Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
After being taken to a winner-take-all Game 5 with the Rays which they would win to advance, the Astros had a quick turnaround to start the ALCS with the Yankees in Game 1. New York had a chance to watch Houston's ALDS unfold after sweeping the Twins in three games.
In ALCS Game 1, it would be all Yankees as their potent offense would overpower Houston's pitching, and also overwhelm the Astros' batters with a terrific start from Masahiro Tanaka before their bullpen finished a 7-0 shutout win to take a 1-0 lead in the series. Here is a recap of the game:
Final Score: Yankees 7, Astros 0.
Series: Yankees lead 1-0.
Winning Pitcher: Masahiro Tanaka.
Losing Pitcher: Zack Greinke.
Tanaka outduels Greinke in a pitcher's duel
After three innings of overpowering pitching from both starters, the Astros and Yankees went into the middle innings scoreless. Zack Greinke had only yielded one hit over that span but would allow his second to start the top of the fourth, a leadoff single by DJ LeMaheiu. LeMaheiu moved to second on a wild pitch, then scored on a one-out RBI-double by Gleyber Torres to put New York up 1-0.
The Yankees would threaten again in the top of the fifth with back-to-back one-out singles, but Greinke would work out of it to keep it a one-run game. Masahiro Tanaka meanwhile was winning the pitcher's duel by allowing just one hit through the first four frames. The Astros put a runner on with a leadoff walk by Alex Bregman in the bottom of the fifth, but he would get doubled up by straying too far from first base on a flyout, erasing Houston's chances of a run that inning.
Gleyber Torres would strike again in the top of the sixth, getting a one-out solo home run off of Greinke to extend New York's lead to 2-0. Giancarlo Stanton was next to tack on to the lead for the Yankees, getting a two-out solo home run to make it 3-0. Though he would finish that inning still with a relatively manageable pitch count, AJ Hinch would not task Greinke with going any further. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 6 K , 2 HR.
Torres keeps driving in runs
Ryan Pressly was the first reliever to take the mound for Houston, but after two quick outs would fall victim to New York's offense with three-straight singles to load the bases before Gleyber Torres would get his fourth RBI of the night with a two-run single to blow the game open at 5-0. Josh James would come in to get out three to finish the inning.
This kid is something special. #ALCS pic.twitter.com/CMn48W9seZ
— MLB (@MLB) October 13, 2019
The Yankees would also make a move to the bullpen in the bottom of the seventh, bringing in Adam Ottavino to try and keep the top of Houston's lineup from getting the Astros on the board. Despite an error that would give the Astros their first big scoring chance of the game, a double play would end their chances.
Houston shutout in Game 1
James would stay on the mound for the top of the eighth to try and keep the score pat and did so with an impressive 1-2-3 inning. Zach Britton would come into the game for New York in the bottom of the eight and was able to erase a one-out walk by Houston to keep the shutout alive.
Houston would give Bryan Abreu a chance to pitch in the ALCS by taking over for James in the top of the ninth. He was met with a solo home run before later in the inning Gleyber Torres would get a fifth RBI on an RBI-groundout to make it 7-0. Abreu would continue to be hit around, resulting in a move to Hector Rondon to get the third out. Houston would come up empty for yet another inning in the bottom of the ninth, suffering a shutout loss at home to start the ALCS and put New York up 1-0 in the series.
Up Next: ALCS Game 2 from Minute Maid Park will be Sunday at 7:08 PM Central. The Astros will get Justin Verlander a start on regular rest, looking to get back on track after his disappointing outing in ALDS Game 4. The Yankees will counter with James Paxton, who went four and two-thirds innings while allowing three earned runs in his start against the Twins in ALDS Game 1, which the Yankees would win.
The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.
Max Scherzer logged at least 179 innings in 10 of his first 16 years in the majors. And the three-time Cy Young Award winner learned some tough lessons on the road to pitching deep into games.
That's one reason why the Texas Rangers right-hander thinks Major League Baseball needs to look a lot deeper than a roster limit if it wants to return starting pitching to prominence.
“I became a better pitcher once I went through three times in the lineup and was failing on that third time through the lineup,” the 39-year-old Scherzer said. "That's every young pitcher's struggle, is learning how to pitch three times through a lineup. ... We’re so scared now to let guys fail.”
The state of starting pitching has the attention of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who said in October the league is considering lowering the maximum of 13 pitchers per team to 12 possibly as soon as the 2025 season — with the goal of placing a greater emphasis on starting pitchers.
Big league starters averaged 15.4 outs and 85.1 pitches last year, according to Sportradar, and 15.6 outs and 84.9 pitches in 2022. But the numbers were 17.4 and 93.1 as late as 2015, and 17.8 and 98.6 in 2000.
“I grew up a fan of the game, and me and my dad used to pick Astros games based on when Roy Oswalt was pitching,” Chicago Cubs right-hander Jameson Taillon said. “We would look at pitching matchups, that's what we would do. Nowadays, I feel like that allure is gone a little bit.”
MLB wants to put that allure back in the game, but it's a tricky, multifaceted issue.
Pitching prospects are closely monitored on their way to the majors, and deviating from the organization's plan could put the careers of minor league managers and coaches at risk. There is more arm talent in big league bullpens than ever before, and reams of data that illustrate the danger of leaving a pitcher in for too long.
“From a fan perspective, yeah, to see a guy in there to go seven, eight innings, I absolutely get it,” Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Doesn’t necessarily help you win baseball games, and I’m in the business of winning games.”
While a 12-pitcher limit could incentivize teams to let starting pitchers go deeper into games, it would add more stress to bullpens. It also could prompt teams to shuttle their middle relievers from the majors to the minor leagues even more — regardless of their performance.
The long-term answer most likely lies in the lower levels of the minors and how baseball develops its next generation of starters.
“It starts with training in the minor leagues,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “That's where it all begins. It’s hard to do it when guys are coming up. They’re not trained to do that. Now you're going to ask them to get you deeper in the games and now you’re risking injury. So you got to be smart about that.”
The focus in the minors is more on stuff, Taillon said, and trying “to raise guys' ceiling at a young age."
“You see guys nowadays get called up who've never thrown five innings in their life,” he said. “It's crazy.”
Pitch counts, especially for baseball's top prospects, prevent pitchers from working deep into games in the minors.
Scherzer, who threw at least 95 pitches in 15 starts last year, thinks more latitude in the minors would help.
“I've been developed to throw, call it 105, 110 pitches on a five-day rotation,” he said. “It's the rest. It's more about the pitch count and then getting the appropriate amount of the rest. I don't understand why we keep cutting that pitch count lower and lower, especially for the guys who are being developed.”
Scherzer called a 12-pitcher roster limit “a terrible idea,” but he agreed that it would take some sort of action to reverse the current trend with starting pitching.
“We need to incentivize keeping the starter in the game longer,” he said. “We’re going to have to come up with rules to do this. It’s not going to self-correct.”
Once pitchers make it to the majors, they are often pulled before the lineup turns over a third time because of statistics that show hitters typically have more success in their third plate appearance against the same pitcher.
It could be an ace right-hander rolling along with a low pitch count — with no sign of trouble — and the manager makes the move because it's easier to address why he took him out than why he left him in for too long. That's an attitude that would be difficult for Major League Baseball to take out of the game.
“Trusting what you’re seeing, trusting your eyes and knowing when those times are to be able to let them go, I think you might start to see that come back a little bit more,” Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said. "There’s no refuting the numbers. It’s just like being able to recognize when it’s time to let them let them go.”