NEW YORK — Yordan Alvarez and Alex Bregman delivered big hits and the Houston Astros advanced to the World Series again, finishing a four-game sweep of New York in the AL Championship Series with a 6-5 victory Sunday night aided by another defensive gaffe from the Yankees.
Taking advantage of a costly error by second baseman Gleyber Torres to produce the go-ahead rally in the seventh inning, the Astros won their second consecutive pennant and fourth in six years.
Rookie shortstop Jeremy Peña hit a three-run homer off ailing Yankees starter Nestor Cortes to help the AL West champions overcome an early 3-0 deficit. Peña was picked as the ALCS MVP.
Houston will open the World Series at home Friday night against Bryce Harper and the wild-card Philadelphia Phillies, who beat San Diego earlier in the day to close out the best-of-seven NLCS in five games.
It was the first time both pennants were decided on the same day since 1992.
After losing to Atlanta in last year's World Series, Houston earned the fifth pennant in franchise history and another chance at its second World Series championship.
The team's 2017 title was tainted by a cheating scandal.
With the playoffs expanded to 12 teams this year, the Phillies became the first third-place squad in baseball history to reach the World Series.
Philadelphia went 87-75 during the regular season — Bregman and the Astros finished 106-56 under manager Dusty Baker, seven games better than any other American League team.
“Hey, these are the greatest guys I've ever been around,” the 73-year-old Baker said in a postgame celebration.
Back in the leadoff spot, Harrison Bader had three hits and scored three times for New York. He connected off winning pitcher Hector Neris for his fifth home run of these playoffs, giving the Yankees a 5-4 lead in the sixth.
They couldn’t hold it when they absolutely had to.
Peña hit what should have been an inning-ending double-play ball to Torres in the seventh. But his flip to second base went wide of shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa as the crowd of 46,545 groaned, and the Astros had two on.
Alvarez singled home the tying run on the next delivery from losing pitcher Jonathan Loáisiga, and Bregman put Houston ahead with an RBI single off Clay Holmes.
It was the sixth error of this postseason for the Yankees, who also gave the Astros a pivotal gift in Game 3. Chas McCormick hit an early two-run homer off New York ace Gerrit Cole after Bader, a Gold Glove outfielder, dropped a two-out fly when he nearly collided with Aaron Judge in right-center.
Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero and Ryan Pressly shut the door with perfect relief. Pressly retired Judge on a comebacker for his third save of the series, sending the Astros rushing out of the dugout for ecstatic hugs and handshakes on the infield.
Moments later, a throng of orange-clad Houston fans chanted ``sweep! sweep!'' behind their third base dugout in a mostly empty Yankee Stadium.
Handed an early 3-0 lead, Cortes walked No. 9 batter Martín Maldonado to start the third and fell behind 2-1 on slumping Jose Altuve.
Something wasn’t right. Yankees manager Aaron Boone and head athletic trainer Tim Lentych went to the mound for a quick check on Cortes, who initially remained in the game.
But he walked Altuve, marking the first time the All-Star lefty issued consecutive free passes this season. And eight pitches after the mound visit, Peña launched a 3-1 slider into the left-field seats to tie it.
That was it for an ailing Cortes, who exited with a left groin injury that he apparently reaggravated. He was sidelined from Aug. 22 through Sept. 7 with a strained left groin.
Alvarez doubled off Wandy Peralta and went to third when Peralta got nailed by Kyle Tucker’s line drive that went for an infield single with one out. Yuli Gurriel bounced an RBI single through an open right side to put Houston ahead 4-3, but Peralta prevented further damage.
Needing a win to extend their season, the Yankees got off to a fast start in the first inning following an 84-minute delay due to a threat of rain. Giancarlo Stanton laced an RBI single off starter Lance McCullers Jr., and Torres blooped a run-scoring single into center.
That ended New York’s scoreless streak at 14 innings. Houston had gone 19 innings without permitting an earned run.
Anthony Rizzo’s two-out RBI double made it 3-0 in the second, but Stanton struck out with runners at second and third. Rizzo also delivered a two-out RBI single that tied it 4-all in the fourth.
McCullers, who closed out the Yankees with 24 straight curveballs in Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS, lasted five innings. He gave up four runs — three earned — and eight hits.
Third base coach Gary Pettis is expected to rejoin the Astros when they return to Houston. He’s been out with an illness.
“He’s doing great. He’s doing a lot better,” Baker said.
First base coach Omar Lopez has been filling in for Pettis, with quality control coach Dan Firova coaching first.
Astros: Justin Verlander is likely to start the World Series opener. The 39-year-old righty went 18-4 with a 1.75 ERA this season in a hugely successful comeback from Tommy John surgery, making him a favorite to win his third Cy Young Award. He was hit hard in the Division Series opener against Seattle, then struck out 11 in six innings of one-run ball to win Game 1 of the ALCS. He is 0-6 in seven World Series starts.
Yankees: Begin their 2023 spring training schedule Feb. 25 against Philadelphia and host San Francisco in the regular-season opener March 30.
Houston 6, New York 5
Yordan Alvarez singled through the right side, scoring Jose Altuve and tying the game 5-5.
Alex Bregman followed with an RBI single to right, scoring Jeremy Peña and giving the Astros a 6-5 lead.
New York 5, Houston 4
Harrison Bader hit a solo homer in the sixth inning to put the Yankees on top 5-4.
Houston 4, New York 4
Anthony Rizzo drove in Harrison Bader to tie the game in the fourth inning.
Houston 4, New York 3
Jeremy Peña hit a three-run homer in the top of the third inning to tie the game. Cortes was removed from the game due to injury after the game-tying shot.
Yordan Alvarez doubled, Kyle Tucker reached on an infield single and Yuli Gurriel gave the Astros a 4-3 lead by poking a single through the right side, scoring Alvarez.
New York 3, Houston 0
Anthony Rizzo hit an RBI double in the second inning to increase the Yankees' lead.
New York 2, Houston 0
Giancarlo Stanton delivered an RBI single to right field to get the scoring started in the first inning.
Gleyber Torres followed with a bloop single to center that scored another run.
Has a team ever come back from an 0-3 deficit to win a best-of-seven series?
So what are the odds New York comes back to take the ALCS? It’s only happened one time that a team down 0-3 in a best-of-seven series has won, and that was the Boston Red Sox against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS.
But it almost happened two years ago with these Houston Astros. They were trailing the Tampa Bay Rays 0-3 in the ALCS and came back to tie it at 3 games apiece before the Rays took the deciding Game 7 and went on to the World Series.
So the Astros still need to go out there and win a game, something not lost on outfielder Chas McCormick and pitcher Justin Verlander.
What’s the forecast for Game 4 in New York?
First pitch for tonight’s Game 4 is set for 6:07 Houston time, and in New York, they’re expecting showers, which could lead to a delay. Storms are in the forecast there on Monday, but they’re earlier in the day. Game 5, if needed, would be a 3:07 p.m. first pitch.
Meanwhile, in the NLCS, the Phillies have the upper hand after rallying to beat the Padres 10-6 Saturday.