For the Astros, a division title and possibly a deep playoff run were to be expected with the young talent that this roster possesses. With key players such as Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and George Springer, it seemed time for the Astros to finally establish themselves as contenders.
However, the same standards were not set for the Bronx Bombers. A “rebuilding year,” as most were calling it for the Yankees, was the sense of the 2017 season, with the hopes of developing their young talent such as Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino and Clint Frazier, and gearing them up for another dynasty run equivalent to what they had in the 90’s.
This ALCS has certainly been an entertaining one to watch, with the battle of the bullpens going in favor towards the Yankees, while the Astros showcase one of the best offenses in all of baseball. The series took an interesting turn when the Yankees fought back from a 0-2 deficit to take the lead 3-2, putting them one win away from the World Series when they were originally predicted to finish no better than third in their division.
Game 1 took place in Houston on Friday, Oct. 13, with a marquee pitching matchup between left-hander Dallas Keuchel for the Astros against the right-hander Masahiro Tanaka for the Yankees. It only seemed fitting that on Friday the 13th Keuchel would be pitching for the Astros, bringing fear to the hearts of Yankee fans once again. The last time the Yankees faced Keuchel two years ago in the American League Wild Card, he pitched a shutout in six innings leading to an Astros 3-0 victory.
The same old Keuchel showed up for the Astros. Keuchel finished his night with seven shutout innings leading the way to an Astros 2-1 victory to take the 1-0 game series lead. Tanaka pitched well himself, going six innings and allowing just two runs against a potent Astros lineup.
Both of the Astros’ runs came in the fourth inning through RBI singles from both shortstop Carlos Correa and first-basemen Yuli Gurriel. For the Yankees, their chance to score came the very next inning. In the fifth, Aaron Judge lined a two-out single into left field with Greg Bird on second. Bird rounded third, but failed to leave second immediately when Judge made contact, which, combined with his lack of speed, allowed left-fielder Marwin Gonzalez to throw him out at the plate.
Talking about the play post-game to the YES Network reporter, Bird said, “I’m too slow. I wish I was a little faster.”
Bird would later make up for his mistake, hitting a two-out solo home run in the top of the ninth inning against Astros closer Ken Giles which would account for the lone run of the game for the Yankees.
Game 2 featured the Astros sending out right-hander Justin Verlander, who seemed to have rejuvenated his career after being traded to the Astros on the Aug. 31 deadline with the expiration of his contract from the Detroit Tigers, making him a free agent. The Yankees sent out their hard throwing right-hander Luis Severino, who has taken the title of the team’s ace in many fans’ eyes. Correa hit a solo home run with one out in the fourth off of Severino, and his night was over once the inning concluded after he took a hard line-drive off of the bat of Gurriel.
Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson were summoned out of the Yankees bullpen and both pitched well combining for four shutout innings of relief.
Verlander displayed a herculean effort as he went the distance pitching a complete game, throwing 124 pitches, striking out 13 batters and giving up just one run. He received some help from his defense as right-fielder Josh Reddick robbed Chase Headley of an extra-base hit. Similarly, after Gardner hit a bullet to the right-field corner and tried to test his speed to turn an obvious double into a triple, Riddick fired the ball to Correa, who gunned it to third-basemen Alex Bregman, who placed the tag on Gardner, where he was called out after the play was challenged and reviewed.
Todd Frazier helped his team tie up the game in the fifth when he hit a RBI ground-rule-double that got stuck in the fence of the Astros bullpen. The game would stay tied until the bottom of the ninth when Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman gave up a one-out RBI to Correa, who lined one into the right-center-field gap. Altuve sped from first to home, as he tends to do thanks to his impressive speed.
Down 0-2 heading back to the Bronx for the second straight series, fans and players alike were hopeful, as the team had proved before that a come back from 0-2 was possible.
In Game 3, CC Sabathia took the mound for the Yankees while the Astros sent out right-hander Charlie Morton, which was huge relief for the Yankees it felt now not having to deal with neither Keuchel nor Verlander.
Sabathia delivered on his calling throwing six shutout innings.
Game 3 wasn’t much of a pitcher’s duel as the first two games. The Yankees jumped on Morton and wound up winning the game 8-1 bringing the series to 2-1.
Toms River native, Todd Frazier, acquired by the Yankees from the Chicago White Sox, got the party started in the second inning just lunging his bat at a pitch, which, to his surprise, ended up over the right field wall for a three-run home run.
Judge also came up huge in not only with his bat, but also with his defense. Judge made a couple of jaw dropping catches in right field after a three-run-home run in the fourth inning, snapping out of his slump.
Winning Game 3 was huge for the Yankees, as only one team in MLB history has ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit. With the series now 2-1 Astros, the growing sense was that the Yankees might be grabbing the momentum after taking two games to get their bats going.
The starters for Game 4 were Sonny Gray for the Yankees and Lance McCullers Jr. for the Astros. Through the first five innings of the ball game, fans were witnessing another pitcher’s duel. Both starters had pitched five shutout innings.
In the top of the sixth inning, it seemed as if the Astros might come away with the win. Having chased out Sonny Gray after back-to-back baserunners got on, Yankee manager Joe Girardi pulled his starter and handed the ball to Roberston. Robertson seemed like a safe bet to get the team out of the inning, but a three-run double by Gurriel gave the Astros a 3-0 lead, followed by another shortly after to make the score 4-0.
Going into the seventh inning, the Yankees were watching their series dwindle away. McCullers was hot, giving up only one hit through the first six innings until Judge came up to the plate. Judge delivered a solo blast to deep center field, putting the Yankees on the board. The Yankees added one more run in the seventh to make the score 4-2 heading into the eighth.
During the eighth inning, the Yankees offense erupted, scoring four runs off a shaky Astros bullpen.
After Frazier and Headley reached base, Hinch turned to his closer, Ken Giles, for more than a three-out save, yet he failed to deliver. The first batter he faced was Gardner, who grounded out but earned an RBI, making it a one-run ball game. Judge followed Gardner, driving the pitch all the way to the left field wall to tie-up the game.
After Gregorius recorded a single advancing Judge to third, Sanchez was up. Having been in a slump, Sanchez was looking to break out in a big way. Sanchez came up big by hitting a double into right-center field, scoring both Judge and Gregorius and giving the Yankees the lead and ultimately the win.
Through an interpreter, Sanchez said to the YES Network reporter in a post-game interview, “When I got to second base my emotions were through the roof.”
Last night, the rematch was set between Game 1 starters Keuchel and Tanaka. Tanaka delivered seven shutout innings, leading the Yankees to a 5-0 win and a 3-2 series lead in the ALCS.
Yankee hitters finally broke out against Keuchel as Greg Bird got it started with a two-out RBI single in the second inning. In the next bottom half of the inning, Judge followed suit hitting an RBI double down the third baseline scoring Gardner all the way from first base. Going into the fifth inning, Sanchez joined the mix as he knocked in a run-scoring single down into the left field corner. Gregorius as well hit an RBI single making the game 4-0 and being the last fans saw of Keuchel.
Sanchez once again added more timely hitting into his arsenal as he in the seventh inning hit a solo shot giving the Yankees a 5-0 lead, which would end up being the final score.
The Yankees knew they had to beat Keuchel or Verlander once to give themselves a shot. The series now heads back to Houston with the Yankees up 3-2.
Game 6 will be on Friday, Oct. 20, featuring a rematch of Game 2 starters Justin Verlander against Luis Severino.
Fans of both teams are anxious to see if Verlander can prolong the Astros’ season another day to a Game 7, or if Severino can continue this Bronx magic of the comeback kings.