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Bashed in the Bronx, Astros happy to head home

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa watch from the dugout during the seventh inning of Game 5 of baseball's American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The Houston Astros will be happy to get home after a three-day bashing in the Bronx that left Jose Altuve flinging his bat and Josh Reddick slamming his helmet.

Not even Dallas Keuchel could prevent New York from sweeping three games at Yankee Stadium and returning to Texas with a 3-2 lead in the AL Championship Series. Game 6 is Friday night.

Houston's pair of 2-1 wins at the Juice Box last weekend were distant memories after three days unsuccessfully fending off New York's noisy bats and fans. The Astros' Big Apple experience was about the same as the tourist couple in "The Out of Towners."

"It's a tough environment. These people love their Yankees," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said before Wednesday night's 5-0 loss. "They're smart with how they try to get loud and put pressure on the players."

The Yankees took the New York portion of the series in straight sets, outscoring Houston 19-5 and outhitting the Astros 25-11. Just one of the Astros' last 15 batters reached base in Game 5.

Keuchel had pitched 13 scoreless innings against the Yankees in postseason play, including seven to win the opener. The bushy bearded ace was 6-2 against New York, never allowing more than three runs.

But those precise pitches were a smidgeon off as Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius had run-scoring hits to chase him after 4 2/3 innings. It was Keuchel's shortest outing since finding his groove in August after struggling in his return from a neck injury.

Alex Bregman's glove was about an inch short of snagging Judge's 94 mph smash down the third-base line, which put the Yankees ahead 2-0 in the third.

Keuchel pitched around Judge with first base open in the fifth to bring up Sanchez, who had been 0 for 8 against the lefty with six strikeouts. Sanchez lined a single to left and Gregorius followed with a grounder up the middle that hit the bottom of the glove of a diving Altuve at second and bounced into center.

Houston led the major leagues with a .282 average and 896 runs during the regular season. But the Astros have just nine runs in the ALCS and are batting .147. Houston is hitting .077 (3 for 39) the first time through the batting order and .148 (4 for 27) with runners in scoring position after going 0 for 8 RISP in Game 5.

Fish rot at the head and it has been no different at the top of the Astros' batting order. Leadoff man George Springer is 2 for 18 and Reddick is 0 for 17 in the No. 2 hole. Other than Altuve and Carlos Correa, Houston has just 13 hits.

Justin Verlander, who pitched a five-hitter to win Game 2, takes the mound Friday night hoping to save the Astros' season. The 101 regular-season wins and five in the playoffs don't matter now. If the Astros are to win their first title or even reach the World Series for the first time since 2005, they'll have to do their work at home.

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