Houston, TX—A superstar performance in a series full of superstars is no surprise. But when one of the youngest players in all of Major League Baseball drops the hammer and sets a record in Game 1 of the ALCS, it might turn some heads. Budding New York Yankees superstar Gleyber Torres drove in the first run of the game with a one-out double in the fourth inning. He also socked a solo shot in the 6th inning off Houston Astros starter Zach Grienke, but he was not done there. The do-it-all youngster blooped a bases-loaded two-out, two-run single in the seventh to bust the game open and give the Yankees a 5-0 advantage. Finally, Torres plated the final run of the game to become the youngest player in American League history to drive in five RBI in a postseason game and help the Yankees shutout the Astros 7-0 in Game 1 of the ALCS.
The question coming into the series was how would the Yankees’ starting rotation compare to the dominant triumvirate the Astros could send to the bump? Considering the Astros could send the combination of Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zach Greinke to the mound in probably six of the potential seven games, this was a serious question the Bronx Bombers would have to solve. Well, after one game, the Yankees at least found part of the solution. They touched up the Astros Greinke for three runs in six innings of work, but were even more impressive in getting to the Astros bullpen.
The Astros, who needed all five games to dispense with the Tampa Bay Rays, looked the more tired of the two teams and it showed most noticeably in the bullpen. After Greinke was relieved of his disappointing, albeit quality, start, Astros manager A.J. Hinche turned the ball over to his relievers and things went sideways. Ryan Pressly gave up as many runs as he collected outs (two), which gave the Yanks a comfortable 5-0 lead. Josh James quieted things down with a perfect 1.1 innings pitched, but Bryan Abreu pulled a Pressly and ceded two runs in 0.2 of an inning to put the game out of reach.
Masahiro Tanaka Goes Lights Out and the Yankees Flip the ALCS Odds
Some pitchers might complain and throw a hissy fit if they get passed over for a pivotal start in the playoffs. That was not the case for Masahiro Tanaka. After Tanaka was passed over to start Game 1 of the ALDS, Tanaka tossed six beautiful innings for the Yankees when he got the ball in Game 1 of the ALCS. The Japanese right-hander allowed just one hit and issued one free pass while keeping the Astros off balance thanks to a cerebral use of his sinker and slider. With the Yankees nursing a 5-0 lead, Adam Ottavino got into a little bit of trouble, but he wiggled his way out and it was smooth sailing from there.
None of the Yankees bullpen arms went more than one inning, which is something to keep an eye on as the ALCS continues; the Yankees barely had to work to dispatch of the Twins while the Astros exerted a ton of energy to finally send the Rays home. If the Astros are to stay in the series before it heads back to New York, they are going to need a great outing from their staff in Game 2. Thankfully they have one the best pitchers in baseball going in Justin Verlander.
Verlander was almost unhittable in his first outing of the postseason when he allowed just a single base knock in seven shutout frames in Game 1 of the ALDS. However, he was touched up for four runs in 3.2 innings in the Astros loss of Game 4 of the ALDS. The Astros will need Verlander from Game 1 if they do not want to head to the Bronx down 2-0. The Yankees are responding with James Paxton who underwhelmed in the lone postseason performance of his career in the ALDS. Paxton gave up three runs in 4.2 innings, although he was blowing away batters (eight strikeouts versus just a single walk).
Not surprisingly, the sportsbooks flipped after the Game 1 Astros loss. Although the Astros were favorites at almost every sportsbook to begin the series, it is now the Yankees odds that show up as the favorites. According to FanDuel, ALCS odds for the Yankees winning the series and heading to the World Series sit at -138. Despite the Game 1 loss, the Astros odds are not that bad either though; the Astros are barely underdogs (+118) even after losing home field advantage.