Mandatory Credit: Photo by John Angelillo/UPI/Shutterstock (13479709u) Houston Astros Yuli Gurriel celebrates with Jose Altuve after hitting a solo home run in the sixth inning to give the Astros a 2-1 lead against the New York Yankees in game one of their American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park in Houston on Wednesday, October 19, 2022. Alcs Yankees Astros, Houston, Texas, United States – 19 Oct 2022
The two juggernauts of the American League face each other once again, with the Yankees and Astros clashing for a chance to advance to the 2022 World Series. In ALCS Game 1, the Yankees would strike first but then get held in check by Houston’s pitching the rest of the way.
Behind a great outing by Justin Verlander and several late home runs to take and expand the lead, the Astros start the series with a 4-2 victory, putting them three wins away from the Fall Classic.
Vintage Verlander holds New York to one run
One thing that would help Justin Verlander erase the disappointing outing against the Mariners from his mind would be a clean first inning. After two quick outs, the Yankees would get traffic on the bags with a hit batter and error, but Verlander would strand both with a strikeout of Josh Donaldson to end the threat. Houston had a similar result in their half, getting a one-out double by Jeremy Peña and a walk by Yordan Alvarez, but left both on base.
Harrison Bader, who already had three home runs in the postseason, launched his fourth to start the scoring against Verlander, a one-out solo shot in the top of the second to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead. Houston got the run back in the bottom of the same inning, with Chas McCormick reaching on a one-out single and scoring on an RBI double by Martin Maldonado, tying things up 1-1.
After racking up a high pitch count through the first three innings, Verlander settled in, including striking out six straight batters between the third and fifth frames. He would retire the last eleven batters he faced, turning things around from his early struggles to finish six innings of one-run ball with eleven strikeouts. His final line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 11 K, 103 P.
Astros start a home run parade
Houston had a prime opportunity to give Verlander a lead in the bottom of the fifth, getting a double and two walks to load the bases with one out, but New York’s bullpen would hold as Kyle Tucker would ground into an inning-ending double play to keep it tied 1-1. Yuli Gurriel would give the Astros their first lead of the game in the bottom of the sixth, launching a leadoff solo homer to make it a 2-1 and put Verlander in position to pick up the win.
Two batters later, Chas McCormick doubled the lead, getting a solo homer of his own to extend the lead to 3-1. First out of Houston’s bullpen after Verlander’s six innings was Hector Neris in the top of the seventh. He sat down the Yankees 1-2-3 in the bottom half, then Peña joined the home run parade with another solo blast, making it 4-1.
Pressly gets the four-out save to close out the Game 1 win
Rafael Montero was Houston’s next reliever, coming in to face the top of New York’s order. After back-to-back strikeouts to start things off, he would give up a solo homer to Anthony Rizzo, making it a two-run game before putting two more on base on a hit and a walk, forcing Dusty Baker to bring in Ryan Pressly for a four-out save.
Pressly would get the big strikeout to extinguish the fire in the top of the eighth and, after a scoreless bottom half by Houston, came back out for the top of the ninth. Houston’s closer would get the job done, posting a scoreless top of the ninth to wrap things up and put Houston up 1-0 in the ALCS.
News and notes
Verlander back on top of the all-time list: With his eleven strikeouts in ALCS Game 1, Justin Verlander notched the 219th postseason strikeout of his career, moving back in front of Clayton Kershaw, who reached 213 with six in NLDS Game 2 last week.
ALCS Game 2: Game two of this series will be another 6:37 PM Central start on Thursday night at Minute Maid Park in Houston. The expected pitching matchup is Framber Valdez (17-6, 2.82 ERA) for Houston going against Luis Severino (7-3, 3.18 ERA) for New York.
Peña Power: with his big 3-for-4 night, Jeremy Peña improved his average to .350 in the playoffs, improving to 7-for-20 with two solo homers.