The Yankees ran into a familiar buzzsaw in the likes of Dallas Keuchel Friday night in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series and now find themselves in a familiar spot in a playoff series. Down.
We know that the Yankees managed to climb out of a 2-0 hole in the division series against a terrific Indians team, so New York's confidence is by no means shattered. As such, there were some relevant circumstances in Game 1 that should have the Yankees optimistic they can put the loss behind them with a strong performance in Game 2.
Held Astros' offense in check
The Astros entered the series as the hottest team with the bat after destroying Red Sox pitching in the division series. This comes as no surprise as the Astros had the top-rated offense in the majors. Masahiro Tanaka allowed some hard hit balls, but many of them went for outs with the hits in the decisive fourth inning being soft or seeing-eye singles. Chad Green finished with two strong scoreless innings. Their performances should give the rest of the Yankees' pitching staff trust in their ability to hold down the Astros going forward.
Judge with positive at-bats
Aaron Judge came into the ALCS mired in a 1-for-20 skid with 16 strikeouts. Despite dealing with a very low strike zone, Judge saw a good deal of pitches in his at-bats and delivered the Yankees' only hit with runners in scoring position in Game 1. He was still swinging at pitches out of the zone, but considering the strike calls against him, it is hard to fault him.
Judge managed a walk and struck out just once, which feels like a win in and of itself. Judge's approach was clearly different against Keuchel and generating a hard hit at a crucial time in the game could push him to an upswing in performance.
Yankees' offense had chances
There is no argument that Keuchel and Giles made the Yankees look silly at times, swinging at balls well outside the zone. However, the Yankees had multiple chances to deliver with men in scoring position and unfortunately their best chance resulted in Greg Bird getting thrown out at the plate.
The Yankees hit the ball hard off Keuchel at times and managed a number of four/five pitch at-bats showing at least some in the lineup had solid approaches. The Yankees can also feed of the Bird home run off Astros closer Ken Giles in the top of ninth, which demonstrates the Houston bullpen is vulnerable.
Green is back
Green was the pitcher that surrendered the grand slam to Francisco Lindor, the big blow in the Indian's massive comeback in Game 2 of the ALDS. Green didn't pitch the rest of the series, which led to some discussion as to whether Yankees manager Joe Girardi had lost faith in the right-handed rookie.
If Girardi had diminished confidence in Green, it should be regained after the pitcher's performance last night. Green looked comfortable and in control in his two innings of work, striking out two batters. Green's effort allowed Girardi to give the rest of the backend relievers an extra day of rest after exerting themselves in the ALDS.
A win in Game 1 would have been a huge coup for the Yankees, but there were plenty of positive takeaways which should keep the club's confidence high as they look to head to New York with the series tied.