Yankees 1, Astros 2: Correa’s walk off and Verlander’s gem sink the Yankees in Game Two

Um, yeah. Holy hell. What was that ending? Well, before that, the Yankee bats got completely owned by Justin Verlander for the entirety of nine innings. They did manage back-to-back doubles in the fourth to score a run but that was about it. After Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson put in a strong relief effort, the game unraveled in the ninth thanks to Jose Altuve’s extra-hustle and, uh, what Gary Sanchez did. Let’s not put the blame solely on Sanchez though. The lineup has not been… good. Not at all. Let’s recap this thing.

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Starting pitching duel part deux

It’s Severino vs. Verlander. I don’t know of any more possible matchups that could be as exciting. Two of the best fireballers in the baseball going at each other in a high-stakes playoff game. Inject it into my veins. And, of course the first few innings lived up to that hype. Both teams were scoreless for the first three innings. Luis Severino did not record any strikeouts but outs are outs. You can’t be too picky about them in the postseason.

In the third inning, the Yankees bats came close to getting the big hits but were befallen. With one out, Chase Headley got a fastball down low and middle and drove it towards the right field fence. Normally, maybe 8 out of 10 times, that’s a home run or a double. However, Josh Reddick had it played beautifully and robbed Headley of a big hit with a jump catch. A batter later, Brett Gardner pulled a line drive down the right field line. He got to second easily and it seemed like he had a legitimate chance to reach third. However, the Astros turned a great relay from outfield to infield to make it very close at the third base. Third base umpire initially called it safe. But… was it?

bandicam-2017-10-15-06-01-56-211

Nope. Again with the game of inches! Upon replay, the umpires determined that Alex Bregman just got Gardner. That was the third out and ended the frustrating half inning for the Yankee bats.

In the bottom of the fourth, just like yesterday, the Astros struck first. With one out, Carlos Correa hit a 99 mph fastball up and away from the zone over the right field fence. Look at the location here. The fact that he hit it squarely enough for a home run is nuts:

bandicam-2017-10-15-06-23-55-917

Or… did it actually go out? The ball bounced out of a kid’s glove right above the wall and the umpires decided to see if it’s a Jeffrey Maier situation. However, the ball was clearly going over the fence before it hit the kid’s glove. The umpires ruled it a home run and Astros took a 1-0 lead. I thought that Aaron Judge might have had a chance to make a leaping catch to rob it but he did not get back there in time – probably because that liner was scorched.

The Yankees got one back (a run!) the next inning. With two outs, Aaron Hicks squared up a 97 mph fastball up in the zone for a double. Todd Frazier followed it up with a deep flyball to left-center. In a normal ballpark, that very well could have been a home run, but instead, it got stuck in the fencing under the seats. I don’t know if that has ever happened before. The ball got stuck in there so neatly that you’d think that someone placed it by hand. The umpires ruled it a ground-rule double and that brought Hicks home for a 1-1 tie game.

Going into the bottom of the fifth, Yankees put in Tommy Kahnle to relieve Severino. Wait what? Sevy had thrown only 62 pitches but he was hit by Yulieski Gurriel’s comebacker in the fourth. If there’s any bright spot, he was hit on the non-throwing arm wrist. Also, prior to that, Girardi visited the mound after a pitch sailed way outside. Fortunately, Severino was only removed as a precaution. They would rather have him be 100% for the next start (if there is one). Also, because of the array of arms that they have in the ‘pen, it makes it easier to chew up innings while keeping the game close.

Kahnle took care of the fifth and sixth and Robertson got the seventh and eighth – and they were masterful. Both of them combined for a 4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB and 3 K performance to keep the game tied. Now, if only the bats could take advantage of the pitchers balling out.

However, besides that one run that they scored, the offense got manhandled by Justin Verlander. His fastball was classic Verlander, his slider and curve kept the hitters off balance all throughout the game, etc. In nine innings that he pitched today, he allowed only 5 hits, 1 earned run and struck out 13. While it’s remarkable that the Yankee pitchers were able to hold the powerful ‘Stros lineup to one run in the first eight innings of the game, it is very frustrating that the bat has scored only two in the first 17 innings of the series. That is not a good strategy – and they paid for it.

The bitter end

Because the Astros’ best hitters were coming up, Joe Girardi decided to put in Aroldis Chapman, who has, as you may have noticed, very good for about a month and half.

