ALCS Game 1: Tanaka Time and Gleyber Day

Good game, would like it to happen again. The Yankees handily took Game 1 of the ALCS in Houston, 7-0. As you could have guessed by the headline, Masahiro Tanaka and Gleyber Torres delivered brilliant performances.

Once the Yankees’ offense got going – well, Torres mainly – this one was pretty much over. Tanaka overwhelmed Houston through six shutout frames before handing it to the bullpen. And, aside from Torres, Giancarlo Stanton hit a monster homer while plenty of others contributed. In fact, only Brett Gardner didn’t reach base.

Of the many highlights of the night, which I’ll get to in the takeaways in a moment, a personal highlight was seeing the train conductor for Houston asleep. I do not have fond memories of that horn sound from 2017. I’d be quite pleased to see the Yankees make tomorrow night his last game of 2019.

Anyway, let’s get to the important stuff:

October is Tanaka Time

Masahiro Tanaka did not have a good regular season. It was just the second season of his career in which his ERA started with a four. He memorably struggled to get a feel for his splitter with the different baseball used this season, though he seemingly got a better handle on it later in the summer. But as per usual with Tanaka, nothing that happened from April through September matters come October.

With tonight’s six shutout innings, he lowered his career postseason ERA to 1.32. This was his seventh postseason start; he’s never allowed more than two runs in any of those outings. Just amazing. He’s the definition of a big game pitcher.

Just about everything was on the edges for Tanaka tonight. (Baseball Savant)

Tanaka was nothing short of dominant tonight. He faced the minimum through six innings of work and probably could have pitched a seventh frame, but Aaron Boone didn’t take any chances. Kyle Tucker had the lone hit in the third inning, but was quickly wiped out when the Yankees turned a 5-4-3 double play off the bat of Robinson Chirinos.

The fifth inning was really the only time Tanaka was in any sort of trouble. He walked Alex Bregman to start the frame. Then, up came Yordan Álvarez:

What. A. Play. Not only was that a tough catch for Judge, but it also required him to throw a strike to first base from right center. He did just that, 87.8 MPH off his back leg. DJ LeMahieu made a heck of a scoop too.

That Álvarez rocket was one of three batted balls to leave the infield against Tanaka. He simply mowed down the Astros lineup. His command was on point, and even though he only recorded four strikeouts, almost everything else was on the ground.

Once again, it was Gleyber Day

People, have you heard? Gleyber Torres is 22 years of age. He’s also a superstar. The kid drove in five of the Yankees’ seven runs tonight.

The Yankees had a few opportunities (and some bad luck) early in this one against Zack Greinke, but they finally got on the board in the fourth. After LeMahieu led off with a single and Judge struck out, Torres came to the dish:

That double made it 1-0 Yankees. It was a bit of a relief to see them finally score considering everything else that had happened against Greinke to that point:

  • In the first inning, Judge absolutely clobbered a ball that looked gone off the bat. Per Statcast, it was a “barrel”, which in short is an ideal launch angle and exit velocity combination. It wound up a fly out. Maybe the regular season ball would have been out of the yard…
  • In the top of the second, Brett Gardner lined into an inning ending unassisted double play. He hit a liner right at Yuli Gurriel, who stepped on the back to double up a helpless Giancarlo Stanton who had singled earlier.
  • One inning later: Bregman robbed Gio Urshela of a surefire double down the left field line. His leaping catch stole a hit that per Statcast falls in 86 percent of the time.

Later in the fourth, after Gleyber’s go-ahead hit, Stanton *just* missed one against Greinke (don’t worry, he made him pay later). He hit a 105 MPH popup to center.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled Gleyber content. He got to Greinke again in the sixth:

Hilariously, that homer into the Crawford Boxes had a .050 xBA and literally is only a homer in this very ballpark. You love to see it.

Of course, Gleyber was far from done. He delivered the knockout blow in the seventh frame. Ryan Pressly, one of baseball’s top relievers, loaded the bases with two outs. Torres worked the count to 3-2 and blooped one into center to score two more and make it 5-0.

In the ninth, because why not, Torres notched one more RBI. He dribbled an RBI groundout to Carlos Correa which made it 7-0.

