Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball before the start of game 2 in the ALCS. There aren’t enough words to say how important a victory was for the Yankees last night in game 1. They got it thanks to the pitching of Masahiro Tanaka and the hitting of Gleyber Torres.
The Yankees have seen two sides of Masahiro Tanaka in the regular season since he began pitching in the Bronx in 2013. He can be dazzling, then on some important regular season nights he can be brutal. Somehow, unlike Clayton Kershaw whose postseason meltdowns are many and well-known, Tanaka seems to pull it together in the postseason and perform like the expensive ace the Yankees paid for some years ago. He stopped the Astros cold over 6 innings last night at Minute Maid Park, where Houston has won nearly 3/4 of their games this year. Counting the playoffs they are now 63–21 at home. They were the first team in 21 years to win 60 at home, the last being the 1998 Yankees. The Bronx Bombers didn’t win a game in Houston this season. Going back to the 2017 playoffs, the last time these two teams met for all the marbles, the Yankees not only didn’t win, but never had as much as a lead in 4 games in Houston. At that time, Charlie Morton was the Astros’ unlikely hero, throttling the Yankees’ hitters. This year, with neither Justin Verlander nor Gerrit Cole available, they turned to Zack Greinke and hoped for the best. It went the Yankees’ way this time.
Tanaka has managed to better the record of the incomparable Sandy Koufax. He has allowed 2 runs or fewer in his first 7 postseason starts. Not even Koufax could manage that. Tanaka did his part in 2017 to try and get the Yankees to the World Series, stopping the Astros in game 5 of the Alcs to give the Yankees a lead of 3 games to 2 in the series, a lead they couldn’t protect.
As for Gleyber Torres, he’s hardly the first young Yankee to cut his teeth in the postseason. Torres is a couple of months shy of his 23rd birthday. Joe DiMaggio had played in two World Series before turning 23. Mickey Mantle had played in 3 World Series and irreparably damaged one of his knees before turning 23. Derek Jeter had become a postseason hero in 1996 before his 23rd birthday. None of those drove in 5 runs in a playoff game, as Gleyber Torres did last night. In 2017 he was an injured minor leaguer, not even a blip on the radar screen. The Astros know who he is now. He doubled home the Yankees’ first run last night, then hit a solo home run off starter Greinke (which Giancarlo Stanton also did.) Torres then drove home a pair in the 7th inning to make it a 5–0 Yankee lead, then pushed across his 5th run with a ground out in the 9th. He has 2 home runs this postseason. Before turning 23 Mickey Mantle hit 2 each in the 1952 and 1953 World Series, and Tony Kubek hit 2 in the Yankees’ losing effort in 1957 against Milwaukee.
With a 7–0 lead, the Yankees were able to turn to Jonathan Loaisiga, a pitcher from Nicaragua who was nicknamed “Johnny Lasagna” by his teammates when he first joined the Yankees during the 2018 season. He and CC Sabathia have to be the two biggest surprises on the ALCS roster, for entirely different reasons. At 24, hopefully Loaisiga’s career is still in front of him in spite of numerous injuries in the minors. If in fact Loaisiga and Gleyber Torres are on the morning side of the mountain, CC is on the twilight side of the hill. His outings in 2019 put me in mind of Muhammad Ali against Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick when the champ was a long way past his prime. If CC appears at all, it will probably be either to retire a lefty or to deal with a situation like the 9th inning last night with what should be a safe lead.
The Yankees have taken the first vital step, a move they didn’t make in 2017 in Houston. Tonight, they send James Paxton, aka The Big Maple against Justin Verlander, one of the two best pitchers the Astros have. If the Astros want to have a realistic chance, they need this win, after which they need to win one of the 3 games this week in New York where Luis Severino awaits them, most likely in game 3. The Yankees hope for a second win in Houston which would give them a chance to lock down the series in the Bronx.1