The Yankees were nearly perfect on both sides of the ball to beat the Astros in Game 1 of the ALCS 7-0 — and take hold of home-field advantage for the time being.
The Yankees did their very best in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series to set the tone for the best 4-out-of-7 battle. Naturally, in baseball, you’re only as good as the next day’s starter — and Game 2 will feature James Paxton versus Justin Verlander.
However, despite what popular opinion would have you believe, that you can’t depend on the long ball to win playoff games, the Yanks slugged three solo homers on their way to scoring seven runs and 13 hits, while Masahiro Tanaka dominated over six innings.
As for Game 1s offensive MVP, accolades go to 22-year-old star Gleyber Torres. The second baseman went 3-for-5 with a double, home run and five RBIs — becoming the youngest Yankee in history to drive in five runs.
The second-year man joins Mickey Mantle and Tony Kubek as the only Yankees, 22 or younger to hit multiple postseason home runs. Torres, who wasn’t part of the 2017 Yankees that failed to win a single game at Minute Maid Park — as he was recovering from Tommy John surgery, let his confidence flow following the Yankees 7-0 victory. Per the New York Post:
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"“I try to have a really good plan at home plate, I try to feel comfortable because I’ve got so many good guys behind me. So I can just go to home plate believing in what I can do and expecting to help my team.”"
It was also encouraging to see Giancarlo Stanton and Gio Ursehla drive the ball with authority after rather lackluster showings in the ALDS versus the Twins.
D.J. LeMahieu’s continued excellence — going 2-for-4 with three runs scored at the top of the lineup and Aaron Judge’s two hits were part of the puzzle as Judge also made a spectacular fifth-inning leaping grab in the gap, before turning and firing a one-hopper to first base to double off Alex Bregman.
Perhaps the brightest spark of the night came from starter Masahiro Tanaka. The six-year MLB veteran has always pitched well against Houston (four runs in 18 playoff innings), but Tanaka threw the ball like he was double-parked on Saturday night.
Masa needed just 68 pitches (45 strikes while facing the minimum of 18 batters) through six shutout innings on his way to becoming the first pitcher in postseason history to allow four or fewer hits and two or fewer runs in his first seven playoff starts.
Tanaka’s 1.32 postseason ERA is second all-time to Sandy Koufax’s 0.95 ERA.
Overall, Tanaka pitched like the Yankees playoff ace he’s always been, recording eight groundball outs and two in the air, thanks in part to his devastating slider and fall off the table splitter.
A massive opening salvo from a confident Yankees team that many pundits predicted would lose in six or seven ALCS games.
If Paxton pitches Game 2 like the man we witnessed win 10 consecutive games this season — and the Yankee offense bides its time with Verlander and allows him to pitch up in the zone, heading back to the Bronx 2-0 is a real possibility.