Where Yankees err to lose ALCS Game 1

A dejected Yankees' batter

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HOUSTON — The Yankees’ manager got out of the dugout and walked amid blistering, jarring noise in Minute Maid Park. From fireworks to train noise and roaring Houston crowd, it set up a perfect nightmare for visiting managers like Aaron Boone. These are the sounds that foretold him the faltering of the Yankees against the Houston Astros. His team lost the American League Championship Series opener 4-2 after bullpen falters allowing their opponents to hit three homers.

When Boone walked onto the field in the sixth inning of Game 1 of the ALCS, there was a chorus of indoor explosives, fake locomotives, and fans cheering for their team. Boone went to the mound to get reliever Clarke Schmidt when he heard the noise. The Astros had just hit two home runs, which gave them an early lead against the Yankees.

Yuli Gurriel, who also played for the Astros in both 2017 and 2019 series, hit the first home run. The second one came from Chas McCormick, who was an Astros farmhand when they played the Yankees in the past. In the seventh, Houston shortstop Jeremy Pea added to their lead with another solo home run.

Anthony Rizzo‘s home run in the eighth inning cut into Houston’s lead, but it didn’t change the outcome. In the eighth, Astros’ closer Ryan Pressly left two runners on base, which kept the Yankees from scoring.

Jeremy Pea had his third hit that goes past the extra base.

Time was a factor

The Yankees didn’t have much time to celebrate because they didn’t have a day off between series. Some of the New York coaches looked over scouting reports on the flight to Houston. The team got there at about 2 a.m. The staff met again later that morning for a full advance meeting. The job at hand was huge. The Astros didn’t just happen to win 106 games. Jameson Taillon, who had been in the bullpen in the last round, had to start for the Yankees. By securing their ALDS early week, Houston was able to get its schedule in order.

Pitching faltered despite brilliant defense

Yordan Alvarez walked, and then Astros third baseman Alex Bregman came up to bat. Taillon threw a down-the-middle sinker. Bregman hit a line drive that went 97.6 mph into the gap between center field and right. Aaron Judge came running into the space. Even though he was 6 feet 7 inches tall and weighed 282 pounds, Judge played center field well before Bader came along. Judge showed why as Bregman’s ball zipped through the air. He lay on the grass to stop a ball from going past the third base.

In the second, each team scored one run. Bader made a solo shot when he hit a hanging slider from Verlander. In the bottom of the inning, Taillon threw a curveball up high to Astros catcher Martin Maldonado. Maldonado hit the ball to the right. Judge didn’t have much control over this situation. As McCormick ran home, the double hit the wall.

Yankees’ offense failed to face Verlander

After six great innings, Astros star Justin Verlander started a barrage in the middle of the game. He got 11 outs while Harrison Bader’s home run was the only run that scored. Verlander got better after a rough start and made it to the playoffs. He tore apart the Yankees’ lineup, which had just sprayed champagne to celebrate beating Cleveland in the divisional round less than 24 hours before.

Verlander came back in 2022 to try to win the American League Cy Young award for the third time. He was 39 years old and had missed the previous two seasons because of elbow surgery. He had looked weak in his first October start when the Mariners scored six runs on 10 hits. He spent the intervening week tinkering. Since he hurt his calf muscle in late August, he felt like his delivery was all over the place. Verlander said, “I’ve been working hard to get my mechanics where I want them and fix a few bad habits that have crept in.”

In the bottom of the first, the Astros were only a few inches away from giving Verlander a big lead. Pea hit a double with one out in the left field, just past the Crawford Boxes. Giancarlo Stanton, who hadn’t played the outfield since July 21, was covering the area. The ball went past him when he jumped to catch it.

In the third, Verlander made himself a fire. He gave Rizzo a walk. Stanton hit a double off the wall in right field. With one out, runners were on second and third. Verlander would not permit contact. He struck out third baseman Josh Donaldson in three pitches, and with the help of umpire Mike Muchlinski, he used a 98.5 mph fastball to freeze Matt Carpenter for the third out. Carpenter thought that the pitch was inside. But the umpire rejected his contention and Verlander prospered.

After that, Verlander got into a good rhythm. In the fourth, he got a strikeout. When he hit a slider to start the fifth, Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres struck out for the sixth time in a row. After Judge hit the ball out of the park, Verlander fooled Rizzo with a curveball, which led to another strikeout.

Bullpen failed

The fifth was too hard for Taillon to finish. He let Pea hit a double with one out, so reliever Clarke Schmidt took over on the mound. The job he had to do was big for the Yankees. Schmidt went slowly through the most important part of Houston’s order. The dugout told Alvarez to take a walk on purpose. Schmidt loaded the bases by walking Bregman because he didn’t want to throw his fastball. Schmidt took his sinker out of his back pocket after throwing two curve balls to outfielder Kyle Tucker. Tucker hit the ball into the ground with his hand. Torres and shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa both hit a double to keep the tie.

Schmidt pumped his fist and yelled as he left the diamond. His happiness wouldn’t last through the next inning. When he came back out for the sixth, he threw a slider that was 0-2 over the plate. Gurriel hit it to the left-field Boxes, putting Houston in front. Schmidt wasn’t done with the Astros yet. The second home run of the inning was hit by McCormick on a knee-high fastball.

What do you think about these Yankees’ errors in the ALCS Game 1? Leave a comment below.

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