Down, down, down went the Yankee batters tonight, literally.
Former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel kept the ball down all night and brilliantly kept the Yankee lineup off balance as they continuously swung at pitches out of the strike zone. His seven inning, no walk and 10 strikeout performance was amazing. Well, if you were an Astros fan it was amazing.
The closest the boys from the Bronx could get to scoring off of Keuchel, was with two outs in the fifth inning when they put two on board. Aaron Judge hit a hard, line drive single to left and Greg Bird tried his best to get home from second. He was cut down on a very close play at the plate by a laser throw of over 94 mph by left fielder Marwin Gonzalez.
Bird should have and needed to score on that play as the Yankees know, oh, so well, how hard it is to score off of Keuchel. Maybe a bigger lead on a 3-2 count with 2 outs? Bird did make it interesting with a 399 foot home run down the right field line in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs, off of a 98 mph fastball from Houston closer Ken Giles to make it a one run game.
The Astros did all their scoring in the fourth inning sparked by this year’s sure shot MVP, José Altuve, who beat out an infield hit. Aided by a “slow to the plate” delivery by Masahiro Tanaka, Altuve stole second on a blistering 1.78 second, glove to glove throw by Gary Sanchez and then scored on a RBI single by Carlos Correa. Correa moved to second after a fielders choice and scored on a RBI single up the middle by Yuri Gurriel. That turned out to be all Keuchel and closer Kwn Giles needed to nail down the win and go one up in this best of seven ALCS.
The Yankees got an excellent performance from Tanaka tonight as he gave up only four hits and kept his team in the game. Tough as nails, Tanaka worked the zone and even though he did not have his best stuff, he challenged the dangerous Astros lineup and faced only one bad inning when they scored their two runs. He did not throw that many splitters, which has been his best pitch over his last two dominating games. It was odd because, when he did throw it, the Houston batters couldn’t hit it. If the Yankees get to game five he will be back in New York where he has a better record and that is good. But last night he looked “Home, Home on the Range” in Texas. The Yankees couldn’t have asked for more from this warrior.
Hopefully they will have a better game against Justin Verlander tonight and go back to Yankee Stadium tied at one game apiece. The Yankees will look to Luis Severino to get them back into this series. If he picks up where he left off in his game last week against Cleveland, He will be tough to beat. The Astros lineup is a big challenge and I believe the kid has the heart and guts to make them look like butter. That last outing against Cleveland was an elimination game and he was fearless on the mound. The Yankees need another dominating performance from him in game two.
Another ray of hope was seeing Aaron Judge hit two balls with authority. Hopefully he is ready to break out of his horrendous post season slump as the Yankees desperately need his bat.
Last night’s three hour and twenty minute game was a good old fashion pitcher’s duel in a playoff setting. Although it didn’t come out well for Yankee fans, it showed that they are not a fluke or overrated. This team has a legitimate shot at not only winning the American League pennant, but also a World Series. Wouldn’t it be fun to see the old rivalry of the Yankees and Dodgers in a World Series again? Lighting some candles in church this weekend couldn’t hurt.