Astros down Yankees 8-3 to reach brink of World Series berth

Carlos Correa No. 1 and George Springer No. 4 of the Houston Astros celebrate an 8-3 win of game four of the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on Thursday in the Bronx borough of New York City. — AFP

NEW YORK — George Springer and Carlos Correa hit three-run homers as the Houston Astros beat the New York Yankees 8-3 on Thursday to move one win away from a World Series berth.

The victory in the weather-delayed fourth game of the American League Championship Series gave Houston a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven-set.

The winner of the series will take on the Washington Nationals in Major League Baseball's Fall Classic.

Springer and Correa, who provided a pair of solo shots in Houston's game two triumph, both belted three-run shots on Thursday.

Springer's blast was his 13th career postseason homer, matching Jose Altuve's club record.

The Astros will try to wrap up the series on Friday when they send ace pitcher Justin Verlander to the mound.

"When JV takes the ball, we're going to come after them," said Astros reliever Ryan Pressly, who escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fifth inning and was credited with a win.

"I love the fact that we have JV on our side," added Houston manager AJ Hinch, whose Astros are seeking a second World Series title in three years. "And he's going to set a tone (Friday) that hopefully leads us to the World Series."

The Yankees, who won 103 regular-season games, challenged Astros starting pitcher Zack Greinke in a 28-pitch first inning.

Four fielding errors — the most ever for the Yankees in a home post-season game — didn't help New York's cause.

"We played poorly tonight, there's no other way to explain it," said Yankees manager Aaron Boone. "And we need to flush this immediately because — we talked about it as a team — we need to get over this in a hurry and come put our best foot forward (Friday)."

New York starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka allowed four runs, three earned, on four hits with two walks in five-plus innings, striking out just one.

Tanaka gave up Springer's three-run homer in the third that staked the Astros to a 3-1 lead.

Reliever Chad Green then gave up a three-run shot to Correa in the sixth.

"We had two really big swings that left the yard with Carlos and George," said Astros manager AJ Hinch. "But there's a lot of good at-bats that led them to being three-run homers.

"Three-run homers aren't by accident. We had to draw a walk here, (Josh) Reddick had the single before George's homer."

The Yankees produced two runs in the bottom of the sixth, but Houston added a run in an eighth inning that saw DJ LeMahieu and Torres both fielding errors.

The dismal eighth for the Yankees included what could have been the last pitches thrown by CC Sabathia in his major league career.

Sabathia pitched to four batters, retiring two before departing to an ovation with his team trailing 7-3.

"We've got to see more about it," Boone said of Sabathia's injury, "but not good with the shoulder."

The 39-year-old Sabathia, who arrived in New York in 2009 and won a World Series title in his first season with the Yankees, was hindered by a troublesome right knee in the regular season, landing on the injured list several times.

After returning in September he was sidelined by a sore left shoulder.

The 39-year-old, who said in February that he would retire at the end of 2019 after 19 years in the major leagues, was applauded by both Yankees fans and Astros players as he left the field.

"I hate to see that for him, I hate to see that for the sport, and we hope he's OK," Hinch said. "Our entire dugout was on the top step paying our respects to him trying to gut it out.

"You can see the impact he's had on numerous players on our team and me, and everybody else." — AFP