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The Yankees fell to the Astros 8-3 on Thursday night and now trail the ALCS 3-1. >> Box Score
Five things to know from Thursday's game
1) It certainly wasn't all Masahiro Tanaka's fault, but on a night when the Yankees needed his usual postseason dominance, he was so-so at best.
His slider and splitter weren't especially sharp, and without a big fastball to keep hitters honest, the Astros seemed to be hunting the off-speed stuff, making hard contact right from the start.
Tanaka survived some hard-hit balls in the first two innings, but it was only a matter of time before his lack of precision caught up with him, and it did so in the form of a three-run home run in the third inning when George Springer launched a hanging splitter 408 feet into the left field seats.
The Japanese star got through five innings, but he was vulnerable enough that Aaron Boone pulled him one batter into the sixth when D.J. LeMahieu made an error. Had the Yankees' offense or bullpen performed as they had for so much of the regular season, maybe Tanaka's start would have been good enough.
Instead it set the tone for an ugly loss that included four errors.
2) The ballyhooed Yankee bullpen continues to be a disappointment in this series. With Adam Ottavino pitching poorly, Boone turned to Chad Green to relieve Tanaka in the sixth inning of a 3-1 game, and three batters later it was 6-1, thanks mostly to Carlos Correa's three-run home run.
With a runner already on first, Green gave up a line single to Yordan Alvarez, then made a mistake with an 0-1 fastball to Correa, basically throwing it right down the middle, belt-high, and the Astros' shortstop turned on it, pulling it over the left-field fence.
Two innings later, Boone gave Ottavino another shot, and he hung still another slider that Alex Bregman pulled down the left-field line for a double. One batter later he was pulled from the game.
3) Hard to pick a goat for the Yankees when there were so many candidates, and hard to pick on Gleyber Torres because he's been so good this postseason, but his fifth-inning at-bat with the bases loaded proved pivotal.
The score was still 3-1 then, and with one out, Torres was up in the type of spot he'd been delivering. At the very least he had a decent chance of driving a run in if he just put the ball in play against reliever Ryan Pressly. But after fouling off a couple of curve balls to stay alive in a 1-2 count, Torres tried to check his swing on an 88-mph slider in the dirt, but was called out by the first base umpire.
Edwin Encarnacion had a chance to save the day, but he struck out swinging at a fastball, continuing a miserable LCS in which he's now 1-for-15 with seven strikeouts.
A half-inning later, the score was 6-1.
4) If the Yankees are going to hang their hope for a comeback on anything, maybe it's Gary Sanchez finally showing some signs of life with the bat, drilling a 403-foot home run to left in the sixth inning.
Of course, Sanchez promptly struck out in his next at-bat, in the eighth, so he's hitting .118 (2-for-17) in this ALCS and .105 (4-for-38) in this postseason.
He also struck out with the bases loaded to end the first inning, allowing Zack Greinke to wriggle off the hook after he issued three walks, one with the bases loaded.
So it's not a lot of hope, but at this point the Yankees need to believe in something.
5) A.J. Hinch set a tone for Astros' muscle-flexing on this night with his pre-game press conference, where he defiantly laughed off allegations of whistling/sign-stealing, as first reported by SNY's Andy Martino, and all but laughed in the face of the Yankees over speculation about pitch-tipping.
At one point he went so far as to address the Yankees personally.
"So to the Yankees, there's nothing bad going on," Hinch said, denying there was whistling from the Houston dugout in Game 1 as a way of signaling to the hitter.
"(But) pitch-tipping is a little bit of a different story. If you don't want us to know what pitch is coming, don't do something that demonstrates what pitch you're going to throw."
Speculation after Game 2 was that the Astros knew something about James Paxton, especially since Bregman was caught on camera mouthing the word "glove" to teammates, meaning that Paxton was doing something with his glove to tip what pitch he was throwing.
And Paxton starts Game 5 on Friday.