An old school complete game from Justin Verlander along with the torrid tandem of Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve gave the Astros a 2-0 American League Championship Series advantage over the Yankees at Minute Maid Park.
The 34-year old Verlander was vintage, tossing a season high 124 pitches, surrendering a run on five hits, striking out 13 for his third consecutive postseason victory in a Houston uniform.
Correa’s game winning double into the right-center field gap off Aroldis Chapman plated the speedy Altuve from first for a dramatic walk-off 2-1 win that may not have been if Didi Gregorius’ desperate throw landed cleanly into catcher Gary Sanchez’s glove.
After the game Sanchez took the blame for not catching the throw from Gregorius. “The bottom line is he’s going to be out and I dropped the ball,” Sanchez said through an interpreter.
Yankee manager Joe Girardi tried to make a case to the umpiring staff that Correa’s slide into second may have impeded Gregorius’ throw, but no review was deemed.
Girardi has been walking on eggshells since being maligned for not challenging a crucial call in game two of the ALDS. In the fourth, Correa crushed a Luis Severino offering past Aaron Judge into the right field seats that was ruled a home run after skimming off the glove of a young fan at the top of the wall. The Yankee skipper called for a second opinion, but the play was upheld after it was confirmed the fan touched the ball after it had cleared the yellow line.
Severino had another strong postseason outing limiting the Astros to one run on two hits in four innings, but he left the game after being struck by a Yuli Gurriel comebacker in the fourth.
NY’s woes on Saturday transcended their inability to tackle the former Tiger’s pitcher because Houston has one heck of a defensive team. In the third inning Josh Reddick made a leaping grab to rob Chase Headley of a potential extra base hit, and a play later, Brett Gardner was nailed at third, attempting to stretch a double to triple, via a trio of Astros – Reddick to Correa to Alex Bregman. Gardner was originally ruled safe, but after review the call was overturned.
As the series moves to the Bronx on Monday the Yankees will have momentum being at home, but it will still be an uphill battle. Raging against a tough Cleveland machine was impressive, but the Astros have a far greater arsenal.
If the power hitting Judge and Sanchez continue to stumble at the plate, and the DH spot can’t dig itself out of a 0-27 slump, NY is going to have more serious problems with Houston.