Chappy struck out Reddick rather swiftly. Against Altuve, aka the human hitting machine, he allowed a single on the first pitch 100 mph fastball because it’s Jose Freakin’ Altuve. There’s not a lot of things that you can do when the hitter is 15-for-27 in the postseason. Up came Correa, who had driven in the lone Astros run of the game. Correa hit a liner to right-center that Judge cut off and tried to take a chance to getting Reddick out at second. Meanwhile, Altuve was sprinting past third and going home. Didi Gregorius‘s throw to Sanchez looked like Altuve was going to be out by a mile. Take a look:

bandicam-2017-10-15-08-11-43-421

However, Sanchez could not handle the ball in time and as he tried to pick it up, Altuve slid past him to score the walk-off. I really thought he was dead meat when the throw came in but man, that was some brutal defense from Sanchez. I still believe his long-term future is at catching but that was not a good display.

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Leftovers

It is really hard to win when your 2, 3, 4, 5 hitters in the lineup (Judge, Gregorius, Sanchez and Bird) combine for a 1-for-15 effort with 5 strikeouts. We all talk about how bad Judge has looked this postseason (rightfully so) but Sanchez also looks lost against the Astros pitching. Today, he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and, of course, was involved in the game-ending play. Gotta think that it was the worst game of his career.

Here are the box score and video highlights. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs


Up Next

The Yankees are heading back to Bronx to host at least the Games 3 and 4 of the ALCS. The streak stopper CC Sabathia will be on the mound, trying to rescue the Yankees’ season, against Charlie Morton.

Update: Severino exits ALCS Game Two with shoulder injury

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

7:25pm ET: Following Game Two, Joe Girardi said Severino checked out fine. They were worried more about his shoulder than his hand following the comebacker. Severino didn’t want to come out of the game, but the Yankees pulled him anyway. “I feel great. I feel 100%,” he said after the game. He’s going for precautionary tests anyway.

5:53pm ET: Luis Severino left Game Two of the ALCS this afternoon with a possible injury. The trainer came out to talk to him in the fourth inning after he windmilled his arm and grabbed for the rosin bag, then, later in the inning, Severino was hit in the left wrist area by a hard comeback chopper. So who knows what exactly is wrong with him.

Throughout the start, Severino’s stuff look fine and there was no drop-off in velocity after the trainer came out to talk to him. I’m pretty sure it’s the wrist, though. I hope it is, anyway. The comebacker got him good and Severino grimaced. He was pretty clearly in pain. Severino threw 62 pitches in four innings before exiting the game.

If the injury is anything serious, a) aw crap, and b) the Yankees can replace Severino on the ALCS roster. If they do that though, he will not be eligible for the World Series roster should the Yankees advance. The Yankees have not yet announced an update on Severino, so stay tuned.

2017 ALCS Game Two: Yankees at Astros

2017-alcs-logoOnce again, the Yankees are down 0-1 in a postseason series. They’ve lost Game One in each of their last three postseason series, you know. They were swept by the Tigers in the 2012 ALCS, but did come back to win the ALDS against the Indians this year. Dating back to the 1996 World Series, the Yankees have lost Game One of a postseason series 14 times. They’re 10-4 in those series.

That’s not to make light of last night’s loss, of course. Losing Game One stinks. Historically, the team that wins Game One of a best-of-seven has gone on to win the series 64.1% of the time. It’s just a reminder that hey, losses happen, and dropping Game One of the series doesn’t mean it’s over. The Yankees were thoroughly dominated by Dallas Keuchel and the Astros still needed 37 pitches from their closer to nail down the 2-1 win.

This afternoon the Yankees will have Luis Severino, their best starting pitcher, on the mound to try to even up the series. The Astros blasted Severino when they faced him back in May. They also blasted Masahiro Tanaka literally the same day as part of a doubleheader, but that didn’t mean much last night. The bullpen is rested and ready to go. The Yankees may only need five from Severino. Hopefully he gives them more. Here are the starting lineups:

New York Yankees
1. LF Brett Gardner
2. RF Aaron Judge
3. SS Didi Gregorius
4. C Gary Sanchez
5. 1B Greg Bird
6. 2B Starlin Castro
7. CF Aaron Hicks
8. 3B Todd Frazier
9. DH Chase Headley
RHP Luis Severino

Houston Astros
1. CF George Springer
2. RF Josh Reddick
3. 2B Jose Altuve
4. SS Carlos Correa
5. LF Marwin Gonzalez
6. 1B Yulieski Gurriel
7. DH Carlos Beltran
8. 3B Alex Bregman
9. C Brian McCann
RHP Justin Verlander

It is another hot and sunny day in Houston. The Minute Maid Park roof will be closed again. Game Two will begin at 4pm ET and FOX will have the broadcast. That’s regular old FOX. Not FOX Sports 1. Enjoy.

