NEW YORK—This time, it was Masahiro Tanaka who was untouchable on the mound.
And when the New York Yankees' sent Houston ace Dallas Keuchel to an early exit, their rollicking crowd let loose with a cathartic roar that must have boomed all over the Bronx.
“New York is no joke,” Keuchel said afterward.
One more big win and these Yankees are World Series-bound.
Tanaka pitched seven innings of three-hit ball while New York finally solved a long-time nemesis at just the right moment, beating Keuchel and the Astros 5-0 yesterday for a 3-2 lead in the AL Championship Series.
“What a performance,” Yankees' third baseman Todd Frazier said about Tanaka.
Gary Sanchez hit an RBI single off Keuchel and later homered to help the wild-card Yankees win for the third-straight day at home—moving them within one victory of their first pennant since 2009 and record 41st overall.
The teams head back to Houston for Game 6 tomorrow night, when Justin Verlander and the reeling Astros will try to regain their footing following an off-day and force a decisive Game 7.
Luis Severino is scheduled to start for New York.
To take the series, the Yankees knew they needed to win at least one game started by Keuchel or Verlander, both Cy Young Award winners.
Now they've done that—and they don't want to let Houston back up.
“Don't wake that sleeping dog. So we've got to just keep on rolling,” Frazier stressed.
“They're going to be ready to go. We know that.”
Houston arrived up 2-0 and appeared to be closing in on its second World Series appearance.
But the Astros, like defending AL champion Cleveland before them, have been unable to put away these poised Yankees, who improved to 6-0 at home this post-season in front of their cheering, chanting fans.
New York has won 19 of its past 22 games at Yankee Stadium.
“It's been unbelievable. I haven't seen anything like it in Major League Baseball,” veteran Chase Headley said.
“Reminds me of college football games," he noted. ”They're going crazy the entire game.
“It's a huge advantage for us.”
Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, and Didi Gregorius also delivered big hits as New York chased Keuchel in the fifth and handed him his first post-season loss.
Keuchel had been Yankees' kryptonite, entering 6-2 with a 1.09 ERA in eight career starts against New York, including a pair of scoreless outings in playoff wins.
Both of those came at the expense of Tanaka, who lost 3-0 to Keuchel in the 2015 AL wild-card game at Yankee Stadium and 2-1 in Game 1 of this series.
The ace lefty with the long, bushy beard entered 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 26 2/3 post-season innings overall.
But this night belonged to Tanaka and the “Baby Bombers.”
New York finally broke through against Keuchel with two outs in the second, when Starlin Castro doubled and scored on Bird's sharp single.
The sellout crowd of 49,647 almost sounded surprised by the hit—big enough for Bird to flash both thumbs down, doubling up on the Yankees' playful sign to each other for clutch swings.
“The most frustrating part is the fact that I didn't pick the guys up, and they were looking towards me to kind of saddle up and get this thing back going again,” Keuchel said.
“That's a talented group over there and 1 through 9 right now, the bats have woken up and it's quite a challenge.”