Astros vs. Yankees score: Houston wins ALCS Game 1 behind Justin Verlander, home runs from unexpected sources

Astros vs. Yankees score: Houston wins ALCS Game 1 behind Justin Verlander, home runs from unexpected sources

The Houston Astros defeated the New York Yankees, 4-2, in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday night. The Astros lead the best of seven series 1-0, which means they are three games away from earning a World Series ticket for the fourth time since 2017.

The Astros fell behind in the second inning, as Harrison Bader delivered his fourth homer in his sixth postseason game this fall, throwing a solo shot against Justin Verlander. Houston would even things up in the bottom half of the inning. Backstop Martín Maldonado threw an opposite-field brace that tackled Chas McCormick.

Both teams traded zeros until the sixth inning. That’s when first baseman Yuli Gurriel hit a home run into left field to give Houston a 2-1 lead. The aforementioned McCormick would hit his own solo home run a few batters later, increasing the lead to 3-1. Another home run, this time from Jeremy Peña in the seventh, made it 4-1.

The Yankees would get a comeback in the eighth on a solo shot from Anthony Rizzo, cutting the lead to 4-2. The Yankees would threaten more in the eighth, putting the tying run first with two outs. The scoreline stayed the same through the Finals, sealing the deal for the Astros.

Here are six things you need to know about the Astros’ Game 1 win.

1. Verlander launches a gem, makes history

The Astros owe much of their victory to ace Justin Verlander. The AL Cy Young Award favorite struggled in his first playoff start against the Seattle Mariners. He course-corrected Wednesday, limiting the Yankees to one run in six innings of work. Verlander allowed three hits, one walk and one hit per pitch, he struck out 11 on 103 pitches.

As noted by ESPN Stats and Info, Verlander became the all-time playoff leader in strikeouts, passing Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw early in the night:

Verlander’s 11 strikeouts are tied for the second most he’s recorded in a single postseason game. His career high remains the 13 he batted against the Yankees in the 2017 ALCS. It’s the fifth time he’s pulled off 11, and the second time he’s done so against New York. (To be fair, Verlander has now made nine playoff starts against the Yankees, giving him ample opportunity to accomplish the feat.)

Verlander threw three pitches more than 20 times on Wednesday: his fastball, slider and curveball. He generated a record 17 swing strikes, generating at least four on each of those three pitches, and eight on his slider alone.

In so many words, Verlander didn’t look like someone who had arguably written the worst start to his playoff career last time out.

2. Taillon keeps the Yankees in the game

Yankees right-hander Jameson Taillon by no means had a performance like Verlander’s. He did, however, keep the game close, meaning he exceeded the modest expectations placed on him against the much-vaunted Astros lineup.

Taillon pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowing one run on four hits and three walks. He didn’t hit anyone on 67 pitches. Taillon’s line looked almost worse, as manager Aaron Boone retired him in fifth after giving up a brace. Reliever Clarke Schmidt, who would eventually produce two homers, loaded the bases with back-to-back walks (one intentional) before generating a double-play pivot ball.

Regardless of what happened with Schmidt in the next inning, the Yankees likely would have signed up for Taillon facing 20 batters and gone out with the even score.

3. Astros get home runs from unlikely sources

When people think of the big power threats in the Astros lineup, they think of Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker and maybe even Jose Altuve or Alex Bregman. They’re probably not thinking about the three who threw solo shots in Game 1: Gurriel, McCormick and Peña. It’s for good reason.

Indeed, Gurriel finished the regular season with eight home runs in 584 homers, or one for every 73 homers. McCormick and Peña were much better at that, homers between 25 and 29 trips to home plate.

Additionally, Gurriel had been in the midst of a long power shortage heading into the playoffs. After hitting his seventh home run of the year on July 1, he has only hit once more in his last 76 games. Naturally, Gurriel has since homered twice in his first four playoff games, which goes to show you can’t predict baseball.

4. The judge makes a huge catch

It ultimately didn’t matter, not really, but Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge arguably made his best catch of the season statistically early on. Bregman hit a ball right, center-right with two runners on base and one out. It looked like Bregman was going to have extra bases, but Judge laid out and made the grab.

You can click here to learn more about what made the catch so rare and special.

5. What history says about Game 1 win

It should come as no surprise, but winning the first game usually bodes well for the winner’s chances of winning the entire series. According to the website, Major League Baseball clubs that have won the first game of a best-of-seven set have historically won 64.3% of those series.

6. What’s next

The Yankees and Astros will continue the ALCS with Game 2 on Thursday night. The Yankees should start Luis Severino while the Astros will counter with Framber Valdez. The first pitch is scheduled for 7:37 p.m. ET and the game will be broadcast on TBS. The Astros will look to build a 2-0 series lead.

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