As the small sample grows larger, two things are becoming clearer for the New York Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka is a big-time postseason performer and Gleyber Torres is a bonafide superstar.
Tanaka stifled the Houston Astros and Torres fueled the offense in New York’s 7-0 victory in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.
The 30-year-old right-hander faced the minimum over six innings, allowing one hit and one walk while striking out four at Minute Maid Park on Saturday. Torres recorded three hits and five RBIs in the victory.
The Astros ran into a buzzsaw in Tanaka, who owns a 1.32 ERA in seven postseason starts. Kyle Tucker picked up a third-inning single and Alex Bregman led off the fifth with a walk to account for the only baserunners against Tanaka. Both Tucker and Bregman were erased by double plays, the second of which included an excellent throw to first from right fielder Aaron Judge.
Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton and Jonathan Loaisiga each worked an inning in relief to preserve the shutout.
Torres accounted for New York’s first two runs on a fourth-inning double and a sixth-inning solo shot, then dropped in a two-run single in the seventh. He added an insurance run on an RBI groundout in the ninth. Torres has at least one RBI in all four of the Yankees’ postseason games, and Saturday’s performance was the second in which he collected at least five RBIs in a contest.
When these two teams fought a seven-game battle in the 2017 ALCS, the home team won each game. The Yankees stealing a win on the road may play a significant role in this series.
WHO MADE THE DIFFERENCE
Giancarlo Stanton: He doubled his ALDS hit total with a pair of knocks, including a sixth-inning solo shot. Stanton recorded just one hit and four walks against the Twins, where he understandably had some rust after being limited to just 18 games in the regular season.
DJ LeMahieu: Both times when LeMahieu got a hit, he was driven home by Torres. When he drew a walk in the ninth, he was driven home by Torres. He’s batting .375 with six runs scored out of the lead-off spot in the postseason. He also made two excellent picks at first base on important double plays. Gio Urshela also contributed two hits, including a solo shot.
Zack Greinke: With non-existent offensive support, Greinke realistically kept the Astros in the game. He yielded three runs on seven hits over six innings, which was a nice bounce back from his difficult Game 3 performance in Tampa Bay last Monday.
Torres performed his heroics in front of his father, Eusebio. His proud papa captured a video of all three of his run-scoring hits, and the ensuing celebration in the stands. The 22-year-old is batting .563 (9-for-16) with seven extra-base hits, two homers, and eight RBIs so far this postseason.
WHAT THEY’LL BE TALKING ABOUT
What will it take to wake up this Astros’ offense? Houston for the most part, also struggled in the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays, averaging less than four runs per contest in the five games of the series.
Ottavino was bailed out after Bregman bounced into an inning-ending double play with runners at the corners in the seventh. The Yankees had built a 5-0 lead, and Tanaka has a .308 opponent’s batting average the third time through the order. But Tanaka threw only 68 pitches and was cruising to that point. If Ottavino continued to buckle in that spot, Aaron Boone’s decision to pull Tanaka would be pushed into the spotlight.
The series gets at least one more game at Minute Maid Park on Sunday at 8:08 p.m. ET. Justin Verlander (21-6, 2.58 ERA), back on his regular schedule, looks to rebound after getting roughed up by the Rays last Tuesday. James Paxton (15-6, 3.82 ERA), who has pitched like the ace the Yankees traded for since August, will get the start in Game 2 for New York.
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