Astros vs. Yankees score: Houston wins ALCS Game 1 behind Justin Verlander, homers from unexpected sources
Verlander bounced back from a lousy playoff outing with a Game 1 gem against the Yankees
The Houston Astros took down the New York Yankees, 4-2, in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park. The Astros lead the best-of-seven series 1-0, meaning they're three games away from punching a ticket to the World Series for the fourth time since 2017.
The Astros fell behind in the second inning, as Harrison Bader delivered his fourth home run in his sixth postseason game this fall, launching a solo shot against Justin Verlander. Houston would tie things up in the bottom half of the inning. Backstop Martín Maldonado launched an opposite-field double that plated Chas McCormick.
The two sides would trade zeroes until the sixth inning. That's when first baseman Yuli Gurriel hit a home run to left field to put Houston up 2-1. The aforementioned McCormick would hit his own solo home run a couple batters later, building the lead up to 3-1. Another home run, this time from Jeremy Peña in the seventh, made it 4-1.
The Yankees would get a run back in the eighth on an Anthony Rizzo solo shot, cutting the lead to 4-2. The Yankees would threaten further in the eighth, putting the tying run on first with two outs. The score remained the same until the final out, however, sealing the deal for the Astros.
Here are six things you need to know about the Astros' Game 1 win.
1. Verlander throws gem, makes history
The Astros owe much of their victory to ace Justin Verlander. The frontrunner for the AL Cy Young Award struggled in his first start this postseason against the Seattle Mariners. He course-corrected on Wednesday, holding the Yankees to one run over six innings of work. Verlander gave up three hits, one walk, and one hit by pitch, he struck out 11 batters on 103 pitches.
As ESPN Stats and Info noted, Verlander became the all-time postseason leader in strikeouts, surpassing Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw early in the night:
Most Career Strikeouts— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 20, 2022
MLB Postseason History
Justin Verlander 215<<
Clayton Kershaw 213
John Smoltz 199
Andy Pettitte 183
Roger Clemens 173
>> Through 7 strikeouts tonight
Verlander's 11 strikeouts tied for the second most he's recorded in a single postseason game. His career-high remains the 13 he punched out against the Yankees in the 2017 ALCS. This is the fifth time he's struck out 11, and the second time he's done so versus New York. (To be fair, Verlander has now made nine postseason starts against the Yankees, giving him ample opportunity to accomplish the feat.)
most consecutive K's in a postseason game is 6:— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) October 20, 2022
Justin Verlander, Tonight
Justin Verlander, 2013 ALCS G3
Clayton Kershaw, 2013 NLDS G1
Homer Bailey, 2012 NLDS G3
Mike Hampton, 2003 NLDS G2
Todd Worrell, 1985 WS G5 (relief)
Moe Drabowsky, 1966 WS G1 (relief)
Hod Eller, 1919 WS G5
Verlander threw three pitches more than 20 times on Wednesday: his fastball, slider, and curveball. He generated a game-high 17 swinging strikes, generating at least four on each of those three pitches, and eight on his slider alone.
In so many words, Verlander did not look like someone who had authored arguably the worst postseason start of his career last time out.
2. Taillon keeps the Yankees in the game
Yankees right-hander Jameson Taillon didn't have a Verlander-like performance by any means. He did keep the game close, however, and that meant he surpassed the modest expectations placed upon him facing the vaunted Astros lineup.
Taillon threw 4 1/3 innings, surrendering one run on four hits and three walks. He didn't strike out anyone on 67 pitches. Taillon's line almost looked worse, as manager Aaron Boone removed him in the fifth after he surrendered a double. Reliever Clarke Schmidt, who would eventually yield two home runs, loaded the bases with back-to-back walks (one intentional) before generating a pivotal double-play ball.
Regardless of what would happen with Schmidt in the subsequent inning, the Yankees likely would've signed up for Taillon facing 20 batters and exiting with a tied score.
3. Astros receive home runs from unlikely sources
When people think about the big power threats in the Astros lineup, they think about Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker, and perhaps even Jose Altuve or Alex Bregman. They probably don't think about the three who launched solo shots in Game 1: Gurriel, McCormick, and Peña. That's for good reason.
Indeed, Gurriel finished the regular season with eight home runs in 584 trips to the plate, or one every 73 plate appearances. McCormick and Peña were far better in that respect, homering between every 25 and 29 trips to the plate.
What's more is that Gurriel had been in the midst of a lengthy power drought heading into the playoffs. After hitting his seventh home run of the year on July 1, he homered just once more over his final 76 games. Naturally, Gurriel has since launched two home runs in his first four playoff games, showing that you can't predict baseball.
4. Judge makes huge catch
It didn't end up mattering, not really, but Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge made arguably his best catch of the season from a statistical perspective early on. Bregman hit a ball to right, right-center with two runners on base and one out. It looked like Bregman was going to have extra bases, yet Judge laid out and made the grab.
5. What history says about winning Game 1
It should not come as a surprise, but winning Game 1 usually bodes well for the victor's chances of winning the entire series. According to the website WhoWins.com, Major League Baseball clubs who have won Game 1 of a best-of-seven set have historically gone on to win 64.3 percent of those series.
6. What's next
The Yankees and Astros will continue the ALCS with Game 2 on Thursday night. The Yankees are expected to start Luis Severino while the Astros counter with Framber Valdez. First pitch is slated for 7:37 p.m. ET and the game will be broadcast on TBS. The Astros will attempt to build a 2-0 lead in the series.
Astros win, 4-2
Credit Altuve on the final out. The Trevino grounder hit second base and popped up but Altuve made the adjustment on the fly and then the routine throw to first.
FINAL: Astros 4, Yankees 2.— New York Yankees (@Yankees) October 20, 2022
Yankees coming up in the ninth
Bader, Kiner-Falefa, and Trevino coming up in the ninth. Need someone to get on to flip the lineup over to Torres and Judge.
Carpenter strikes out
The Yankees leave two on and the comeback win just went from incredibly difficult to nearly impossible. They'll need two runs off Pressly in the ninth to tie with 7-8-9 coming up. And that's if there's no insurance runs tacked on.
After the walk to Donaldson
Dusty Baker is coming out for a change. He's going to closer Ryan Pressly. Runners are on first and second for Matt Carpenter. He's looked lost tonight, but that was against Verlander. Maybe his fortunes change, though Pressly isn't exactly an easy assignment.
Tying run now on base
Donaldson walks, so Carpenter will face Pressly representing the go-ahead run. He had that incredible run earlier this year, but is 0 for 5 with 5 K in the postseason. He did not play after Aug. 8 because of injury and rust has shown.
Tying run to the plate
After the Rizzo homer and Stanton single, the tying run comes to the plate for the Yankees. It is Josh Donaldson, who has been hotter (and that's an understatement. He's been terrible of late).
Yankees still longshots in Game 1
It's now 4-2, but the Astros are still 92.9 percent to win this one.
Rizzo gets one back
Now 4-2 Yankees. Solo homer into the bullpen. Yankees have four outs to play with.
Astros now lead the Yankees 4-1 in the bottom of the seventh
And have a 94.6 percent chance of winning Game 1.
Another Astros homer
It's Jeremy Peña
More Verlander postseason history
Astros now up 3-1 in the bottom of the sixth
And have an 84.0 percent chance of winning ALCS Game 1.
and another HR
Chas McCormick goes oppo for another HR. Astros lead 3-1.