Time for Houston to face their next challenge

Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: ALCS Game 1 Preview

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

It took more games than expected, but the outcome was as predicted: the Astros are in the ALCS. Their opponent is also no surprise; the New York Yankees who were dominant in a sweep of the Twins. Houston continues to own home-field advantage, so the Yankees have made the trip to Houston (I'll practice self-control and avoid the Seinfeld reference) for Games 1 and 2 on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

To start the series, the Astros will be sending Zack Greinke to the mound after a disappointing start in St. Petersburg in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Rays. New York will turn to Masahiro Tanaka, who holds very stout numbers in his postseason career. Here is a quick rundown of ALCS Game 1:

Game Facts

When: Saturday, 7:08 p.m Central.

Where: Minute Maid Park - Houston, Texas.

TV: FOX.

Streaming: Fox Sports App.

Pitching matchup: Zack Greinke vs Masahiro Tanaka.

Series: tied 0-0.

Series schedule

Date & Time (Central) Location Pitching matchup
Game 1 Saturday 10/12, 7:08 PM Minute Maid Park, Houston TX Greinke vs Tanaka
Game 2 Sunday 10/13, 7:08 PM Minute Maid Park, Houston TX Verlander vs Paxton
Game 3 Tuesday 10/15, 3:08 PM Yankee Stadium, Bronx NY Cole vs Severino
Game 4 Wednesday 10/16, 7:08 PMYankee Stadium, Bronx NY TBD vs TBD
Game 5* Thursday 10/17, 7:08 PM Yankee Stadium, Bronx NY TBD vs TBD
Game 6* Saturday 10/19, 3:08 PM Minute Maid Park, Houston TX TBD vs TBD
Game 7* Sunday 10/20, 6:38 PM Minute Maid Park, Houston TX TBD vs TBD

* If necessary
+ Projected Starters

Game Storylines

Rebound game vital for Greinke and his new team

As mentioned, Greinke did not meet the hype in his first playoff appearance for the Astros. In ALDS Game 3, he went just three and two-thirds innings during which he allowed six earned runs, including three homers. Things will be even more difficult against a potent Yankees lineup looking to capitalize against him and build offensive momentum.

Greinke will have to channel in behind his home crowd and give his team an efficient start. New York will not provide any Houston pitcher many easy outs throughout this series, so the Astros should be prepared to use their bullpen much more often than they did in the ALDS. With that, they cannot afford for Greinke to make an early exit after falling apart again. It will be even more critical for Greinke to limit runs allowed because going opposite of him will be Masahiro Tanaka, who holds a 1.54 ERA in the playoffs in his career over 35 innings of work.

Astros can't allow the Yankees to steal one

Houston wanted and needed home-field advantage for this exact matchup. Everyone remembers how much the Astros struggled in New York in the 2017 ALCS. It took having the four games in Houston and winning them all to come out victorious in that matchup. The Astros are a more experienced and arguably improved team from that 2017 squad, but the Yankees even more so. These Yankees are not the same team that folded in the final two games of the 2017 ALCS.

The Astros will have to fight hard to ensure that they don't let the Yankees steal one of these first two games at Minute Maid Park because it will not be any easier to go into Yankee Stadium in October 2019 than it was two years ago. They are playing with confidence, and have the dangerous lineup to do enough to catch Houston on the wrong foot and take advantage. To combat that, it will be vital for Houston to capture and maintain momentum early and often in Game 1 and try to hold on to it as far into this series as they can.

An offensive showdown

Just looking at these lineups is a mouthwatering gift for those who are hopeful to see some of the game's best sluggers. On Houston's side, you've got George Springer, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve, and Yuli Gurriel, all ready to change the complexion of a game with one swing. But the Yankees have bombers of their own, with Aaron Judge, DJ LeMahieu, Giancarlo Stanton, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Gardner, and Gleyber Torres all ready to get some swings of their own.

This matchup is what we've been waiting to see for several months, and I expect it will deliver. Will Houston perform and play up to their expectations? We'll find out Saturday night.

Be sure to check SportsMap after the final out for an in-depth recap of the game, and follow me on Twitter for updates and reactions throughout each playoff game: @ChrisCampise

The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.

Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

In what was expected to be a fierce pitcher's duel, Game 1 of the 2019 World Series saw some big offensive moments in the early innings as the Nationals erased an early 2-0 deficit with five unanswered runs to take a 5-2 lead against Gerrit Cole. They would hold on to that lead and take Game 1 against the Astros, 5-4. Washington's star of the night was Juan Soto, who went 3-for-4 with three RBIs, including a solo home run to fuel the Nationals to a 1-0 series lead. Here is a recap of the game:

Final Score: Nationals 5, Astros 4.

Series: Nationals lead 1-0.

Winning Pitcher: Max Scherzer.

Losing Pitcher: Gerrit Cole.

Astros take an early lead

Although the Nationals would record the first hit of the night on a leadoff single in the top of the inning, it would be the Astros who would get the first runs of the night in the bottom of the first inning. George Springer worked a leadoff walk to start the frame, followed by Jose Altuve, who drilled a single to put two on base. Both would advance a base after a wild pitch to move Springer to third, followed by a steal by Altuve, then Yuli Gurriel drove them in on a two-RBI double off the left-center field wall to give Houston the quick 2-0 lead.

The Nationals immediately cut the lead in half in the top of the second, getting a solo home run by Ryan Zimmerman off of Gerrit Cole to straightaway center-field to make it a 2-1 game. The Astros threatened to extend their lead in the bottom of the third after getting runners on second and third with two outs on a bloop single that fell in by Gurriel, but a strikeout by Carlos Correa would end the inning.

Nationals roar back with five unanswered runs

The Nationals were able to fully erase the 2-0 deficit in the top of the fourth. It came on the second solo home run allowed by Gerrit Cole on the night, this one a leadoff homer to Juan Soto to tie the game. Yordan Alvarez recorded a much-needed hit considering his playoff slump to lead off the bottom of the fourth and should have moved to second after a missed catcher's interference against Josh Reddick instead resulted in Reddick recording the second out of the inning.

George Springer worked a walk next as Houston continued to work Max Scherzer into lengthy at-bats, but both runners would be left stranded as Scherzer got out of another jam. Cole encountered jam of his own in the top of the fifth, issuing his first walk to start the inning followed by a single to put two runners on. After getting an out, Cole would allow an RBI-single as Washington took their first lead at 3-2. With two outs in the inning, Juan Soto would strike again, this time a two-RBI double to extend the Nationals' lead to 5-2 before the inning was over.

Washington goes to their bullpen in the sixth while Cole finishes seven

After a scoreless top of the sixth by Cole, the Nationals moved to another pitcher, bringing in Patrick Corbin to try and hold on to Washington's lead. Corbin was as a potential Game 3 starter, but with the Nationals bullpen having notable struggles, they opted instead to go to his strong arm to try and hold on to get a Game 1 road win, potentially keeping him available for a Game 4 start. He would record a scoreless frame, erasing a one-out single by Yordan Alvarez to keep it a 5-2 deficit for Houston heading to the seventh.

Gerrit Cole would throw one more inning before he was done for the night, getting a 1-2-3 top of the seventh. His final line was not what many expected would it would be, recording his worst start of the postseason: 7.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 2 HR.

Nationals hold on for Game 1 win

Tanner Rainey was the next reliever for the Nationals, but George Springer welcomed him with a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the seventh to trim the lead to 5-3. Rainey would then allow back-to-back one-out walks, prompting the move to another reliever for Washington. It would be Daniel Hudson who would come in and get the second out before an infield single loaded the bases for Yordan Alvarez, who would strikeout to end the threat.

First out of Houston's bullpen was Will Harris in the top of the eighth, and he would erase a one-out single by Soto to keep it a two-run game. Kyle Tucker led off the bottom of the eighth with a pinch-hit single against Hudson, who remained in the game for Washington. Tucker would move to second by tagging on a long flyout, then score on an RBI-double by Springer that was mere feet from being a game-tying home run, but instead left the tying run on second base with one out and the score now 5-4. After a flyout by Altuve, the Nationals moved to Sean Doolittle to face Michael Brantley, and Doolittle would win that battle to keep it a one-run game.

Joe Smith would come in for the top of the ninth to try and keep it a one-run game and give Houston a chance to tie or walk it off in the bottom half of the inning. Smith did his job, keeping the Nationals off the board. Doolittle would face the middle of Houston's order in the bottom of the ninth and retired the Astros in order to finish off Houston's Game 1 loss.

Up Next: Game 2 of the 2019 World Series will start at 7:07 PM Central on Wednesday from Minute Maid Park in Houston. It offers another terrific pitching matchup on paper with Justin Verlander for the Astros going up against Stephen Strasburg for the Nationals.

The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.

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