Verlander Ks 11 to lead Astros over Yankees 4-2 in ALCS

Verlander Ks 11 to lead Astros over Yankees 4-2 in ALCS

HOUSTON (AP) — When Justin Verlander was laboring and needed 45 pitches to get through two innings, Astros manager Dusty Baker was worried he’d have to go to his bullpen early.

Instead, the veteran ace buckled down and found a groove, striking out 11 in six strong innings to lead Houston over the New York Yankees 4-2 in their AL Championship Series opener Wednesday night.

“This guy, he has mental toughness,” Baker said. “When he’s down and out and it looks like you got him in trouble, this guy, he can dial it up.”

Yuli Gurriel launched a tiebreaking homer for Houston in the sixth. Chas McCormick and Jeremy Peña also went deep as the AL West champions improved to 4-0 in the playoffs after going 106-56 during the regular season.

The Astros are in their sixth consecutive ALCS, looking to reach the World Series for the fourth time in that span, against a New York team in the LCS for the first time since being eliminated by Houston in 2019.

Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) celebrates the third out during the sixth inning in Game 1 of baseball’s American League Championship Series between the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)