The Houston Astros defeated the New York Yankees, 4-2, in Game One of the MLS Series on Wednesday night. The Astros lead their best of seven streak 1-0, which means they are three games away from winning a ticket to the World Championship for the fourth time since 2017.
The Astros were late in the second half, with Harrison Bader throwing a fourth home run in his sixth post-season game this fall, firing a solo shot against Justin Verlander. Houston was tying things up in the lower half of the inning. Backstop Martín Maldonado fired a double into the opposite field painting Chas McCormick.
The two sides exchange zeros until the sixth inning. That’s when first baseman Yuli Gouriel hit a home run to put Houston ahead 2-1. The aforementioned McCormick would hit his solo home run after a few strokes, building the lead up to 3-1. Another home run, this time from Jeremy Peña in the seventh, made it 4-1.
The Yankees would have a comeback in eighth with Anthony Rizzo’s solo shot, narrowing the difference to 4-2. The Yankees would threaten more in eighth place, with a tie initially set with two naysayers. The score remained the same until the final, however, sealing the Astros deal.
Here are six things you need to know about the Astros winning Game 1.
1. Verlander throws gems, makes history
The Astros owe much of their victory to Justin Verlander. The front-runner AL Cy Young struggled on his first start this post-season against the Seattle Mariners. He corrected his course on Wednesday, making the Yankees run in six rounds of action. Verlander threw three hits, one walk, and one hitter on the court, hitting 11 hitters in 103 throws.
As noted by ESPN Stats and Info, Verlander became the all-time post-season leader in hits, surpassing left Dodgers Clayton Kershaw early in the night:
Verlander’s 11 hits tied, the second most he’s scored in a single game after the season. His career high remains the number 13 he hit against the Yankees at the 2017 ALCS. This is the fifth time he has hit 11 games, and the second time he has done so against New York. (To be fair, Verlander has now made nine post-season games against the Yankees, giving him ample opportunity to accomplish this feat.)
Verlander threw three pitches more than 20 times on Wednesday: his fastball, the pass chute, and the curveball. He generated 17 swing highs in the game, creating at least four on each of those three pitches, and eight on the slider alone.
In many words, Verlander didn’t sound like someone who composed the worst post-season start of his career the last time around.
2. Taillon keeps the Yankees in the game
Yankees right-back Jameson Tylon wasn’t in any way like Verlander’s. However, he kept the match close, meaning that he exceeded the modest expectations placed upon him in the face of an amazing Astros lineup.
Taillon threw 4 1/3 innings, surrendering one run with four strokes and three walks. He didn’t hit anyone in 67 throws. Taillon’s streak looked almost worse, with manager Aaron Boone removing him in fifth after he succumbed to the double. Loyal Clark Schmidt, who would eventually score twice on home soil, loaded the bases with consecutive runs (one deliberate) before creating a pivotal double play ball.
Regardless of what happens with Schmidt in the next inning, the Yankees likely signed up for Taillon with a 20-man showdown and a tied exit.
3. Astros receive 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 probably don’t think of the three who shot single shots in game 1: Gurriel, McCormick and Peña. This is for good reason.
In fact, Gurriel finished the regular season with eight home runs in 584 trips to the board, or one every 73 board appearances. McCormick and Peña were much better in this regard, staying between every 25 and 29 trips to the board.
What’s more, Gurriel was in the midst of a long power drought heading into the playoffs. After notching his seventh home goal of the year on July 1, he has only made a comeback in his last 76 games. Naturally, Gurriel has since fired two home runs in his first four playoffs, showing that you can’t predict baseball.
4. The judge makes a huge catch
It didn’t matter, not really, but Yankees quarterback Aaron Judge did his best of the season from a statistical perspective early on. Bergman hit a ball to the right, center right with two runners at the base and one out. It looked as if Bregman would have extra rules, and yet the judge set himself up and caught him.
5. What does history say about winning game 1
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but winning Game 1 usually bodes well for the victor’s chances of winning the entire series. According to WhoWins.comMajor baseball clubs that have won the first game out of a best-of-seven group have historically won 64.3 percent of that series.
6. What’s next?
The Yankees and Astros will continue in the ALCS with Game 2 Thursday night. The Yankees are expected to start with Luis Severino while the Astros compete with Framber Valdez. The first pitch is set at 7:37 PM ET and the match will be broadcast on TBS. The Astros will try to build a 2-0 lead in the series.
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