How about a walk-off to open this blockbuster series?!?! Aaron Hicks saved the contest with a game-tying three run home run in the ninth, setting up Aaron Judge’s walk-off single to secure the 7-6 victory. This matchup always promised fireworks, and boy, did both teams bring it tonight. Many saw this series as the litmus test for the two best teams in the AL, and if this game was any indication of what’s in store over the next three days... well, all I can say is “Buckle up, folks.”
This game got off to about as terrible a start as Jameson Taillon could’ve imagined. The Yankees right-hander put on the first two hitters he faced, plunking Jose Altuve and surrendering a single to Michael Brantley. Leadoff traffic has a way of leading to big innings, and Alex Bregman proved that maxim true, launching a cement-mixer slider to left to put the Yankees in a 3-0 hole before anyone had a chance to bat. Credit to Taillon, he retired the next three batters on six pitches, but it was an inauspicious start to be sure.
One of the things that Yankees manager Aaron Boone has emphasized when talking about the team’s success has been the ability to answer right back when the opponent scores. DJ LeMahieu and Judge mirrored Altuve and Brantley, reaching on a walk and single respectively. After an Anthony Rizzo groundout, Giancarlo Stanton casually flipped a 1-0 middle-middle curveball for his own three-run bomb tie the game.
Doing oppo second deck on a slow breaker doesn’t seem like it should be possible, but this is Big G we’re talking about. It was his 10th home run to give the Yankees a tie or lead, a feat he does with the highest frequency of any slugger in the game.
Taillon settled down in the second inning, retiring the Astros 1-2-3 including an amazing Joey Gallo catch in right to seal the frame. Unfortunately, the reprieve would only be temporary.
Apparently, both teams were only allowed to score via the three-run home run. Altuve and Bregman reached on a pair of singles, as Taillon’s hard-hit woes continued. Up stepped the hottest hitter in baseball, who proceeded to do exactly what you’d expect if you’ve watched Yordan Alvarez at all this season. He crushed a 1-0 changeup into the seats in right on an absolute missile that never got more than 42 feet off the ground. It was his fourth homer in the last three contests, and his .904 slugging percentage over the last 20 games just keeps climbing.
Unlike Taillon, Valdez settled into a groove after a shaky first, and went on to retire the next 12 batters he faced including six via strikeout. At one point, it almost looked like he was just playing catch, pouring called-strike sinkers over the glove-side edge of the zone for strikes one and two before finishing hitters off with the curveball. The Yankees knew what was coming, and they just couldn’t do anything about it.
I suppose the one silver lining of Taillon’s outing was that he managed to give them 5.2 innings to at least spare the bullpen an overtaxing workload. He continued to find bats, yielding a pair of doubles to Altuve in the fourth and sixth and back-to-back singles to Alvarez and Kyle Tucker in the fifth. However, he found that extra gear when he needed it most and didn’t surrender another run after the second, ultimately holding the score to 6-3 by the time he departed in the sixth. Taillon’s final line on the night: 5.2 IP, 10 hits, 6 runs, no walks, and 3 strikeouts on 90 pitches.
Lucas Luetge, Albert Abreu, and Miguel Castro combined to throw 3.1 scoreless innings to keep the Yankees’ hopes alive. There wasn’t much to cheer about for Yankees fans in innings two through eight, with the only excitement coming in the form of a Rizzo 16-pitch walk in the sixth (the longest Yankees plate appearance in at least the last 34 years), and a leaping grab at the wall by Tucker in right to end the eighth and rob Rizzo of a run-scoring extra base hit. All this being said, if there’s anything the last week has shown us, it’s to not count out these Yankees until the final out of the game is made.
Stanton and Torres drew back-to-back leadoff walks against Houston closer Ryan Pressly to bring Hicks to the plate. In a moment reminiscent of his first inning three-run home run off Justin Verlander in Game 5 of the 2019 ALCS, Hicks crushed a middle-middle fastball into the bleachers in right to complete the comeback and set the stage for one of the most incredible victories of the Yankees season so far.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa singled to keep the rally going, but got thrown out trying to steal second on a call eventually upheld by replay. Rather than let this moment deflate their momentum, the Yankees kept their focus locked in, with Jose Trevino lining a single up the middle to knock Pressly from the game.
Ryne Stanek came in and struck out Gallo, but DJ LeMahieu drew a clutch two-out walk to allow Judge a chance to be the hero — as if there was any doubt. After seeing three straight splitters below the zone, Judge lasered a center-cut 3-0 pitch down the line in left to give the Yankees the walk-off 7-6 victory.
Just when it looked like the Yankees had met their match in the AL, they proved that they are the rightful owners of a 52-18 record. It’s their 15th home win in a row, their longest streak since 1961.
It’s hard to see a game topping the drama of this one, but with Luis Severino facing Justin Verlander tomorrow, I think we could be in for another thriller. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 pm ET, so be sure to join us in the game thread.