Scouting Game Two of the ALCS: Justin Verlander

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Last night, in Game One of the ALCS, the Yankees were unable to solve Dallas Keuchel en route to 2-1 loss. The good news: the Yankees were overwhelmed by Keuchel and still made it a very close game. The bad news: the Yankees lost and are now down 0-1 in the ALCS. I know they came back from down 0-2 against the Indians, but they don’t want to make a habit of having to come back in series.

On the mound for the Astros in Game Two this afternoon will be former Tigers ace Justin Verlander, who came over in an August 31st trade, literally minutes before the deadline to add players and have them be postseason eligible. Overall, Verlander had a 3.36 ERA (3.84 FIP) in 206 innings this season, including a 1.06 ERA (2.09 FIP) in five starts and 34 innings with Houston. His strikeout (25.8%), walk (8.5%), and grounder (33.5%) rates were typical Verlander. He’s always been a weak fly ball/pop-up guy. Not a ground ball pitcher.

Verlander is starting Game Two of the ALCS rather than Game One because he came out of the bullpen in Game Four of the ALDS on Monday. It was his first career relief appearance. He never pitched out of the bullpen in college or the minors. Verlander threw 40 pitches in 2.2 innings in that relief appearance, and will be on regular rest this afternoon. Let’s take a look at the former Cy Young winner, shall we?

History Against The Yankees

Verlander has been around a while and he has a history with most of the Yankees, though, weirdly, he did not face them at all this season. The Yankees missed him during both regular season series against the Tigers, and by time he was traded to Houston, the Yankees were already done playing the Astros.

The Yankees faced Verlander in the 2006 ALDS, the 2011 ALDS, and the 2012 ALCS. He allowed nine runs in 22.2 total innings those series. And of course that means nothing now, because he’s facing the 2017 Yankees, not the 2006 or 2011 or 2012 Yankees. Here is what New York’s hitters have done against Verlander the last three seasons:

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Todd Frazier 14 14 4 0 0 2 2 0 5 .286 .286 .714 1.000
Brett Gardner 7 7 4 0 0 1 2 0 1 .571 .571 1.000 1.571
Didi Gregorius 6 5 2 1 0 1 1 1 1 .400 .500 1.200 1.700
Chase Headley 6 6 2 0 1 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .667 1.000
Starlin Castro 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000
Jacoby Ellsbury 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333
Aaron Hicks 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Total 42 40 12 1 1 4 5 2 9 .300 .333 .675 1.008

Huh. Well how about that. Verlander has only faced seven Yankees currently on the ALCS roster within the last three years. He’s never faced Aaron Judge or Gary Sanchez. The head-to-head numbers in the table are pretty top heavy — all of the success is tied up in four players — but that’s fine. If nothing else, maybe the recent history makes the Yankees feel more confident going into Game Two tonight.

In his Game One start against the Red Sox, Verlander allowed two runs on six hits and two walks in six innings, striking out three. A good performance but not a dominant performance. He did allow a two-run home run in his 2.2 innings relief appearance in Game Four. Weirdly, he walked two and did not strike out a batter in that game.

Current Stuff

A few years ago it looked like Verlander was losing it. His fastball was trending down and after years of throwing 220+ innings a season, it was understandable. It happens to everyone. Then Verlander’s stuff bounced back — his velocity isn’t all the way back, but it is close — and he went back to being a bonafide ace. Go figure.

