You can never say for certain that one team is definitely going to win when you sit down to watch an MLB game. Even the all-conquering 1998 Yankees didn’t win every game they played against the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Every ace can have an off day. Every offense can have one against a mediocre pitcher. It happens.
That being said, the Yankees’ chances in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Astros were a bit unlikely going in. Their ALDS win over the Guardians went five games and even beyond that, rain affected that series, messing with their planned pitching order and giving them no off day ahead of the ALCS.
All of that led to them giving the start to Jameson Taillon. Now, Taillon is a perfectly fine mid/lower rotation starter, and with the way the ALCS schedule is set up, the Yankees were always going to have to give him a start at some point. That being said, he’s not the ideal pitcher you would want to match up with Justin Verlander on the other side.
However, he gave the Yankees about all that they could ask for. While he gave up some hard contact, he ended up going 4.1 innings, allowing just one run against a powerful Astros’ lineup. Thanks to that effort, the Yankees got into the last couple innings with a shot at victory.
They did not get that victory. A trio of late inning home runs allowed the Astros to pull away with a 4-2 victory, leaving the Yankees to lick their wounds after a real chance to start the series with a win.
While some of the bullpen moves seemed a bit foolish, you do still have to start with the performance from the lineup. Two runs in a game against the Astros is basically never going to be good enough, especially considering that one of them came in the eighth inning with the Yankees basically already on the ropes.
Now, there was some less than stellar home plate umpiring in Game 1, some of which really blunted some Yankees’ scoring opportunities. Also, flying halfway across the country and having to get ready for Verlander a day after playing an extremely high stakes game cannot be easy.
However, the Yankees still created some chances against Verlander, but failed to capitalize. His final numbers are impressive, but his six innings took over 100 pitches. The Yankees were able to work the count against him at points, but just weren’t able to deliver a big blow against him following Harrison Bader’s second inning home run. They had another decent chance in the eighth inning against the Astros’ bullpen. Anthony Rizzo homered to get the Yankees within two runs, and they then even brought the potential go-ahead run to the plate. They were just no key hits to be found.
Two runs is almost certainly never going to be enough against a team like the Astros. However, it wasn’t thanks in part to some questionable bullpen moves.
When Taillon was pulled, he departed with a runner on second and one out in a tie game. Yes, it’s early and yes, the Yankees played yesterday and used their big bullpen arms in that game. However, the move there probably shouldn’t have been to Clarke Schmidt. Now, to be fair to Schmidt, after loading the bases, he then got Kyle Tucker to ground into a double play to get out of a big jam. However, Aaron Boone went back to him for another inning and that’s when things went haywire. The two home runs he allowed in the sixth inning gave Houston a lead they never relinquished.
Lou Trivino replaced him and looked solid, throwing just seven pitches to finish off the sixth for Schmidt. Then when the seventh inning started, it was Frankie Montas on the mound. The Yankees had only added Montas to the roster for the ALCS after he missed the Guardians’ series and the last couple weeks of the regular seasons with a shoulder injury. Yes, at that point, a rally against a good Astros’ bullpen was going to be unlikely, but going to a guy who hasn’t pitched in a month in that spot, when he’s normally a starter anyways, was a strange decision. At the very least, Boone probably should’ve stuck with Trivino for longer than seven pitches.
If you took the expected matchups for this series and rank them by likelihood of the Yankees’ chances, this game probably would’ve been near the bottom. However, the Yankees got into the final innings with a chance and came up empty, and that stings.