Here comes Giancarlo Stanton

Somewhat lost in tonight’s shuffle is Stanton’s big game at the plate. The left fielder, one of the Yankees’ many large adult sons, went two-for-four with a mammoth dinger. Like I wrote about earlier and Bobby previously predicted, Stanton was due for a big game. He singled in his first trip to the plate. And, after the aforementioned just missed popup, he didn’t let Greinke slide in his final opportunity against Houston’s starter:

Juiced ball, unjuiced ball, whatever it may be, it doesn’t matter for Stanton. Pretty nice to have one of the strongest guys in the league on the Yankees, right? That laser beam was 111 MPH off his bat and made it 3-0 at the time.

Leftovers

  • Gio Urshela hit an opposite field solo shot in the ninth to make it 6-0. Nice to see him get a knock after Bregman’s robbery earlier. Urshela also had a nice game in the field.
  • There was some debate about pulling Tanaka after an easy six innings of work, but Boone didn’t mess around and went to the bullpen. Even though Tanaka was curising, Boone didn’t take any chances with Houston’s lineup a third time through.
  • Adam Ottavino came in for the seventh, up 5-0, and blanked the Astros. It was a little scary though; Didi Gregorius and Torres had some miscommunication on a single up the middle, but then Otto induced an inning ending double play thereafter.
  • Zack Britton pitched a scoreless eighth around one walk and Jonathan Loaisiga closed it out with a 1-2-3 ninth.
  • A few other notable offensive performances tonight: LeMahieu reached base thrice and scored all three times aboard. And, similar to the ALDS, Judge kept on hitting with two more singles and a stolen base.

With that, the Yankees lead this best-of-seven series 1-0. Game 2 starts at the same time tomorrow and the pitching matchup features James Paxton and Justin Verlander.

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One, Two, Three, Fourth: How Masahiro Tanaka Won Game One Early for the Yanks

9 Comments

  1. Mikenyc2007

    Such a positive to have a plus defense for a change, and happy Urshela is becoming impossible to pull from the lineup. Last thing I want to see is a degrade across the field with the moving of DJ/Stanton etc. Seeing tough plays turned into outs is such a treat after almost a decade of porous defense all around the infield. Tough call next year with Andujar, never mind Didi….

    • CountryClub

      That was a big game for Urshela. Has really been struggling at the plate for a while now. Three hard hit balls last night.

      IF they did sit Urshela and put Hicks in center and E at 1b, the OF defense would obviously improve with Stanton going to DH. 3b would be a wash with DJ moving there. But, you’d have a decline at 1b (though E isn’t as bad there as some people claim). Probably a wash in the grand scheme of things.

  2. It’s not my decision, of course, but pulling Tanaka after 6 just made no sense to me. He completely dominated the Astros lineup and Ottavino hasn’t pitched well in over a month-he wasn’t very good last night either.

    This whole thing about not facing a lineup 3X in a game is completely overblown, IMO. I believe Tanaka’s batting average against in the 3rd time this year was .309 and around .250 before that-it still means he’s getting out 70% of the hitters the 3rd time through the order.

    This was a great win for the Yankees-Verlander has given up lots of dingers this year, if they can get to him early and put up a couple of runs they could be up 2-0 heading back home.

    • Mikenyc2007

      I agree with your sentiment, but Boone needs to get Otto back on track.. and I bet he wanted to start with a clean inning and give him a bunch of rope to work with. The fact he was allowed to pitch to Brantley showed me he was going to use Otto more this series for at least a full inning, told the same to Hinch, and kinda confirmed a BP game for Game 4. If Otto kept failing, then Green takes his slot, and Happ starts
      Game 4

  3. Wire Fan

    Defense continues to be on point this post season. Was interesting to see Maybin come in for Stanton late – not really sure what Hicks’ role is on the current roster, but if they keep playing like this they won’t need him.

    Good to see they didn’t have to tax the pen much. If they are close tomorrow, they can empty the pen for at least 5 innings with a day off Monday. Would be great to steal another game on the road, but they’ll at least be no worse than a split heading home.

  4. dasit

    total domination…

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