Where: Minute Maid Park, Houston
HOUSTON — Having done what he seemingly always does against a franchise he reverentially lauds as storied, Houston Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel was again left lacking for an explanation for his brilliance against the team in pinstripes with 27 World Series trophies back in the Bronx.
Keuchel continued his mastery of the New York Yankees by twirling seven shutout innings in the Astros’ 2-1 victory on Friday night at Minute Maid Park in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.
Keuchel (1-0) surrendered only four hits and issued just one walk while recording 10 strikeouts to become the third pitcher in franchise history to record a double-digit strikeout game in the postseason. Right-handers Mike Scott and Nolan Ryan accomplished the feat against the New York Mets in Games 1 and 5 of the 1986 National League Championship Series.
After needing a marvelous defensive play from left fielder Marwin Gonzalez to escape the fifth inning and running his pitch count to 97 through the close of the sixth, Keuchel returned for the seventh and retired the side on 12 pitches. He set down the final six batters he faced and improved to 6-2 with a 1.09 ERA against the Yankees, including a pair of postseason wins.
“There’s really no hard explanation for it,” said Keuchel, who worked six innings while pitching Houston to a 3-0 win in the 2015 AL Wild Card Game at Yankee Stadium. “I think it’s just pitch execution and it’s just been there more times than it hasn’t against the Yankees.”
The Astros mustered all the offense they would need in the fourth inning.
Jose Altuve produced the first hit of the game off Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (0-1) with a one-out infield single before adding a stolen base that put him in scoring position for Carlos Correa.
Correa followed with a sharp single to left field that scored Altuve and, two batters later, Correa came home when Yuli Gurriel singled to center field with two outs, doubling the lead.
Tanaka worked six strong innings, allowing four hits and one walk with three strikeouts.
“Really another strong outing,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Tanaka. “Just a really good outing.”
Tanaka took a line drive off his leg to start the sixth and was replaced by Chad Green in the seventh.
“So he took the line drive off his leg (leading off the sixth inning) and was able to finish, and that’s not the reason I took him out,” Girardi said. “I took him out because I thought he gave us everything he had and I thought it was time to make a change. But just another great outing.”
Astros closer Ken Giles tallied a white-knuckle, five-out save, stranding two baserunners with a strikeout of Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius in the eighth inning before surrendering a two-out home run to Yankees first baseman Greg Bird in the ninth. Giles recovered to strike out pinch hitter Jacoby Ellsbury, his fourth strikeout of his outing and the 14th by Houston pitching.
“We had a couple times there where we had some opportunities to score and put some runs up, but we came up short,” Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner said. “(We were) facing good pitching, and sometimes things don’t go your way.”
One opportunity came with two outs in the fifth when right fielder Aaron Judge lined a 3-2 pitch to left field and Bird, who opened the frame with a single to right, rounded third base and headed home. Gonzalez delivered with an accurate throw home.
Astros catcher Brian McCann fielded the ball and applied the tag on Bird to end the threat. Girardi requested a review but after 80 seconds, the call was upheld.
Gonzalez, a shortstop by trade who earned starts at all four infield positions, made 38 starts in left during the regular season. His growing familiarity there again paid dividends for Houston.
“I think the key is, my team has helped me a lot; I’m always trying to learn from them,” Gonzalez said of his transition to the outfield. “Like that’s new for me.
“I think that this year is the most games that I have played in the outfield and I think I have to keep learning and playing hard.”
NOTES: Astros RHP Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) will get the start in Game 3 at Yankee Stadium, with RHPs Brad Peacock (13-2, 3.00 ERA) and Lance McCullers (7-4, 4.25 ERA) the leading candidates to start Game 4. Morton allowed four runs with 10 strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings in a 10-7 win in the Bronx on May 14. … Yankees RHP Sonny Gray, the scheduled starter for Game 4, threw a simulated game on Thursday. Gray last pitched on Oct. 5 in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Indians. … Astros manager A.J. Hinch made one change to his ALCS roster, replacing INF Tyler White with RHP Collin McHugh. Facing the potential of games on three consecutive days in New York, Hinch opted to add a 12th pitcher to his active roster. … After not appearing in the ALDS, Yankees DH Matt Holliday batted eighth and finished 0-for-3.