Yankees undone by Astros’ homers in ALCS Game 1 loss
HOUSTON — Here we go again.
The Yankees, fresh off their ALDS-clinching win over Cleveland in The Bronx on Tuesday night, came to the place where their last two ALCS appearances ended: Minute Maid Park.
This series didn’t get off to a promising start either for the Yankees, who dropped the opener, 4-2, on Wednesday.
Justin Verlander shut down the Yankees’ offense and Clarke Schmidt and Frankie Montas combined to give up three homers out of the bullpen, as the Astros pulled away for the victory.
Verlander gave up one run in six innings and struck out 11.
He went up against Jameson Taillon, who’d pitched just once since Oct. 4.
Taillon provided the Yankees pretty much what they could have hoped for, giving up just one run in 4 ¹/₃ innings before Schmidt took over in the fifth and got out of a jam.
But Yuli Gurriel hit a go-ahead homer to lead off the bottom of the sixth and Chas McCormick delivered another solo shot with one out later in the inning.
Montas gave up a leadoff homer to Jeremy Peña in the seventh to make it 4-1.
Anthony Rizzo homered with two outs in the eighth off Rafael Montero to get the Yankees within two runs.
Giancarlo Stanton singled to bring up the tying run, Josh Donaldson, who walked after striking out in his first three at-bats of the night.
Houston closer Ryan Pressly entered to face Matt Carpenter, who fanned for the fourth straight time — overmatched in his first start since Aug. 8 after missing two months with a fractured left foot.
The Yankees had their chances to do more against Verlander, though.
They threatened in the top of the first — with some help from the Astros.
After Verlander got Gleyber Torres and Aaron Judge to start the game, the right-hander drilled Rizzo with an 0-2 pitch and Stanton followed by reaching on a throwing error by Jose Altuve, who was shading up the middle.
But Donaldson went down swinging to end the inning.
With one out in the bottom of the frame, Peña belted a double over the head of Stanton in left.
Taillon walked Yordan Alvarez on four pitches to set up Alex Bregman, who hit a shot to right-center, where Judge made a fantastic diving catch for the second out. Kyle Tucker grounded to first for the third out.
Harrison Bader gave the Yankees the lead in the top of the second with his fourth home run of the playoffs, a rocket solo shot to left-center.
The lead didn’t last.
Taillon retired the first two batters in the bottom of the inning, but McCormick lined a single to center and light-hitting catcher Martin Maldonado ripped a run-scoring double to right-center.
Rizzo walked and Stanton doubled to right with one out in the third, but Donaldson and Carpenter both whiffed, as Verlander went on to strike out six straight and retire 11 in a row.
Taillon was pulled for Schmidt with one out in the bottom of the fifth after giving up a second double to Peña .
An intentional walk to Alvarez put two runners on again for Bregman, who walked to load the bases — but Schmidt got Tucker to ground into a double play to keep the game tied.
Schmidt faltered in the sixth, however, giving up a leadoff homer to Gurriel on an 0-2 slider.
And one out later, McCormick went deep to chase Schmidt.
It’s just the latest postseason defeat in Houston for the Yankees, who have never won a playoff series against the Astros and were 0-3 in the regular season at Minute Maid Park.
After the last meeting between the teams here n July, Aaron Boone said none of it would matter once this time of year rolled around.
“Ultimately, we may have to slay the dragon, right?” Boone said on July 21. “If it comes to it in October, the proof will be in the pudding. Do we get it done?”
So far, they haven’t.