Here is Verlander’s average velocity over the years, via Brooks Baseball. It’s not often you see a pitcher over 30 lose velocity, then regain it all of a sudden. At least not without there being an injury involved.

justin-verlander-velocityThese days Verlander’s fastball will sit in the 94-97 mph range and touch 99 mph. His days of hitting 100 mph each and every time out are pretty much over, though 99 mph is still plenty good. And besides, with postseason adrenaline, I wouldn’t be surprised to see 100 mph at some point today. Verlander’s secondary stuff is as good as ever. He still has that great overhand curveball, as well as a quality slider and changeup. Even at age 34, Verlander still brings some of the best raw stuff in baseball to the mound.

Here, via Brooks Baseball, is Verlander’s pitch selection against righties and lefties:

justin-verlander-pitch-selection

When you throw in the mid-to-upper-90s for 100+ pitches a game, why not lean on your fastball? Verlander sure does. Also, the fact Verlander has two quality breaking balls makes it awfully tough to zero in at the plate. You can’t go up there and sit fastball-slider as a righty or fastball-changeup as a lefty. The curveball is an equalizer. He can and will use it at pretty much any time.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve seen Verlander before, so perhaps embedding a video is a waste of time. I’m going to do it anyway. Here is every pitch from Verlander’s Opening Day start against the White Sox. He allowed two runs in 6.2 innings.

It seems counterintuitive, because you want to get his pitch count up as quickly as possible, but being aggressive and swinging early in the count is a good strategy against Verlander. He throws a ton of fastballs early in the count, and you don’t want to fall behind and have to deal with that nasty breaking stuff. Plus you know Verlander is going to end up throwing 100-something pitches and getting the ball into the sixth inning away. If he throws a fastball over the plate on the first or second pitch, swing away. You might not get anything to hit otherwise.

Platoon Splits

For the first time in a very long time, Verlander had a platoon split this season. From 2011-16, a stretch of nearly 1,300 innings, Verlander had a reverse split. He was better against lefties than righties. This year, lefties had more success than righties. The numbers:

2011-16 vs. RHB: .246/.295/.387 (.299 wOBA) with 22.2 K%, 5.5 BB%, 39.6 GB%
2011-16 vs. LHB: .209/.273/.339 (.271 wOBA) with 25.0 K%, 7.7 BB%, 37.5 GB%

2017 vs. RHB: .221/.277/.337 (.267 wOBA) with 23.4 K%, 6.8 BB%, 35.2 GB%
2017 vs. LHB: .219/.304/.408 (.304 wOBA) with 28.4 K%, 10.4 BB%, 31.3 GB%

Fundamentally, Verlander is the same pitcher this year as the last few years. Yeah, he’s lost a little velocity and maybe some movement as well due to normal age-related decline, but there is no glaring reason that would explain the sudden platoon split. It’s not like his changeup suddenly went from great to terrible. I suspect this is a one-year blip and sample size noise more than an actual change to Verlander’s skills.

Can The Yankees Run On Him?

Yes indeed. Not only do the Astros have terrible throwing catchers, but runners also went 9-for-10 stealing bases against Verlander during the regular season. All while he was with the Tigers, weirdly. No one tried to steal against him following the trade to Houston. Verlander has a history of allowing stolen bases because he’s a big guy with a slower than usual delivery to the plate, even from the stretch. The Yankees can and should run against him.

* * *

This is not the Cy Young and MVP winning Justin Verlander of old. He’s still very, very good though. Verlander, as always, will be a difficult assignment. He is not going to get serious Hall of Fame consideration by accident. If he gives you a fastball in the zone, you better hit it, because his secondary pitches are damn near untouchable.

Thoughts prior to Game Two of the 2017 ALCS

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Last night the Yankees opened the ALCS with a Game One loss (again) to Dallas Keuchel (again). Keuchel’s annoying, isn’t he? He’s the new Cliff Lee, who was the new Chuck Finley. The Yankees will look to even the series at a game apiece this afternoon. This group is pretty resilient. They’ve bounced back from tough losses all year. That didn’t even feel like a tough loss last night anyway, did it? Not to me. Whatever. Here are some thoughts.

