The Houston Astros nudged aside the New York Yankees 2-1 in Game 1 of the 2017 American League Championship Series on Friday night (GameTracker). The Astros now possess a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series heading into Saturday afternoon's Game 2.
Here are some things you need to know about Game 1.
Old-fashioned pitcher's duel
With so much of the postseason coverage to this point stemming around the bullpens and the managers' bullpen usage, Game 1 was a return to normalcy. Both Dallas Keuchel and Masahiro Tanaka pitched beyond the fifth inning and recorded quality starts.
Keuchel was the star of the show. His 109 pitches encompassed seven innings, during which he yielded four hits and a walk. Along the way, Keuchel struck out 10 of the 26 batters he faced, giving him just the third 10-K postseason game in Astros history:
Keuchel generated 14 whiffs, including 10 on his slider-slash-cutter. He kept the ball down all night, forcing the Yankees to expand the zone or pound the ball into the dirt, and that proved to be an effective combination -- as it often is for the 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner.
Tanaka's appearance will get overlooked for obvious reasons. He did, however, complete six frames, allowing two runs on four hits. He walked a batter and managed three strikeouts. That doesn't seem outstanding, but keep in mind -- the Astros had the best offense in baseball.
Creative bullpen usage remained
So, it wasn't the focus. But Joe Girardi and A.J. Hinch each did something that strayed from the tried-and-true methodology. Girardi used Chad Green -- a regular-season stud -- for two innings in relief. Hinch, on the other hand, tasked closer Ken Giles with a five-out save. Neither was the most aggressive bullpen usage of, oh, the past 24 hours. But this clearly ain't 2008 anymore.
Jose Altuve is either going to finish first or second in AL MVP voting in about a month's time. The postseason isn't included in the equation, but that hasn't stopped Altuve from going off.
Altuve hit .533/.632/1.133 during the ALDS, smacking three home runs and walking twice more than he walked in 19 plate appearances. He got off to a similarly good start in the ALCS, finishing as the only Astro with multiple hits, as he rapped three. Predictably, in a game that featured one extra-base hit (that one coming with two outs in the ninth), Altuve scored one of the Astros' two runs.
Astros' first failure to launch
During Houston's series against Boston, they managed to score in the first inning in each of the four games. The Astros failed in their pursuit on Friday, and didn't get a run across until the bottom of the fourth.
It didn't matter, obviously, but it just goes to show how efficient the Houston lineup has been so far this October.
Shortstops make history
It's hard to believe, but Friday night marked the first time in postseason history that each team batted their shortstop cleanup. Yes, really.
Didi Gregorius and Carlos Correa make this the 1st postseason game in MLB history with both starting shortstops batting in the cleanup spot— James Smyth (@JamesSmyth621) October 13, 2017
Both are deserving. As such, expect Saturday's game to mark the second time in postseason history that each shortstop bats fourth.
Yankees DH continue to struggle
The Yankees made a change at DH on Friday, with Matt Holliday seeing his first action of the postseason. Joe Girardi was undoubtedly hoping Holliday could give the Yankees a spark at the DH position, which, thus far, hadn't provided much hitting.
Holliday did not. Instead, he went 0-for-3 with a strikeout, meaning that Yankees' DH are still without a hit through six postseason games:
Astros have good odds
Yes, it's an obvious notion, but the team that wins Game 1 has a real advantage in best-of-seven series. Consider the historical data. Per the WhoWins website, teams that have won the first game of a best-of-seven series in baseball have historically won the series 64.1 percent of the time. Further, the team with the home-field advantage that won Game 1 has won the series 67.3 percent of the time.
Game 2, then, is a pivotal one. Teams that have gone up 2-0 have won the series roughly 84 percent of the time. The Yankees wouldn't be down and out -- remember, they just came back from a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-five series -- but they'd be close to it.
Onto Game 2
The Astros will attempt to take a commanding 2-0 lead on Saturday afternoon. The Astros will start Justin Verlander. The Yankees will counter with Luis Severino. The action will get started at 4:08 p.m. ET.