Good news? The Houston Astros are heading home.
Bad news? The New York Yankees have taken a 3-2 ALCS lead.
Good news? Justin Verlander goes for the Astros on Friday.
Bad news? The Yankees counter with Luis Severino.
Good news? The home team remains unbeaten in this series.
Bad news? That same home team can’t seem to stop the Yankees at the moment.
Looking at this series as a whole, Game 5 was as simple as it could have been for New York on Wednesday. They scored early with a run in the second inning. Then they added another in the third. And after Houston squandered a scoring chance—two on with less than two outs in the fifth—the Yankees added two more in the bottom half.
By the end of five innings Wednesday afternoon, the Astros looked defeated. After failing to put New York away on Tuesday—despite holding a 4-0 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh—the offense, which was the best in baseball by a significant margin this season, was suddenly lost.
Masahiro Tanaka would deliver the goods (again), this time tossing seven innings of three-hit ball with eight strikeouts and a lone walk. Aaron Judge, after starting his postseason so quietly, continued to produce. And when the Yankees needed a hit, they often got it.
For the Astros, it’s been just the opposite since taking a commanding 2-0 series lead. Then in the all-important Game 5, starter Dallas Keuchel needed to be perfect. In short, he wasn’t. Of course, it may not have mattered how good Keuchel was on Wednesday. After all, the Astros would fail to produce even just a single run.
Now they turn to Verlander, fresh off his 124-pitch complete game shutout in Game 2. Surely he cannot replicate that performance, right? Obviously, he’s going to try. And at this point, Houston may need him to. That’s how worrisome their bullpen is. All the offense they possess is great. Their depth is starting pitching isn’t too shabby either. But none of that matters if you cannot put games away.
For the Yankees, however, it just might be their greatest strength. Outside of Judge’s power, I mean. The Yankees don’t need Severino to be perfect on Friday. They just need him to be serviceable. They just need a chance.
Because suddenly, despite holding serve at home, the Houston Astros have everything to lose.