Some things never change, do they? The Astros seem to own the Yankees in the postseason as they opened the ALCS with a 4-2 win on Wednesday at Minute Maid Park. Justin Verlander was the key man on the mound, along with three homers from Yuli Gurriel, Chas McCormick, and Jeremy Peña.
Even though the Yankees scored first this time, Houston didn’t hesitate to take the W off New York’s hands. In the second inning, red-hot Harrison Bader cranked his fourth home run in October to give the Yankees an early lead that they didn’t preserve so long, besides being the only run given up by Verlander.
The Astros reacted immediately with a game-tying double by Martín Maldonado in the bottom of the second. That was enough for JV to feel backed up and look sharp all night long.
Ready to vindicate himself from his previous outing, Verlander went six innings of three-hit, one-run ball while giving up one walk and striking out 11 hitters. He took the win for the first time in the postseason since Game 1 of the 2019 ALDS against the Rays. As if it wasn’t enough, JV became the all-time postseason leader in strikeouts (219).
With his 8th career #Postseason game with 10+ strikeouts, YULI GURRIEL JUST HIT A HOME RUN OMG.— Houston Astros (@astros) October 20, 2022
But back to what we we're saying.
JV is now the all-time #Postseason leader in strikeouts. pic.twitter.com/Nf9DjknHOW
But that wasn’t it for the veteran. Verlander added even more history to his resume. With his performance against the Yanks, he became only the third 39-year-old or older in history to throw at least six innings, allow only one run, and strike out 10 opponents in a postseason game – the other two are Nolan Ryan (1986) and Roger Clemens (2001), both were 39 years old at the time, though they did not win their games, unlike Verlander.
Justin Verlander was absolutely brilliant.#AstrosTopPlay presented by @MethodistHosp pic.twitter.com/VAbRWmXRKF— Houston Astros (@astros) October 20, 2022
With JV gone, the Astros were ready to unleash their offensive power. In the bottom sixth, Yuli Gurriel and Chas McCormick hit back-to-back homers to put Houston ahead 3-1 in the score, both solo shots off righty reliever Clarke Schmidt.
LA PIÑA AND NOW CHAS?!— Houston Astros (@astros) October 20, 2022
WHAT IS GOING ON?! pic.twitter.com/Z895cAEJIg
Tie game? Fuhgeddaboudit. pic.twitter.com/7rXq5AB6wC— Houston Astros (@astros) October 20, 2022
In the seventh, Jeremy Peña added to the Astros’ lead with a solo jack of his own, his second long ball of the postseason and a perfect way to welcome Frankie Montás – who was recently added to the roster. Peña went 3-for-4 and is now 7-for-20 (.350) in his first four postseason games.
To be frank with you, Jeremy Peña really is him. pic.twitter.com/ucx41ApHla— Houston Astros (@astros) October 20, 2022
With Rafael Montero on the mound, the Yankees tried to do some damage and initiate a comeback as Anthony Rizzo delivered a bases-empty home run to shrink the gap 4-2. However, Ryan Pressly came from the ‘pen in the eighth and struck out Matt Carpenter to end the inning.
Minutes later, Pressly looked pretty solid in the ninth inning, striking out Bader and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. He sealed the game by getting José Treviño out and picking up the save and helping the Astros improve to 7-2 in their last nine games against the Yankees in the postseason.
On Thursday, both teams will see each other again with a pitching duel between Dominican countrymen as Framber Valdez will challenge righty Luis Severino.