During the series opener, in front of a rowdy crowd of cheering Texans inside Minute Maid Park, the Astros stymied the Yankees 2-1, showing just how well-rounded of a club general manager Jeff Luhnow has created during his tenure with the organization.
Hours after declaring Aaron Judge would be his choice for AL MVP, diminutive powerhouse Jose Altuve may have proved himself wrong by going 3-for-4, acting as a spark plug on both sides of the diamond for Houston.
It was the 27-year-old who first robbed Didi Gregorius of what appeared to be a sure base hit in the fourth inning, and then followed that by breaking up Masahiro Tanaka‘s no hitter, stealing a crucial base, and scoring the game’s first run.
But, Altuve doesn’t deserve all of the credit. Houston also received timely hitting in the fourth inning from Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel, which gave the Astros an early lead. The same pair also teamed up on a fantastic play in the sixth when Gurriel’s swipe tag, in conjunction with Correa’s jump throw, stopped Starlin Castro from getting aboard.
Speaking of great defense, there may not have been a bigger moment in Game 1 than Marwin Gonzalez unleashing a 97.4 mph laser from left field to nab Greg Bird at the plate, keeping the Yankees off the board.
If that wasn’t enough, Dallas Keuchel pitched a gem, too. The 2015 AL Cy Young winner was in fine form, striking out 10 across seven innings of work, allowing just four hits.
The 29-year-old joined storied Astros pitching company in Nolan Ryan and Mike Scott, becoming just the third Houston pitcher with 10-plus strikeouts in a postseason game. Keuchel was so good, even Hall of Famer Bob Gibson would presumably have to give him a hat tip.
The Yankees had no answers for the Astros, who were flawless in nearly every aspect of the opener until the ninth inning when closer Ken Giles allowed a solo home run to Bird. If this continues, not even Altuve’s hulking MVP choice will be enough to stop Houston from reaching the World Series for its first time since 2005.