Astros win to force Game 7 –

HOUSTON • Justin Verlander stayed perfect with the Houston Astros when they couldn’t afford anything else.

The ace right-hander pitched seven shutout innings and Jose Altuve homered and drove in three runs during a 7-1 victory over the New York Yankees on Friday night that extended the AL Championship Series to a decisive Game 7.

Acquired in an Aug. 31 trade, Verlander has won all nine of his outings for the Astros. And with his new club facing elimination in Game 6 against the Yankees, he delivered again.

Game 7 is Saturday night in Houston, with the winner advancing to the World Series against the NL champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

CC Sabathia is scheduled to start for New York against Charlie Morton in a rematch of Game 3, won 8-1 by the Yankees. The home team has taken every game in the series.

“It’s going to be a crazy night,” Altuve said. “I know both teams are going to go out there and leave everything they have.”

After striking out 13 for a complete-game victory in Game 2, Verlander threw another gem. The 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner scattered five hits and struck out eight to improve to 9-0 with 67 strikeouts .

“I literally love Justin Verlander,” Altuve said. “The way he goes out there makes me feel like I have to go out there and play the same way he’s doing it.”

George Springer helped Verlander out of a jam in the seventh, leaping to make a catch at the center-field wall that robbed Todd Frazier of extra bases with two on and the Astros up 3-0.

“I thought homer,” Verlander said. “That was obviously one of the big turning moments in the game.”

Brian McCann’s RBI ground-rule double in the fifth ended an 0-for-20 slump before Altuve snapped an 0-for-12 skid with a two-run single later in the inning. Altuve hit his fourth homer of the postseason when he connected on a solo shot off David Robertson with no outs in the eighth.

“I love the way we played today,” Altuve said.

Houston improved to 5-0 at home this postseason after dropping three straight in New York as the Astros chase their second trip to the World Series. Saturday will be just their second Game 7 in franchise history after losing the final game of the 2004 NLCS at St. Louis 5-2.

The last Game 7 for the Yankees also was a loss in 2004, when they capped an unprecedented collapse against rival Boston after leading 3-0 in the ALCS.

But this year, the Yankees are 4-0 in postseason elimination games as they try to advance to the World Series for the first time since 2009. New York is 1-5 on the road in these playoffs, however.


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