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The Yankees defeated the Astos 7-0 on Saturday in Game 1 of the ALCS, taking a 1-0 series lead. >> Box Score
Five things to know from Saturday's game
1) So who said the Astros have the advantage in the starting pitching in this ALCS, anyway?
Houston still has Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole pitching the next two games, but it's hard to believe they could be better than Masahiro Tanaka was in Game 1 for the Yankees, allowing one hit in six shutout innings.
At this point nobody should really be surprised, of course. With his dominant start against the Astros, Tanaka continues to stamp himself as one of the great postseason pitchers of his generation. In seven October starts he now has a 1.32 ERA, more than two runs lower than his regular season career ERA of 3.75.
Somehow his command of his slider and splitter just seems to be impeccable when it matters most, and he gets hitters to chase tough pitches, inducing a lot of soft contact. Indeed, he made it look easy against the Astros, needing only 68 pitches to get through six innings, and only came out of the game because the Yankees didn't want him facing the Houston lineup a third time.
2) In a move that was begging to be made after Gleyber Torres' sensational ALDS, Aaron Boone's decision to move the second baseman up to the No. 3 spot in the lineup paid off in a big way as he accounted for five of the Yankees' seven runs, going 3-for-5 at the plate.
His solo home run off Zack Greinke in the sixth was a 343-foot cheapie into the Crawford Boxes in Minute Maid Park, but his real value in the No. 3 spot showed two innings earlier when he doubled home D.J. LeMahieu for the first run of the game. Since Torres is fast becoming the Yankees' best RBI guy, it makes sense to have him hitting behind LeMahieu and Aaron Judge, who get on base a lot.
Finally, in the seventh inning he broke open the game with a bases-loaded single off reliever Ryan Pressly, scoring two runs for a 5-0 lead. It was a semi-blooper that fell in front of center fielder George Springer, but it was impressive nevertheless as Torres took a couple of borderline pitches to get the count to 3-2, then put a tough slider in play for the hit, something the Yankees didn't do when it counted last October.
3) Giancarlo Stanton delivered his biggest hit as a Yankee, drilling a sixth-inning home run off Greinke to right-center, stretching the lead to 3-0. After his famously unproductive postseason a year ago, the pressure is on Stanton this October, especially since he missed all but 18 games this season due to injury.
Stanton did have a home run in the Wild Card game last year but only after the Yankees had a big lead, and he failed in some big spots against the Red Sox, so this was by far his most impactful hit. It's obviously a good sign for him, and indeed he has looked more relaxed in this postseason, taking his walks and chasing much less than he did a year ago.
4) Aaron Judge did it again with the glove, making a potentially game-changing play when the game was still 1-0 in the fifth, as he ran down Yordan Alvarez's line drive headed for the right-center gap and then made a strong throw to double off Alex Bregman at first base.
It was bad baserunning by Bregman, as he went too far toward second, but he clearly thought the ball was going to fall, apparently surprised by how much ground Judge covered on the play. By now you'd think players would know better, as Judge has been putting on a show in this post-season in right field, making three sensational catches in the Twins' series, and now this play.
5) So much for the Astros' vaunted home-field advantage. At 60-21 Houston had the best home record in the majors, and, of course, they won all four games at home in the 2017 ALCS, so breaking through in Game 1 allows the Yankees to set a different tone for this series.
In some ways it was a vital win for Boone's team, as they took advantage of the Astros being forced to go five games against the Rays while pitching Cole. Instead of facing Cole, the Yanks got to Greinke for three runs in five innings, and they now have some margin for error as they face Verlander and Cole in Games 2 and 3.