1. Joe Girardi learned from the non-challenge fiasco in Game Two of the ALDS! Following the game last night, Girardi said the Yankees thought Greg Bird was out on the play at the plate, but he decided to challenge it anyway. His exact quote: “Well, we thought he was out. But God knows I’m not doing that again.” By “that again” he means not challenging a big play. Just because replay guy Brett Weber may not see enough evidence to overturn something doesn’t mean the replay crew in New York will see it the same way. To paraphrase Wayne Gretzky, 100% of the calls you don’t challenge don’t get overturned. Bird getting thrown out was a huge play in the game. To wit:

  • Bird is thrown out: 15.7% win probability for the Yankees
  • Bird is called safe: 32.1% win probability for the Yankees

Big swing! It’s not just that the run scores, remember. The run scores and the inning continues with two men on base for Gary Sanchez, who was seeing Keuchel for the third time. The challenge didn’t work, but I’m glad Girardi asked for the review. This is the kind of challenge I’ve been hoping to see more of over the years. It’s a bang-bang play that could go either way and have a big impact on the game. And if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. There’s no bonus points for unused challenges. Shoot your shot.

2. The Yankees pitched the Astros very well in Game One. Masahiro Tanaka did not have his Grade-A splitter, yet he still held Houston to four singles in six innings, three of which bounced before passing the pitcher’s mound. The ‘Stros have a great lineup and the Yankees held them to two runs on six singles and one walk in the game. Continue to do that and things will be just fine the rest of the series. As a team, the Yankees have a 3.09 ERA (3.23 FIP) in the postseason so far. Aside from Game Two of the ALDS, which was a disaster for multiple reasons, they’ve held the Indians and Astros to no more than six hits in their five meetings. That’ll work. The pitching has been phenomenal in the postseason so far, even with Luis Severino‘s dud in the Wild Card Game and Sonny Gray‘s dud in Game One of the ALDS. I feel like this is not being talked about enough. The pitching staff has been on point.

3. Good to see Chad Green get back into a game and look like regular season Chad Green last night. He gave up the grand slam to Francisco Lindor in Game Two of the ALDS and hadn’t been heard from since. It seemed like he earned a temporary demotion out of the Circle of Trustâ„¢. And, given how flat his stuff looked in that Game Two meltdown, it was fair to wonder whether he hit a wall after appearing in so many games and throwing so many high-leverage innings this year. Green had six days off between appearances and it seems to have served him well. He was throwing fire and missing bats last night. That’s huge. A back-to-normal Chad Green makes the Yankees that much more dangerous, especially since these two teams will play three games in three days next week. Girardi won’t be able to ride David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman as much those days, so someone else will have to pick up the slack. Green will be one of those someones.

The DH situation in picture form. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
The DH situation in picture form. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

4. Seriously, what in the world are the Yankees going to do at DH? Matt Holliday returned to the lineup last night and went 0-for-3 on seven pitches. Jacoby Ellsbury pinch-hit for him in a one-run game in the ninth inning, which I don’t understand at all. At least Holliday has a chance to run into a fastball and hit a game-tying home run. He did it against Craig Kimbrel right after the All-Star break. Remember that? Holliday also took a right-hander deep in the regular season finale. Holliday’s upside there is a game-tying homer. Ellsbury’s upside is … a catcher interference? Anyway, including last night, the DH spot is now an unfathomable 0-for-24 with three walks and nine strikeouts in the postseason. (And one catcher interference.) It’s not like these guys are hitting into bad luck. The at-bats aren’t all that competitive. There’s a decent chance the best DH candidates right now are Tyler Austin, Clint Frazier, and Miguel Andujar, but none of them are on the ALCS roster. Do the Yankees keep running Holliday and Ellsbury and Chase Headley out there and hope one of them finds it? What about Ronald Torreyes? Do you consider him at some point? Torreyes might be worth a try. Oh geez, I can’t believe I just said that. I know one thing for sure: the Yankees are going to have a very hard time advancing if this whole Designated Out-Maker thing continues. The Astros are too good.

5. A #thingtowatch in Game Two: Severino’s fastball against the Astros. They’re a great fastball hitting team. During the regular season they hit .281 (5th in MLB) with a .229 ISO (4th in MLB) against four-seam fastballs. They crush fastballs. (The league averages were a .269 AVG and a.155 ISO against four-seamers in 2017.) I get the sense Severino is going to rely on his slider quite a bit this afternoon. This isn’t the kind of team you can beat with the heater only. And with Robertson and Chapman ready to go (and Tommy Kahnle too), presumably for more than one inning each, the Yankees might only need Severino to go through the lineup twice. Hopefully he dominates and it’s not a problem. But just watch the Astros and how they handle Severino’s fastball. We might see more foul balls and comfortable swings against the pitch than usual because they’re such a good fastball hitting team.

