Saturday, October 21, 2017

No Answer for Justin Verlander...

Credit:  Eric Christian Smith-AP
American League Championship Series
Astros 7, Yankees 1...
Series tied, 3-3

If the Yankees are going to win the ALCS, they'll need to figure out how to score more than a single run in a game at Minute Maid Park.  Three runs in three games is not going to get 'er done.  The Yankees were getting hard hits against Justin Verlander on Friday night, but they had nothing to show for it.  Meanwhile, the Astros bats came alive and they seized the win in Game 6.

On the bright side, the Yankees have responded to adversity the entire post-season, winning 'do or die' games against the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians.  It's that time once again so hopefully the Yankees can find a way to score runs and take the victory tonight.

Brett Gardner led off the game with a single to center over the outstretched glove of shortstop Carlos Correa.  Unfortunately, Aaron Judge followed with a grounder to Correa that the Astros quickly turned for a double play.  

After Luis Severino easily set down the Astros in the bottom of the 1st, Gary Sanchez reached first  base on a soft grounder to third to open the 2nd inning.  But El Gary wasn't able to do more than have a brief conversation with first base coach Tony Pena when Verlander struck out two of the next three hitters (Greg Bird and Aaron Hicks) and got the middle batter (Starlin Castro) to fly out to center.

The Yankees got another hit in the 3rd inning, a one-out single up the middle into left center field by Chase Headley, but again the runner had no place to go as he was left stranded.

Meanwhile, through the first three innings, Luis Severino had yet to give up a hit.  Carlos Correa finally got the first hit for the Astros with a two-out single to right center in the bottom of the 4th.  Correa was left stranded but the tide was turning.  Instead of the hits against Verlander and none against Severino, the reverse pattern developed.  Verlander set the Yankees down in order in the 4th and 5th innings.  

Credit:  Eric Christian Smith-AP
The Astros led off the bottom of the 5th with a walk by Alex Bregman.  A groundout to Starlin Castro by Marwin Gonzalez moved the runner to second.  Sevy was unable to throw strikes to Evan Gattis and walked him on four pitches.  Brian McCann took advantage of the runner in scoring position with a drive to right that bounced over the wall on one hop for a ground-rule double, scoring Bregman and moving Gattis to third.  Like Gattis, Sevy was unable to throw strikes to George Springer, also walking him on four straight pitches.  The bases were loaded, with only one out.  Josh Reddick lofted a fly to center for the second out but it wasn't deep enough to score the runner.  It brought Jose Altuve to the plate with the bases still jammed with Astros.  To borrow a line from Manager Joe Girardi, it's not what you want.  Altuve rapped a hard drive to left to score Gattis and McCann.  The Astros were up 3-0.  It was end of the line for Severino.  Chad Green came in and got the final out when Carlos Correa popped out to Starlin Castro.  It was a very disappointing inning for the young 23-year-old starter and quite possibly his final inning of the year if the Yankees cannot find ways to score runs in Houston.

Credit:  NY Post: Charles Wenzelberg
The Yankees finally got a couple of hits in an inning against Verlander when they got two singles in the top of the 6th.  Chase Headley led off with a single to center.  Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge recorded outs (pop out to short and strikeout, respectively) but then Didi Gregorius lined a single to right, the ball dropping in front of right fielder Josh Reddick.  Runners at first and second with two outs for Gary Sanchez.  With one swing of the bat, El Gary had the potential to tie the game.  Sadly, all he could do was hit a grounder to short for the final out.  

More promise but ultimately disappointment continued in the top of the 7th when Greg Bird walked and Starlin Castro was hit by a pitch.  The HBP was not initially called by the home plate umpire but Girardi, learning from prior lessons, challenged the call and it showed that Castro had, in fact, been hit on the wristband.  Aaron Hicks had the first crack at Verlander but he struck out.  Todd Frazier was next and he hit a high fly to center, to the wall, and a leaping catch by George Springer.  Oh man, just another foot or so and the game would have been tied.  

Credit:  NY Post: Anthony J Causi & Getty Images
Chase Headley grounded out to the right side to end the threat, missing a huge opportunity for the road team.

