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Yankees close gap on Astros

NEW YORK — DJ LeMahieu drove Justin Verlander’s second pitch over the wall, then Aaron Hicks sent the fans at Yankee Stadium into a frenzy with a three-run homer off the foul pole later in the first inning.

And just like that, the Bronx Bombers were back.

A day after a brutal loss, and with little margin for more errors, the New York Yankees played like a 103-win team. James Paxton chilled Houston’s bats and the bullpen followed with shutdown relief to beat the Astros, 4-1, Friday, cutting their AL Championship Series deficit to 3-2.

Now, the teams rush to Texas, where the series resumes tonight.

After lasting just 2 1/3 innings in Game 2, Paxton struck out nine in six innings, allowing four hits and four walks.

Paxton outpitched Verlander, an eight-time All-Star and former AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner. Verlander allowed a pair of first-inning homers for the first time in 28 postseason starts and gave up four runs in an inning for the first time since Houston acquired him from Detroit in August 2017.

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