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

The Houston Astros defeated the New York Yankees 4-2 in the first game of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday night. The Astros lead the seven series 1-0, which means they are three games away from punching their ticket to the World Series for the fourth time since 2017.

The Astros fell behind in the second inning as 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 Martin Maldonado launched an opposite-field double that plated Chas McCormick.

Both sides would trade zeroes till the sixth innings. That’s when first baseman Yuli Kuriel hit a home run to left field to give Houston a 2-1 lead. The aforementioned McCormick would hit his own home run two batters later to take a 3-1 lead. Another home run, this time by Jeremy Pena in the seventh, made it 4-1.

The Yankees would get one run back in the eighth on Anthony Rizzo’s solo shot to cut the lead to 4-2. The Yankees would threaten again in the eighth, putting the tying run on first with two outs. The score remained tied until the final out, however, and the deal was sealed for the Astros.

Here are six things you need to know about the Astros’ Game 1 win.

1. Verlander throws the gem and makes history

The Astros owe their success 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 corrected the course on Wednesday, holding the Yankees to one run over six innings of work. Verlander gave up three hits, one walk and one hit by pitch as he struck out 11 batters on 103 pitches.

As ESPN Stats & Info noted, Verlander became the all-time postseason leader in strikeouts, passing Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw:

Verlander’s 11 strikeouts are tied for the second-most in a single postseason game. His career high was 13 in the 2017 ALCS against the Yankees. It was the fifth time he had struck out 11, and the second time he had 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 more than 20 times Wednesday: his fastball, slider and curveball. He produced a game-high 17 swinging strikes, at least four on each of those three pitches and eight on his slider alone.

In so many words, Verlander doesn’t look like the guy who authored the worst postseason start of his career last time.

2. Taillon keeps the Yankees in the game

Yankees right-hander Jameson Taillon hasn’t pitched like Verlander in any way. However, he kept the game close, and he exceeded the normal expectations placed on him facing the Astros lineup.

Taylon threw 4 1/3 innings, surrendering one run on four hits and three walks. In 67 pitches, he did not give anyone out. Taillon’s lineup was nearly as bad, and manager Aaron Boone fired him after he surrendered a double in the fifth. Reliever Clark Schmidt, who would eventually deliver two home runs, loaded the bases with a bases-to-back walk (an intentional one) before producing a key double-play ball.

Regardless of what happens with Schmidt in the next inning, the Yankees could have made a deal for Taillon, who faced 20 batters and exited with a tied score.

3. Astros get home runs from unlikely sources

When people think of big power threats in the Astros lineup, they think of Yordon Alvarez, Kyle Tucker and maybe Jose Altuve or Alex Bregman. They won’t be thinking about the trio who introduced solo shots in Game 1: Curiel, McCormick and Pena. And it’s for good reason.

In fact, Gurriel finished the regular season with eight home runs in 584 trips to the plate, or every 73 plate appearances. McCormick and Pena were much better in that regard, hitting home runs between 25 and 29 trips each.

What’s more, Kurial was in the midst of a long power drought heading into the playoffs. After hitting his seventh home run on July 1, he homered once more in his last 76 games. Naturally, Gurriel hit two home runs in his first four playoff games, which just goes to show you can’t predict baseball.

4. The judge makes the biggest catch

It didn’t matter, not really, but Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge had his best catch of the season from a statistical standpoint early on. Bregman hit a ball to right, right-center with two runners on base and one out. It looked like Bregman was going to have extra bases, but Judge pitched and grabbed.

Click here to read about how rare and special the catch is.

5. What History Says About Winning Game 1

It’s not a surprise, but winning Game 1 usually bodes well for the winner’s chances of winning the entire series. According to the WhoWins.com websiteMajor League Baseball clubs that have won Game 1 of best-of-seven sets have historically won 64.3 percent of those series.

6. What’s next

The Yankees and Astros 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 televised on TBS. The Astros will try to take a 2-0 series lead.

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