The Yankees had all this momentum coming into game one of the American League Championship Series. They had just come off one of the great comebacks in their history when they rallied from an 0-2 series deficit against the defending American League and 102-win Cleveland Indians to win the ALDS and advance to play the 101-win Houston Astros.
No problem right? They’ve got the momentum.
Houston didn’t have a problem because they had the “next day’s starting pitcher” in Dallas Keuchel on the mound and the left hander continued his mastery of the Yankees. Keuchel tossed seven scoreless innings and struck out seven to key a 2-1 Astros win in game one of the American League Championship Series. In two career, post season starts (the other was 2015 AL WC game) against the Yankees, Keuchel has tossed 13 scoreless innings with 17 strikeouts. “He (Keuchel) can really make the ball move,” said Brett Gardner after he had one of the four hits off of the southpaw. “He’s gonna stay on the corners and stay down in the zone for the most part and keep you off balance.”
Greg Bird’s two out, solo home run in the ninth off of Houston closer Ken Giles accounted for the Yanks’ only run but the first baseman was involved in a controversial play in the fifth inning,
With two out and two on, Aaron Judge smoked a line drive single to left on a 3-2 pitch. Bird, who was on second tried to score. Astros left fielder Marwin Gonzalez, who was in short left field, charged the ball and fired a one hopper to home plate where former Yankee catcher Brian McCann tagged Bird out on a bang-bang play.
How could Bird not score there? Well, there was a way.
Judge hit it hard enough to make it an easy ball for Gonzalez to field and throw, not to mention the fact he was playing in. Yankee third base coach Joe Espada made the right call in sending Bird with two out and Keuchel on the mound. The chances were going to be limited. Bird took a wide turn around the third-base bag which proved to be costly but he took some big time verbal abuse on social media and the broadcast. “I feel like I did what I could do there,” Bird said as he answered all the questions.
The kid is slow so don’t criticize him for the lack of something that he wasn’t blessed with. It’s still a bang-bang play where the execution had to be perfect. “Too slow, wish I was a little faster,” the young first baseman said. By the way, Bird had two hits.
Losing the first game of a best-of-seven on the road is not the worst thing in the world. The pressure is on the home team and the Astros held serve . The Yankees will take another shot at it this afternoon in game two when Luis Severino opposes Justin Verlander who is no stranger to facing the Yankees in the post season.
So Keuchel pitched great, the Yankees got beat and were probably still drained emotionally from the Cleveland series but there are some things to be concerned about starting with the DH spot.
Yankee Manager Joe Girardi elected to put Matt Holliday on the ALCS roster and start him last night against the lefty Keuchel. Holliday had not had many at bats down the stretch of the regular season and it showed as his at bats were probably the worst of the bunch. He saw 7 pitches in three at bats and didn’t get a ball out of the infield. Jacoby Ellsbury pinch hit for him in the ninth and went right along with the malaise as he struck out to end the game.
Two things here. Chase Headley will likely get the start at DH in game two. In his career, Headley is hitting .400 (6 for 15) with a home run and an RBI against Verlander. The other is where does Holliday fit for the remainder of the series. Does he get another start? The other three Houston starters are right handed and if the Astros go to a left hander out of the pen, it wouldn’t be a situation where Holliday would pinch hit for a Brett Gardner or a Bird. May be something to keep an eye on as the series goes on.
The Yankees were shutout in game one of the ALDS vs. Cleveland but came back to put eight on the board the next night.
Their resiliency and grit has been their trademark. No reason for it to be any different in Game 2.