The Astros and the Yankees played a thriller Friday night, with the Astros getting the 2-0 win to take a 1-0 ALCS lead. The Astros’ runs came in the fourth inning thanks to Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel. The lone Yankee run came on a two-out ninth-inning home run by Greg Bird. The pitching performances were stellar, the defensive play was excellent, and the Astros did all of the hustle stuff and didn’t need to rely on home runs to win the game.
DALLAS KEUCHEL: Keuchel pitched the type of masterpiece expected by staff aces. He struck out ten Yankees while giving up just four hits and no runs. This was the Keuchel from the beginning of the season, and it was the Keuchel that the fans got used to seeing in 2015 when he won the Cy Young. The Astros bullpen is not as strong as the Yankee bullpen, so the Astros are going to need their starters to perform like this every night.
MARWIN GONZALEZ: There were two outs in the top of the fifth inning with two Yankee runners on base. The Astros had just grabbed the lead in the bottom of the fourth, but New York was threatening to regain the momentum. Aaron Judge slammed a sharp shot to left field, which Gonzalez fielded on the run. Charging toward home plate was runner Greg Bird. Gonzalez threw a perfect strike to the plate, the ball beating Bird as catcher Brian McCann applied the tag for the out to end the inning.
JOSE ALTUVE: Altuve was the offensive star of the game. He was three-for-four for the night (accounting for three of Houston’s six hits). He got the first hit of the night for the Astros, and he scored the team’s first run.
GREG BIRD: the Yankees offense was essentially provided by Bird. He got two of the Yankees’ five hits for the night, and it was his ninth-inning home run that accounted for New York’s lone run of the game. Bird was also the one who attempted to jumpstart the Yankees in the fifth inning, leading off with a hit before being nailed at the plate trying to score.
THE DFAS (Designated for Assignment)
DIDI GREGORIUS: The Yankees star shortstop, and one of the key players in New York’s series win over Cleveland. But on Friday night he was zero-for-four from the plate with two strikeouts while leaving two runners on base. And seeing how Gregorius is the team’s cleanup batter, it is really vital to the Yankees’ chances that he find some way to generate offense.
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GARY SANCHEZ: The New York catcher was useless at the plate. He went for zero-for-three in his plate appearances. He also struck out three times.
NEW YORK YANKEES OFFENSE: The Yankees managed just five hits off of Keuchel and the bullpen. There was a runner thrown out at the plate. The team struck out a total of 14 times, and somehow 12 Yankee batters were stranded on base. When Dallas Keuchel is at the top of his game, he’s hard to hit, and Keuchel was hard to hit Friday night. Yet the Yankees were able to get runners on base; they just couldn’t execute when it really mattered.
ASTROS FANS: It was announced on Friday that game time for games four and five of the ALCS will be at 4 p.m. Central Time. Thus, just as with the ALDS with Boston, most of this series will be played during the afternoon. This will continue to make it difficult for Astros fans to watch the games — luckily these games are in New York, so it should not really harm the chances of Astros fans to actually attend games. But at some point, one hopes, MLB and Fox will stop treating the Astros as the stepkids that get shoved in the closet.
Game Two of the ALCS is Saturday afternoon just after 3 p.m. — the Dodgers and the Cubs get to occupy the Saturday night primetime spot — on Fox. Justin Verlander, last seen coming out of the bullpen against the Red Sox on Monday, gets the start against New York’s Luis Severino.