6. Is it weird that I think (hope?) the Yankees will have more success against Justin Verlander in Game Two than they did against Keuchel in Game One because he’s more conventional? Don’t get me wrong, Verlander is still very good. But Keuchel is an outlier in today’s game. He’s a finesse pitcher who doesn’t crack 90 mph with his fastball all that often. Keuchel succeeds by pounding the bottom of the zone with pitches that cut, sink, fade, you name it. Verlander is a more conventional mid-90s fastball guy with a nasty breaking ball. The Yankees just finished a series with the Indians, who have a rotation full of Verlander types. That’s what they’re used to seeing. Not finesse pitchers like Keuchel. Hopefully the return to normalcy (so to speak) leads to more success for the offense today.

Yankees 1, Astros 2: Keuchel quiets the Yankees in Game 1

Oh well, a loss happens. Dallas Keuchel, who has a very well-documented history of dominating the Yankee lineup, did it again tonight, going 7 scoreless while striking out 10 on the way. On the other side of the mound, Masahiro Tanaka shrugged off his road woes to give the Yankees a chance to win. Greg Bird finally gave New York a run in the top of the 9th but it was not enough and too late. Astros won the Game 1 2-1 and the Yankees will look to bounce back tomorrow versus Justin Verlander. Let’s recap this thing.

(Pool/Getty Images)
(Pool/Getty Images)

The pitching duel

In the postseason where the bullpen usage has dominated headlines, tonight was very much about the starting pitching. Keuchel and Tanaka both displayed what they can do. Masahiro didn’t even really display his splitter – which worked so effectively against the Indians – yet he came away with a solid outing. In fact, he did not allow a hit for the first 3.1 innings. It seemed like the battle of who blinks first and it turned out to be the Yankees.

Well, New York came maybe a few feet of air away from scoring two in the top of the fourth. With two outs, Starlin Castro reached on base with a soft single to left. Aaron Hicks got a fastball up the middle and drove it deep to center. It looked like it had a decent chance to be a home run but the ball died right in front of the 409 feet center field wall. Gah. Maybe a tick or two higher launch angle or different direction and that ball’s outta here. A 2-0 lead would have been very gratifying especially against Keuchel. Instead, the Astros struck the next inning.

Jose Altuve’s feet manufactured the first run for the Astros. With one out, Altuve hit a grounder up the middle and beat out Castro’s throw for an infield single. During Carlos Correa’s at-bat, Altuve stole second to put himself in scoring position. It wasn’t even a bad throw from Sanchez either. Altuve got a great jump and simply used his speed to reach safely. The Astros shortstop promptly followed it up with an RBI single to left to cash in a run for Houston. It was a slider that hung up on the zone and easy contact for a talented hitter like Correa. Marwin Gonzalez’s groundout pushed Correa to the second base with two outs. Yulieski Gurriel tacked on another run for the Astros with an RBI single up the middle. With Dallas Keuchel on the other side of the rubber, 2-0 Astros lead seemed like a mighty order to top.

(Elsa/Getty Images)
(Elsa/Getty Images)

A 2-0 deficit  becomes more insurmountable when the team becomes unlucky in the game of inches. In the top of the fifth, the Yankees had two runners on with a Greg Bird single and Matt Holliday reaching on base on an Altuve error. After Todd Frazier lined out and Brett Gardner struck out, it was up to Aaron Judge to make something happen. He got a hold of a slider in the strike zone to line a base hit to the leftfielder Marwin Gonzalez.

At the moment that Gonzalez released the ball on the throw to the plate, Bird had just rounded third base and it seemed like he had a good chance to score. However, 1) Greg Bird isn’t really fast 2) Marwin Gonzalez threw that ball really hard at 97.4 mph. As a result, Bird was tagged out by Brian McCann as his foot was about to slide into the plate. I would not pin that on third base Joe Espada. Bird was well on his way home as Gonzalez was releasing the ball, which is like a runner tagging up way before the throw during the sacrifice fly. Take a look:
bandicam-2017-10-14-10-50-12-244

Again, stupid game of inches. Would have been nice to score a run and get the rally going in that inning but that’s not how it went. Such is baseball. Another annoying thing happened in the top of the sixth when Didi Gregorius hit a blooper that headed towards the left field line… and was just foul. It could have placed a runner on the scoring position with one out but instead, Gregorius ended up striking out. It was close:

bandicam-2017-10-14-11-09-07-564

Tanaka threw a good start. 2 runs allowed in 6 innings of work against the fine-tuned machine that is the Astros lineup is more than enough. Just so happens that Keuchel is a postseason beast that also happens to own New York. The Yankees will have to win the series in spite of him.

