enough. He started the bottom of the third by striking out George Springer but then allowed a bloop single to right-center by Michael Brantley. With relievers already warming up in the bullpen, Paxton allowed a sharp liner to right from Jose Altuve and with that his day was done.

Chad Green came on in relief and while Alex Bregman smoked another ball to the outfield, this one ended up in the glove of Cameron Maybin, who appeared to be struggling with the glare of the lights at Minute Maid Park. He then ended the inning by getting Yordan Alvarez to pop out to short.

David Waldstein: Justin Verlander looks completely different than the pitcher who was rocked in Game 4 of the division series. Verlander was pitching on short rest in that game and said he did not have command of his slider. But he looks locked in and effective tonight, and the slider is sharp.

2nd Inning: Astros Take the Lead

The Astros got on the scoreboard first when Carlos Correa doubled on a grounder that shot through the infield, making it 1-0 Houston. But James Paxton stranded a pair of runners who had been threatening to make things worse.

Justin Verlander had made things look exceedingly easy in the top-half of the inning; he has needed only 28 pitches to erase all six batters he’s faced. Edwin Edwin Encarnacion appeared to pop out before it was determined that the ball ricocheted off a girder and then came back into play, making it a dead ball. Given a second life, he struck out instead. Brett Gardner was frozen for strike three on a vicious slider and Gary Sanchez flied out to shallow center.

Leading off the bottom half of the inning, Alex Bregman hit an absolute rocket that came off his bat at 107 miles per hour on its way to the wall — so fast that the Houston third baseman managed only a single. Paxton walked Houston’s power-hitting phenom, Yordan Alvarez, putting runners on first and second, which turned to first and third when Yuli Gurriel lined out to right.

That brought up Correa, who smoked a grounder past Gio Urshela at third that rolled all the way to the wall for a double, scoring Bregman for the 26th postseason R.B.I. of the shortstop’s career (a club record). Paxton struck out Robinson Chirinos and got out of the inning when he struck out Jake Marisnick.

David Waldstein: Some interesting numbers on the history of Game 2: Since the league championship series went to the best-of-seven format in 1985, only 3 of 30 teams have come back from 0-2 deficits in games to win the series: The last was the Boston Red Sox, who erased a 0-3 deficit against the Yankees in 2004. In1985 the Kansas City Royals did it against the Toronto Blue Jays and the same year the St. Louis Cardinals did it against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

But according to Major League Baseball, teams that have won Game 2, regardless of the outcome in Game 1, have gone on to advance to the World Series 19 of the last 21 times, and 28 out of 34 times over all, or 82 percent.

1st Inning: No Action as of Yet

It was an exceptionally quiet first inning.

Justin Verlander made quick work of the Yankees in the top half of the inning. The first batter he faced, D.J. LeMahieu, lined the second pitch of the game right into the glove of Carlos Correa, and his next three pitches all found their way past Aaron Judge for a strikeout. By comparison he labored in a four-pitch at-bat to Gleyber Torres in which he fell behind, 2-0, but recovered to get the red-hot Torres to fly out to center.

James Paxton responded by opening the bottom half of the inning by walking the ice-cold George Springer. He made up for his mistake by inducing a 4-6-3 double-play from Michael Brantley. Paxton then ran the count full against Jose Altuve but got out of the inning when the former M.V.P. lined out to short.

Maybin Replaces Stanton in Yankees’ Lineup

Cameron Maybin will start in left in place of Giancarlo Stanton in Game 2.

According to James Wagner of The Times: “Giancarlo Stanton injured his quad running down the line on his infield hit but was O.K. enough to play further into the game, per Aaron Boone. He received an MRI and a strain was revealed. Boone hopes Stanton will return this series.”

James said Boone told reporters that Stanton was available off the bench or in emergency situations, but given Stanton’s injury it is more likely the Yankees will not use him.

Keys to the Game

Justin Verlander is an intimidating presence on the mound and is easily on the short list for the best pitcher in the majors over the last four seasons alongside Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom and Chris Sale. His lone weakness is the long ball; Verlander has allowed 121 home runs over those four years, compared with 94 for Scherzer, 86 for Sale and 72 for deGrom. That weakness could seem glaring against a Yankees lineup that hit 306 home runs this season — just one fewer than the Twins, who set a major league record — and added three more in Game 1.

Starting opposite Verlander is James Paxton, the Yankees’ prized off-season acquisition. Paxton struggled so much in the first half that the team began to wonder if his character was a bad fit for New York. He recovered well, going 10-2 after the All-Star game with 91 strikeouts in 74 1/3 innings. He struggled in the division series against Minnesota, failing to get out of the fifth inning in a game the Yankees went on to win, but can potentially rely on his history of success against the Astros. He is 8-4 with a 3.24 E.R.A. in 14 career starts against Houston.

Carlos Beltran, a special adviser for the Yankees, was on the field during batting practice and told reporters that the only managerial job he would be interested in this winter is with the Mets. Beltran, who played for the Mets from 2005 until 2011, interviewed for the job last week in New York, where he lives. He would not confirm that, but he did say that he had turned down interviews with the Cubs and Padres. DAVID WALDSTEIN

The Astros were bringing up Beltran’s name for a different reason last week: he was really good at stealing signs.

There has been no shortage of superlatives used to describe Gleyber Torres over the last two seasons, but after he went 3 for 5 with a homer in Game 1, his teammates were gushing about the 22-year-old Torres all over again. “It’s kind of scary for opposing pitchers, but exciting if you’re a Yankees fan,” outfielder Brett Gardner told reporters. “He’s just so talented and has a knack for putting the bat on the baseball. No moment is too big for him.” In this season’s four playoff games, Torres is batting .471 with six extra-base hits (two home runs) and nine R.B.I.

The Astros are probably wondering where George Springer is. The winner of the 2017 World Series Most Valuable Player Award was an All-Star this year, batting .292 with 39 homers and a .974 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. But in the playoffs he is only 3 for 24 and has yet to get an extra-base hit. He was 0 for 4 with a strikeout in Game 1.

With Game 1 having been a bit of a laugher, the teams were able — for the most part — to rest their bullpens. Neither team used its closer and Houston also preserved Will Harris, its second most effective reliever, for potential use tonight. Paxton and Verlander are both capable of pitching deep into games, but being able to shorten the game with top relievers will be vital if one team breaks through earlier in the game.

James Wagner has covered baseball — the Mets for two and a half years and now the Yankees — for The New York Times since June 2016. Previously he worked at The Washington Post for six years, including four covering the Nationals. @ByJamesWagner Facebook

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