Friday night, the Astros opened the ALCS over the Yankees (HOU 2, NYY 1) at Minute Maid Park. Dallas Keuchel was the story of the game, as he struck out 10 in seven scoreless innings. Closer Ken Giles finished the game for the Astros with a five-out save.
Game 1 was one of those games that didn't feel as close as the final score indicates. The Astros took a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning and cruised the rest of the way -- Greg Bird hit a solo home run with two outs in the ninth to break up the shutout -- and at no point did it really feel like the game was in jeopardy. Houston's pitching was that good.
For the Yankees, this is their second straight Game 1 loss. They of course lost Game 1 of the ALDS to the Indians, and Game 2 as well before coming back to win three straight. They know the series is not over after one game. We all know that. But still, you'd rather take Game 1 and start the series on the right foot. The Astros did it. The Yankees did not.
Despite the final score, the Yankees can take these five positives from Game 1
Tanaka pitched well on the road
When the Yankees set their ALDS rotation, they lined Masahiro Tanaka up to start Game 3 at Yankee Stadium because his home/road splits this season are massive. Check it out:
- Home: 3.22 ERA and 1.01 WHIP
- Road: 6.48 ERA and 1.50 WHIP
In Game 1, Tanaka allowed two runs on one walk and four singles, one of which did not leave the infield and three of which were ground balls. He didn't pitch as well as Keuchel -- there's no doubt about that -- but he pitched well overall. Under normal circumstances, meaning he gets some semblance of run support, it's a winnable start.
Tanaka pitched well against an excellent Astros lineup and he did it without his best pitch, his trademark splitter. The pitch wasn't cooperating -- Tanaka threw only 16 splitters in Game 1, which is about half as many as usual -- and he still kept Houston in check, home/road splits be damned.
Tanaka showed he can pitch well against any lineup anywhere. Now the Yankees just need to win a game to make sure he gets another chance to pitch.
Judge showed signs of snapping out of it
AL Rookie of the Year favorite and possible AL MVP runner-up Aaron Judge had a brutal ALDS against the Indians, going 1 for 20 with 16 strikeouts. That's a new strikeout record for a single postseason series, including seven-game series. It was ugly.
Judge showed signs of snapping out of it in Game 1 by going 1 for 3 with a walk, and his one hit was a two-out, two-strike single that would have driven in a run had Bird not been thrown out at the plate. Here's the video:
Bird didn't get the best jump from the second base and Marwin Gonzalez made a perfect throw from left field. Credit to the Astros for cutting the runner down at home.
In the grand scheme of things, Judge had his best at-bats since the Wild Card Game in Game 1 on Friday, including drawing the only walk Keuchel issued and jumping on a mistake pitch for a single, the kind of mistake pitch he was missing in the ALDS.
The Yankees managed to beat the Indians without getting anything from Judge. Odds are they won't be able to do the same against the Astros. One game is just one game, but there were signs Judge is getting on track.
Girardi learned his lesson
When Bird was thrown out at the plate, the Yankees decided to challenge the call even though there didn't appear to be clear and convincing evidence he was safe. And ultimately, the challenge was unsuccessful. The out stood.
After the game, Girardi admitted the Yankees thought Bird was out, but they decided to challenge anyway.
"Well, we thought he was out," said Girardi following Game 1, "but God knows I'm not doing that again."
By "that again," Girardi means not challenging a big play., which would've ended the inning, and instead contributed to the Indians' comeback win. Girardi showed in Game 1 on Friday that he's not going to let that happen again. He's going to be more liberal with his challenges, and that's a good thing. You don't get extra credit for saving challenges.
Green looked excellent
Chad Green, who had a phenomenal regular season, was roughed up in Game 2 of the ALDS and did not pitch the rest of the series. He temporarily pitched himself out of the bullpen Circle of Trust, so to speak.
Green replaced Tanaka in Game 1 and struck out two in two scoreless innings, and he looked very much like the Chad Green of the regular season. That's important. The Yankees have a deep and powerful bullpen, but it's only deep and powerful when Green is pitching like he's capable of pitching.
His Game 2 meltdown in the ALDS put him in the doghouse for a bit. Now he's out.
Giles had to work hard
Silver lining for the Yankees: Giles had to throw 37 pitches in his five-out save, which could limit his availability and effectiveness for Game 2 on Saturday afternoon. Conversely, neither David Robertson nor Aroldis Chapman pitched for the Yankees in Game 1, so they'll be locked and loaded for Game 2, likely for multiple innings apiece.
The Yankees figure to have the bullpen advantage Saturday.
At the end of the day, this is the postseason, a loss is a loss, and a loss reduces your chances of winning the World Series. The Yankees are now down 0-1 in the ALCS and they don't want to fall behind any further.
Are there some positives to take from the Game 1 loss? Sure. Tanaka and Green were great, Judge is starting to come out of it, and the bullpen is in good shape for Game 2.
That all said, the Yankees did lose Game 1, so there is only so much to feel good about.