Yankees falter in ALCS opener as Verlander, homers give Astros 4-2 win

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New York Yankees 2, Houston Astros 4

HOUSTON — The Houston Astros defeated the New York Yankees 4-2 on Wednesday night in the first game of the American League Championship Series. The victory was powered by home runs from Yuli Gurriel, Chas McCormick, and Jeremy Pea. Justin Verlander struck out 11 batters over the course of six strong innings.

The Astros are competing in their sixth straight American League Championship Series (ALCS), hoping to advance to the World Series for the fourth time during that span. They are facing a New York team in the League Championship Series (LCS) for the first time since Houston eliminated them from contention in 2019.

In the sixth inning of the game, with the score tied 1-1, Houston’s Yuli Gurriel broke the tie by connecting off of the reliever Clarke Schmidt with a solo home run to the seats in left field. After two more batters, McCormick drove a sinker pitched by Schmidt into right field, bringing the score to 3-1.

Verlander surpassed Clayton Kershaw’s previous record of 213 strikeouts in the postseason to become the all-time leader in strikeouts with 219. He also set a record for the most postseason games in which he has recorded ten or more strikeouts, which was a major league record.

Peña hit a home run off of Frankie Montas to start the seventh inning, which extended the lead to 4-1 and completed the sweep of the Mariners in the ALDS that Peña started with his home run in the 18th inning. Because of a shoulder injury, Montas was not included on the roster for the Division Series, so this was the first time since September 16 that he had thrown a pitch.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, with two outs and Rafael Montero on the mound, the Yankees pulled within two runs thanks to a home run by Anthony Rizzo. Giancarlo Stanton hit a single, and then Josh Donaldson walked; this prompted Dusty Baker, the manager of the Astros, to bring in closer Ryan Pressly.

He ended the inning by striking out Matt Carpenter and then pitched a perfect ninth inning, going 1-2-3, to earn the save with four outs.

Verlander appeared shaky early in this one, giving up a home run to Harrison Bader in the second inning to put the Yankees ahead 1-0. This performance came after Verlander struggled in Game 1 of the ALDS against Seattle. However, in the bottom of the inning, the Astros were able to tie the game thanks to an RBI double by Martn Maldonado.

After eliminating the Mariners on Saturday, the Astros had some time off after the elimination. The Yankees had to deal with a quick turnaround after winning Game 5 against the Guardians at home on Tuesday after it had been postponed due to rain before traveling to Houston.

Following a double by Stanton, they had runners on second and third with one out in the third inning, but Verlander was able to get Donaldson and Carpenter to strike out to get them out of the jam.

Verlander went on to tie a postseason record with his six consecutive strikeouts, the first of which came at that point. It’s the second time he’s tied the record; the first time was in Game 3 of the 2013 AL Championship Series, when he was pitching for Detroit, and he struck out six batters in a row.

The difference between New York’s 17 strikeouts and Houston’s two was the largest ever seen in a postseason game regarding the number of batters who struck out.

After the third inning, Verlander did not permit any runners to reach second base and went on to retire his final 11 batters in a row while striking out nine. After getting the final out of the sixth inning by striking out Carpenter, he pumped his fist and yelled as he walked off the field, where he was met with a standing ovation from the predominantly orange-clad home crowd.

In his 32nd career postseason start, which was also his 11th in the opening game of a series, he gave up three hits and one run. It was his first victory in the playoffs since the year 2019.

Since the start of the postseason, Peña has collected seven hits, including two doubles and a home run in the seventh inning. Because of the rookie’s strong play, the Astros have been able to overcome the struggles of their superstar shortstop Jose Altuve this October. The rookie took over for Carlos Correa at shortstop this season.

Altuve, who has won the batting title three times, went 0 for 3 and walked once, bringing his postseason total to 0 for 19.

Stanton filled in for Aaron Hicks in left field on Wednesday after Hicks was knocked out of the rest of the playoffs with a sprained knee he suffered in a collision with another player on Tuesday. It had been since July 21 that Stanton had last played in the field, and his lack of rust was immediately apparent when he was unable to catch a fly ball that Peña had hit for a double with one out in the first.

Yordan Alvarez was then walked by New York starter Jameson Taillon, but Bregman didn’t get a hit because Aaron Judge made a diving catch in right field for the second out of the inning. This saved at least one run and maybe more.

During his 4 1/3 innings of work, Taillon allowed four hits and one run.

After hitting his second home run of the postseason on Tuesday, Judge went on to have a batting average of 0 for 4 and struck out.

UP NEXT

In the next game of the series, which will take place on Thursday night, the Yankees will send out Luis Severino (0-0, 4.76 ERA) to face Framber Valdez (0-0, 3.18 ERA).

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