The bullpen portion

After Tanaka, Girardi put in Chad Green to keep the game close for the Yankees. It was his first appearance since the ALDS Game 2 disaster and boy, he rebounded well tonight. In two innings, Green struck out two and allowed only two baserunners. I have a feeling that he might be coming out of the ‘pen more frequently this series than in the ALDS. Tonight’s outing certainly helped making his case for more appearances.

On the Astros side, Chris Devenski relieved Keuchel to start the eighth inning. As Gardner walked with one out, A.J. Hinch brought in the closer Ken Giles for a five-out save. Giles threw 38 pitches, which makes you wonder if he will be available at all tomorrow. Even if he will be, he’ll probably be limited to an inning. With two outs in the top of the ninth, it looked like the Yankees will be shut out but Greg Bird denied it. On the third pitch of his at-bat, Bird squared up on Giles’ 98 mph fastball up in the zone into the right field seats for a 399-footer. It was a classic lefty pull power swing and a beauty. I can watch this gif over and over for awhile.

bird

Unfortunately, the time for the Yankees to rally was pretty much at minimum. Jacoby Ellsbury, pinch-hitting for Matt Holliday, struck out in four pitches to end the game. 2-1 Astros was the final score.

Box score, updated standings, video highlights and WPA

Here is tonight’s box score from ESPN, video highlights from MLB.com and WPA chart from Fangraphs.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees are back at it again at the Minute Maid Park tomorrow on 4 pm EST for the Game 2 of the ALCS. Luis Severino will be on the mound against Justin Verlander – two of the league’s best fireballers! Should be a fun one to watch (or gut-wrenching, depends on how tense you feel).

2017 ALCS Game One: Yankees at Astros

2017-alcs-logoI gotta say, I did not expect the Yankees to reach the ALCS after they fell behind 0-2 to the Indians in the ALDS, but here we are. Here they are, really. I didn’t do anything other than blog about it. Four more wins and this lovable squad of great young players and quality veterans will advance to the World Series. This is the first time the Yankees have been underdogs since 1996. It’s been fun.

Of course, winning the ALCS and getting to the World Series will be no picnic, the same way winning the ALDS wasn’t easy. It only gets harder to win each time you advance. The Astros, who won 101 games during the regular season, completely depantsed the Red Sox in the ALDS and showed off their high-powered offense. Here’s how long it took Houston to take the lead in the four ALDS games:

  • Game One: Five batters, including the three Red Sox batters in the top of the first.
  • Game Two: Nine batters, including the five Red Sox batters in the top of the first.
  • Game Three: Three batters.
  • Game Four: Four batters.

Yeah. The Astros are good. But so are the Yankees! They wouldn’t be here if they weren’t. Historically, the team that wins Game One of a best-of-seven series goes on to win the series 64.1% of the time. Then again, we all read about how rare it is for a team to come back from down 0-2 in a best-of-five series last round, and the Yankees are still standing. But seriously, win Game One and start the ALCS off on the right foot. Here are the lineups:

New York Yankees
1. LF Brett Gardner
2. RF Aaron Judge
3. C Gary Sanchez
4. SS Didi Gregorius
5. 2B Starlin Castro
6. CF Aaron Hicks
7. 1B Greg Bird
8. DH Matt Holliday
9. 3B Todd Frazier
RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Houston Astros
1. CF George Springer
2. RF Josh Reddick
3. 2B Jose Altuve
4. SS Carlos Correa
5. LF Marwin Gonzalez
6. 1B Yulieski Gurriel
7. CF Carlos Beltran
8. DH Alex Bregman
9. C Brian McCann
LHP Dallas Keuchel

It is hot in Houston today. It’s still like the middle of summer down there. Fortunately for everyone at Minute Maid Park, the roof will be closed and the air conditioning will be on. Tonight’s game will begin at 8pm ET and FOX Sports 1 will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.