NEW YORK — Justin Verlander could win his second Cy Young Award this season after winning 21 games and striking out 300 for the Houston Astros.
But a propensity to allow home runs was a blemish on an otherwise dominant season. Verlander gave up 36, tied for third most in the majors.
The long ball cost him and the Astros dearly in Game 5 of American League Championship Series on Friday night.
DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Hicks hit first-inning home runs as the Yankees stayed alive with a 4-1 victory.
Game 6 will be at 8:08 p.m. Saturday in Houston. The Astros lead the series, 3-2. Both managers said they would use their bullpens.
Rookie righthander Jose Urquidy is a candidate to start for Houston, which will save Gerrit Cole in case there’s a Game 7.
After the Astros took a 1-0 lead on James Paxton in the top of the first, LeMahieu led off the bottom of the inning with a home run to left field.
Aaron Judge followed with a single and Gleyber Torres a double. With one out, Hicks drove a hanging slider off the foul pole in right field for his first three RBIs of this postseason.
Verlander got ahead 0 for 2 before Hicks worked the count full and connected. He dropped his bat at the plate and slowly trotted around the bases as the sold-out crowd of 48,483 roared.
“That was the game plan, to strike early and get some pitches to hit early in the count,” Hicks said.
It was the first time in 405 postseason games the Yankees hit two home runs in the first inning.
“I knew we were going to Houston when I woke up,” Judge said.
Verlander retired 20 of 21 hitters he faced after Hicks homered, the Yankees getting only one other hit.
“He was incredible after the first,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.
But Paxton and three relievers shut down the Houston offense. Aroldis Chapman worked the ninth for the save.
Paxton allowed one run on four hits and struck out nine for his first postseason victory.
“I wasn’t ready to go home yet, so I wanted to go out and give my team everything I had and just battle away,” he said.
The Astros were 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position and left nine runners on base.
Giancarlo Stanton returned to the Yankees for the first time since he left Game 1 with a strained right quad. He was 0 for 3 batting cleanup and struck out twice.
It was the first game in postseason history both teams scored in the first inning and did not score again.
As the Yankees and Astros played on, the National League champion Washington Nationals enjoyed their third consecutive day off with three more to come before Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night at either Houston or New York.