In the top of the 8th, Verlander was finally out of the game, replaced by Brad Peacock.  After Peacock got Brett Gardner to fly out in left field foul territory (credit left fielder Marwin Gonzales for the running catch with very limited room), Aaron Judge blasted a pitch, nearly to the roof, over the wall in left center to make it a 3-1 game.  

Credit:  Houston Chronicle: Karen Warren
Signs of life...not.  Didi Gregorius flied out to left and Gary Sanchez struck out to end the inning.

For the bottom of the 8th, the Yankees replaced Chad Green with David Robertson.  Great job by Green.  After replacing Severino in the bottom of the 5th, Green did not allow a hit or run over 2 1/3 innings pitched.  He only walked a batter and struck out three 'Stros.  For David Robertson, the results were not the same.  He was greeted with a homer to left over the scoreboard by Jose Altuve. After the game, D-Rob said that he threw the 2-2 pitch where he wanted but Altuve still went yard.  Carlos Correa was next and he doubled to left into the corner.  Yuli Gurriel singled to right and the Astros had runners at the corners and still nobody out.  Alex Bregman lined a double to left center on a ball that dropped between Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks to bring both runners around to score.  A throwing error by Didi Gregorius to home plate that got away from Gary Sanchez allowed Bregman to move to third.  Four batters, four hits, three runs (with a fourth to eventually score), no outs.  An ugly line for D-Rob and the end of his latest outing.  

Credit: NY Post: Charles Wenzelberg
Dellin Betances entered the game.  It started well when he struck out Marwin Gonzalez for the first out.  But then Evan Gattis lofted a fly ball deep enough to right center to score Bregman on the sacrifice as the throw from Aaron Hicks to Gary Sanchez was off the line.  The Astros had increased their lead to 7-1 over the offensively-challenged Yankees.  Brian McCann followed with a single to right that Starlin Castro couldn't quite reach, but Betances got George Springer to ground out to third with a broken bat for the final out.  Two very ugly innings for the Pinstripers...the 5th and the 8th.  

The Astros brought their closer, Ken Giles, out for the top of the 9th despite the six-run lead.  It seemed odd to bring in your best reliever in that situation but Astros manager A.J. Hinch gets paid a lot more money than I do to make those decisions.  Greg Bird flied out to right for the first out, but then Starlin Castro singled to left center.  Aaron Hicks walked and the Yankees had two runners on base with only one out.  After a coaching visit to the mound, Giles settled down and retired Todd Frazier on a fly out to left.  He struck out Chase Headley swinging for the game-ending out.

I don't know what you say after a game like this.  The Yankees were whipped in all facets of the game.  It was a game that you quickly forget and move on.  

The Yankees will pull out their stopper, CC Sabathia, for the seventh and final game of the series.  No doubt this is an 'all hands on deck' situation.  Dallas Keuchel has already said on record that he'll be ready to thwart any rallies out of the bullpen, and even Justin Verlander was saying that he might be ready depending upon how his arm feels today.  Charlie Morton will make the Game 7 start for the Astros.  The childhood Yankees fan will get the opportunity to disappoint the many of us who are still Yankees fans.  Sabathia has not been defeated following a Yankees loss this year.  Let's hope that streak continues one more time.  

Odds & Ends...

Yesterday, I wrote about the managerial openings but I could not have envisioned that the Washington Nationals would emerge as a team with an opening.  Their firing of Dusty Baker caught me by surprise.  Both John Farrell and Baker have proved that simply winning your division to make the play-offs is not enough. There's no doubt that Baker mishandled the Stephen Strasburg injury situation earlier in the post-season and that may have been the ultimate cause for his dismissal.  The Nationals have one more shot next year before star Bryce Harper becomes a free agent so whomever gets the job will carry high expectations.  It's a tough job to walk into and I thought they would have been stronger with the continuity of Baker, a very good manager, at the top.  The Nationals reportedly want to talk to Astros bench coach Alex Cora which could throw a monkey wrench into Boston's plans to hire Cora.  There will be no honeymoon period for the guys who get the jobs with the Nationals and the Red Sox.  Win now or walk.

Of course, there's still a chance that the Yankees could be looking for a new manager soon.  Never a dull moment in Major League Baseball.

Credit:  NY Daily News: Andrew Savulich / TNS
Have a great Saturday!  Bring home the AL Championship, Guys!  Thumbs down, you got this!  Go Yankees!

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