Verlander, Correa lift Astros over Yankees

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Carlos Correa homered and delivered a walk-off double for the Houston Astros in a 2-1 win over the New York Yankees in baseball's American League Championship Series on Saturday.

The Astros second straight home victory gave them a 2-0 lead over the Yankees in the best-of-seven matchup that will send one team to the World Series.

Correa's ninth-inning effort ensured the Astros capitalized on a stellar performance from starting pitcher Justin Verlander.

Correa smacked a 3-ball, 2-strike fastball from Aroldis Chapman into the right center-field gap to score Jose Altuve from first base.

Altuve raced around the bases, scoring when Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge made his relay throw toward the middle of the infield and catcher Gary Sanchez couldn't grab the subsequent throw to home.

"The ball short hopped Sanchy and he wasn't able to come up with it," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He did his best and wasn't able to come up with it."

Verlander worked nine innings, allowing one run on five hits with one walk and 13 strikeouts.

He threw 124 pitches -- 93 of them for strikes -- and held off the Yankees to give the Astros a chance to rally.

"He was exceptional in every way," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of Verlander. "He put us on his back today with his pitching."

Both teams put runs on the board in odd ways.

In the fourth inning, Correa turned a 99-mph (159.33 Km/h) fastball from Luis Severino for a home run to right.

The ball barely eluded Judge and a young fan in the first row of seats deflected it into the stands.

"I love that kid," Hinch said, "I want to leave that kid tickets.

Officials reviewed the play to check for fan interference, but the call stood.

Girardi said the camera angle offered no grounds for overturning the call.

"Well, we saw the hands there," he said. "I think it's really close, I can see why they didn't overturn it, but with the angles that they have."

The Astros' lead was short-lived. With two outs in the fifth, Verlander gave up back-to-back doubles to Aaron Hicks and Todd Frazier.

Frazier's caught in the fence fronting the wall in left-centerfield and Hicks scored on a ground-rule double.

The series shifts to New York for game three on Monday. The series winner will face either the Los Angeles Dodgers or reigning champion Chicago Cubs in the World Series.

"It's a tough loss," Girardi acknowledged. "It's not like we haven't been here before though. And my message to our team is, 'Hey, let's go home, win one at home and let's see what happens."

- Dodgers host Cubs -

The Dodgers, who led the Major League Baseball with 104 regular-season wins, hosted game one of the National League Championship Series on Saturday with payback on their minds.

The Cubs ousted them in six games in the NLCS last season and went on to end a 108-year World Series title drought.

The Dodgers swept the Arizona Cardinals in the division series, while the Cubs are coming off a wild 9-8 series-clinching victory over the Washington Nationals on Thursday.

That game lasted four hours and 37 minutes -- the longest nine-inning game in post-season history. To top it off, the Cubs' flight from Washington to Los Angeles was diverted when a passenger fell ill.

Manager Joe Maddon didn't announce left-hander Jose Quintana as his starting pitcher until Saturday morning, after the Cubs used all four of their primary starting hurlers in the last two games against the Nationals.

Clayton Kershaw was scheduled to start for the Dodgers, who left All-Star shortstop Corey Seager off their 25-man roster for the series because of a back injury.