Prior to today's game, Justin Verlander had appeared in seven games for the Houston Astros. He was 7-0 with a 1.48 ERA and 0.75 WHIP.
He's now 8-0. Verlander went the distance, allowing one run on five hits to pitch his team to within two wins of the World Series. The Yankees struck out 13 times against the ace right-hander, and have now suffered double-digit whiffs in seven straight games.
A baserunning gaffe by Greg Bird combined with a great defensive play by Houston left fielder Marwin Gonzalez may have cost New York a win in Game One. The Astros took advantage of another Bomber blunder on the bases and made two outstanding plays in the same inning today.
In the top of the third, Astros right fielder Josh Reddick went up high on the wall to catch a Chase Headley bomb. It's not clear whether the ball would have cleared the fence or would have been an extra-base hit off the very top. Either way, it was a fantastic catch by Reddick and likely saved at least one run because of what happened next.
Brett Gardner lined a bullet down the left-field line. Reddick, who was playing more toward left-center, chased it down, picked it up, and threw in a single motion to relay-man Carlos Correa. Correa fired a strike to third baseman Alex Bregman, who tagged Gardner's outstretched arm just before he touched the base.
It was a tremendous play by all three Astros' fielders, and it was a terrible mistake by Gardner. He was already in scoring position on second and there was virtually no benefit in his trying to stretch with two outs. You never make the first or final out of an inning at third base.
In fact, the frame had opened with a Todd Frazier drive that sent left fielder Gonzalez to the wall to make the catch. So the Yankees hit the ball hard three times against Verlander in that inning, but came up completely empty.
The Astros broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the fourth when Correa homered to right. The ball was hit to the same location on the wall as Headley's shot. Unlike Reddick, though, Aaron Judge failed to make the play. A young fan in the front row got a glove on it and deflected the ball into the seats. The home run call on the field was upheld upon replay review. Judge has the height to make that catch easily, but he was simply late getting to the ball.
The Yankees came back to tie the game in the next frame. Verlander struck Bird out on four pitches and Castro on three to start the inning. He had a one strike count on Hicks and appeared to be on his way to retiring the side in order. But the Yankees center fielder lined the next pitch into the gap in left center for a double.
The next play was one of the strangest things you'll ever see. Frazier hit a rocket about half way up the high linked fence in left field. The ball got stuck in the padding, out of reach of the Houston defenders. Frazier initially circled the bases for what appeared to be an inside-the-park homer, but he was called back to second when the umpires decided the play was a ground-rule double. The Yankees had evened the score, but Frazier was left stranded when Headley lined out to end the inning. It was another bad break and another missed scoring opportunity for the Yankees.
Severino pitched well, but was removed after four innings due to an apparent injury. Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson each threw two innings of scoreless relief. Aroldis Chapman then came in to pitch the ninth and struck out Reddick on four pitches. Things fell apart after that.
Altuve was first-pitch swinging and lined a single to left. Chapman then fell behind 2-0 and 3-1 to Correa before coming back to make it a full count. Correa lined the payoff pitch into the gap in right-center field. Altuve was stopping at third, but he scored when the throw went to second instead of home. The relay throw was in time, but Gary Sanchez was unable to handle it.
Fueled by numerous mistakes, it was another heartbreaking loss for the Yankees. To their credit, the Astros played flawless baseball and capitalized on every single New York miscue.
The series now shifts to the Bronx. Game Three is scheduled for Monday at 8:00 PM EDT. Charlie Morton will face Yankees' stopper CC Sabathia.