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Astros push Yankees to brink in American League Championship Series

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NEW YORK — George Springer and Carlos Correa each hit three-run homers and the Houston Astros got another wild ace off the hook to beat the sloppy New York Yankees 8-3 on Thursday night and reach the cusp of a second World Series visit in three years.

The Astros lead the AL Championship Series 3-1, putting the 2017 World Series winners on the brink of a showdown with the NL champion Washington Nationals.

Houston still has Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole queued up for this series, and the Yankees will have to beat both to survive. Verlander will start Game 5 on Friday night against James Paxton.

New York worked starter Zack Greinke hard during a 28-pitch first inning, but just like with Cole in Game 3, the clutch hit never came. Many fans had left Yankee Stadium by the time it ended shortly before 12:30 a.m. New York time.

The Yankees are at risk of failing to make the World Series for an entire decade for the first time since the 1910s.

The 103-win Yankees are 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position the past two games. Didn’t help when they committed four errors in Game 4, most ever for the club in a home postseason game.

Springer lined an errant splitter from playoff star Masahiro Tanaka in the third inning for his homer, and Correa battered Chad Green’s fastball when New York turned to its vaunted bullpen. Those All-Star sluggers have combined for just five hits in the series, but four have been homers.

Tanaka allowed four runs — three earned — for New York, his most in eight postseason starts.

CC Sabathia pitched in relief for New York but was pulled with an injury during the eighth inning. Planning to retire after the season, an emotional Sabathia covered his face with his glove as he left the field for perhaps the final time. Fans shouted his name as he walked off, and Cole and Springer were among the Houston players who stood and clapped for the 39-year-old.

Gary Sanchez ended a lengthy postseason slide with a two-run homer, but a reshuffled Yankees lineup — still without injured Giancarlo Stanton — again couldn’t string together its damage.

During warmups, a buzzing Bronx crowd jeered Greinke with chants of “Donald! Donald!” — his given first name — and the veteran right-hander wobbled early. He walked three in the first inning for the first time since April 2007, including a four-pitch, bases-loaded free pass to Brett Gardner, and fell into a quick 1-0 hole.

Greinke struggled especially to locate his fastball before blowing one past Sanchez during a three-pitch K to end the inning. He sharpened up and retired nine straight before the Yankees pushed him out of the game while loading the bases in the fifth.

Ryan Pressly struck out Gleyber Torres — on a tight check swing — and Edwin Encarnacion to escape.

Greinke was charged with just one run, working around four walks against the patient-but-punchless Yankees. Cole pitched seven scoreless innings despite five walks in Game 3.

Tanaka helped shut out the Astros in Game 1 but tripped up against Springer in the rematch. The Japanese right-hander left one of his signature splitters in the middle of the plate, and Springer smoked a low line drive that cleared the fence in left-center.

Springer is batting .132 in these playoffs, slumping just like he did in 2017 before breaking out to win World Series MVP. This homer was his 13th in the postseason, snapping a tie with teammate Jose Altuve for the club record.

The Astros missed a chance to pile on that same inning. Altuve and Michael Brantley followed Springer’s drive with two hits and a nifty baserunning play, putting runners at second and third with one out. Brantley was held at third on a potential sacrifice fly hit to right fielder Aaron Judge, and Tanaka got Yordan Alvarez on a popup to end that threat.

Correa gave Houston its big cushion in the sixth, making it 6-1 with his drive. At 25 years, 25 days, he is the youngest player with 10 postseason home runs, surpassing Albert Pujols.

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