HOUSTON, Texas — Missed opportunities and attempting to steal outs. That about sums up the New York Yankees’ 4-2 loss to the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the ALCS. New York had Justin Verlander on the ropes with five runners reaching base in the first three innings. Yet, they enabled Verlander to get stronger on an evening where he notched 11 Ks, including six straight at one point. The Yankees would strike out 17 times, while the Astros struck out twice.
In the early going it felt like it was right there for the Yankees to pounce, as they worked Verlander and Jameson Taillon was fairly economical, considering he hadn’t started in forever. After some early trouble in the first frame, Aaron Judge’s robbery of Alex Bregman with two on, kept the Astros off the board and seemed to spark the club.
It carried over to the second stanza, as Harrison Bader launched a 1-0 tater to left-center for a 1-0 edge.
Yet, the Astros would strike back with two down in the home half. Chas McCormick singled to center. The ensuing batter Martin Maldonado doubled to right to square the contest at one.
During the third inning, the Yankees had a shot to bust it open after a one-out walk by Anthony Rizzo and a double to center from Giancarlo Stanton. Alas, Josh Donaldson whiffed with a deflating strikeout. Matt Carpenter, whose timing was off all night, went down looking (with no help from the home plate umpire). Hence, a wasted opportunity.
Taillon continued to battle into the fifth frame, before yielding a one-out double to left to Jeremy Pena. Rather than bring on a reliever like Lou Trivino, manager Aaron Boone brought in Clarke Schmidt. After an intentional free pass to Yordan Alvarez, Schmidt walked Bregman to load the bases. Luckily, Schmidt got Kyle Tucker to bound into a 4-6-3 double play to preserve the tie.
In the next inning, rather than turn to a reliever, Boone stuck with Schmidt to steal some more outs. He got burned. Leadoff hitter Yuli Gurriel yanked a homer to left. With one down, McCormick went oppo taco to right. Following that, Trivino entered, finally, and recorded the second and third outs of the inning. Alas, the damage was done.
During the seventh inning, Boone tried to get cute again in trying to figure out what he had in Frankie Montas in the first game of the ALCS. Montas proceeded to show his rust immediately, as Pena smoked a solo smash to left-center, capping off the Astros’ scoring.
He would finally bring in an actual reliever in Miguel Castro in the eighth inning and of course, he worked a 1-2-3 frame.
In the top half of that eighth, the Yankees did have an opportunity to climb back. With two down, Rizzo homered to right-center off Rafael Montero, cutting the Houston lead in half.
Stanton, who played a solid left field, followed with a single. Donaldson miraculously coaxed a walk. However, Carpenter went down swinging, proving that Game 1 of the ALCS is a tough time to try and find your timing.
Unfortunately, the Astros beat the Yankees at their own game with the long ball and New York left too much traffic on the basepaths.
Perhaps with a lineup shakeup, some more contact, coupled with Luis Severino and a fresh backend of the bullpen, the Yankees can do their job and take a split back to the Bronx after Game 2.