Astros vs. Yankees score: Houston takes ALCS Game 1 behind Justin Verlander, homers from unlikely sources – CBS Sports

Astros vs. Yankees score: Houston takes ALCS Game 1 behind Justin Verlander, homers from unlikely sources - CBS Sports

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, meaning they are three games away from punching a ticket to the World Series for the fourth time since 2017.

The Astros trailed in the second inning when Harrison Bader hit his fourth home run in his sixth postseason game this fall, launching a solo shot against Justin Verlander. Houston would tie things up in the bottom half of the inning. Backstop Martín Maldonado launched an opposite field double that plated Chas McCormick.

The two sides would trade zeroes until the sixth inning. That’s when first baseman Yuli Gurriel hit a home run to left field to put Houston up 2-1. The aforementioned McCormick would hit his own solo home run a few batters later, building the lead to 3-1. Another home run, this time by Jeremy Peña in the seventh, made it 4-1.

The Yankees would get a run back in the eighth on an Anthony Rizzo solo shot, cutting the lead to 4-2. The Yankees would threaten further in the eighth, putting the tying run on first with two outs. The score remained the same until the final out, however, sealing the deal for the Astros.

Here are six things you need to know about the Astros’ No. 1 win.

1. Verlander throws gem, makes history

The Astros owe much of their victory to ace Justin Verlander. The front-runner for the AL Cy Young Award struggled in his first start this postseason against the Seattle Mariners. He course-corrected Wednesday, holding the Yankees to one run over six innings of work. Verlander gave up three hits, one walk, and one hit by a pitch, he struck out 11 batters in 103 pitches.

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

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

Verlander threw three pitches 20-plus times Wednesday: his fastball, slider and curveball. He generated a game-high 17 swinging 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 authored arguably the worst postseason start of his career last time out.

2. Taillon keeps the Yankees in the game

Yankees right-hander Jameson Taillon did not have a Verlander-like performance by any means. He kept the game close, though, and that meant he exceeded the modest expectations placed on him facing the vaunted Astros lineup.

Taillon pitched 4 1/3 innings, surrendering one run on four hits and three walks. He didn’t strike out anyone in 67 pitches. Taillon’s line almost looked worse when manager Aaron Boone removed him in the fifth after he surrendered a double. Reliever Clarke Schmidt, who would later hit two home runs, loaded the bases with back-to-back walks (one intentional) before generating a pivotal double play ball.

Regardless of what happened with Schmidt in the later innings, the Yankees would likely sign for Taillon facing 20 batters and coming out with a tied 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 probably aren’t thinking about the three who fired solo shots in Game 1: Gurriel, McCormick and Peña. That’s for good reason.

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

In addition, Gurriel was in the midst of a long power drought heading into the playoffs. After hitting his seventh home run of the year on July 1, he only homered once more over his final 76 games. Of course, Gurriel has since hit two home runs in his first four playoff games, showing that you can’t predict baseball.

4. Judge makes a huge catch

It didn’t end up mattering, not really, but Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge made arguably his best catch of the season from a statistical perspective early on. Bregman hit a ball to right, right-center with two runners on base and one out. It looked like Bregman would have extra bases, but Judge settled and made the catch.

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

5. What history says about winning Game 1

It should come as no surprise, but winning Game 1 usually bodes well for the winner’s chances of winning the entire series. According to the websiteMajor League Baseball clubs that have won Game 1 of a best-of-seven series have historically gone on to win 64.3 percent of those series.

6. What follows

The Yankees and Astros will continue the ALCS with Game 2 on Thursday night. The Yankees are expected to start Luis Severino while the Astros counter with Framber Valdez. First pitch is scheduled for 7:37 pm ET and the game will be broadcast on TBS. The Astros will try to build a 2-0 lead in the series.

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