ALCS Game 2

Astros-Yankees: Gutsy Altuve scores in the ninth as Astros win 2-1, take 2-0 series lead

Justin Verlander was sick in Game 2. Elsa/Getty Images

Justin Verlander proved in Game 2 of the ALCS that not only was the trade for him a terrific move for the Astros, it may prove to be the difference in these playoffs. Carlos Correa also proved that he is arguably the future of the sport.

Verlander pitched a complete game on Saturday including thirteen strikeouts while Correa homered and hit the walk-off hit as the Astros beat the Yankees 2-1 and take a 2-0 lead in the ALCS.

 Verlander started out hot in the top of the first inning by recording two strikeouts and a pop out to retire the Yankees in order. Luis Severino allowed a hit to, no surprise, Jose Altuve and walked Carlos Correa with two-outs, but was able to strand them with a groundout to end the inning.

In the second, Starlin Castro was able to fight off a pitch for a broken-bat grounder that dribbled slowly enough to beat out Altuve's throw for the Yankees first hit of the day. Verlander followed that with a strikeout, his fourth of the game, to end the top of the inning. Yuli Gurriel kept his .500 postseason batting average intact with a leadoff walk to start the bottom of the inning but was part of an inning-ending double play to keep the game scoreless.

Josh Reddick made a spectacular catch at the wall to rob Chase Headley of at the least a double and maybe a home run in the top of the third inning. Brett Gardner hit a ball into the corner and nearly got a triple out of it, but after a review was called out on a terrific relay throw from Reddick to Correa to Alex Bregman. Severino retired the Astros in order in the bottom of the inning.

Things remained quiet and scoreless in the top of the fourth as Verlander retired the side on 9 pitches with a groundout and two flyouts. Carlos Correa came through with the first run of the game on a solo home run to right field to put the Astros up 1-0 before Severino ended the inning.

After getting two quick strikeouts to start the top of the fifth, the Yankees were able to tie the game off of Verlander with a double by Aaron Hicks followed by a ground-rule double by Todd Frazier when the ball got caught in the bullpen fence in left-center. Verlander was able to limit the damage there with a lineout to end the top of the inning. The Yankees went to their bullpen in the bottom of the fifth, likely a result of Severino being hit on his glove hand by a comebacker by Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth. Tommy Kahnle was the relief pitcher and despite a walk to Alex Bregman was able to keep the game tied 1-1.

Verlander bounced back from the rough fifth inning to make quick work of the Yankees in the top of the sixth, including two more strikeouts, bringing his total to eight. Kahnle returned for the bottom of the sixth for the Yankees and retired all three Astros, including a rare strikeout of Altuve, to keep the game tied at 1 going into the seventh.

In the seventh, Verlander recorded two more strikeouts to become the fourth Astro with 10 or more strikeouts in a playoff game less than 24 hours after Keuchel became the third. David Robertson took over for the Yankees in the bottom of the inning, and despite giving up a two-out double to Gurriel was able to get out of the inning with the game remaining knotted up.

Verlander returned to start the eighth and struck out the side, the last of which was the thirteenth of the day on his 109th pitch. Robertson also had a quick inning in the bottom half, retiring the Astros on six pitches to send the game to the ninth still tied up 1-1.

Verlander came back out and was able to complete nine innings on 124 pitches after getting two popouts and a groundout to strand Didi Gregorius who singled earlier in the inning. Aroldis Chapman came in for the Yankees, and after a strikeout to Reddick gave up a single to Altuve. Correa was up next and hit the walk-off hit to score the game as Altuve ran home on a ball that was nearly thrown home in time to beat him but was lost by catcher Gary Sanchez, allowing the Astros to get the win 2-1.

Game 3: The Astros and Yankees get the day off tomorrow to travel to New York for the next few games of the series at Yankee Stadium. First pitch of Game 3 is scheduled for 7:08 PM Central on Monday night. A.J. Hinch has named Charlie Morton the starter for the Astros. Morton is coming off a relatively strong game; he was the starter in Game 4 of the ALDS where he threw six strikeouts in his four and one-third innings of work as the Astros went on to win and clinch that series. The Yankees will start CC Sabathia who pitched well in the decisive Game 5 of their ALDS against the Indians.

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Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March. Photo via: NRG Park/Facebook

Football players, coaches and general managers have come and gone, but only one person has been running the business side of the Texans, well, even before they were the Texans. Jamey Rootes has been President of the Houston Texans since 1999, when an NFL team in Houston was still just a gleam in owner Bob McNair's eyes. That's before the team adopted the name "Texans" in 2000, before there was NRG Stadium, which opened as Reliant Stadium in 2000, and before they became serial champs of the AFC South, six titles between 2011-2019.

The precise date was Oct. 6, 1999 when NFL owners voted 29-0 to award the NFL's 32nd and newest franchise to Houston. Not only that, Houston was awarded the 2004 Super Bowl. Rootes, 34 years old with no NFL experience, had his work cut out for him. Before taking the job in Houston, Rootes was team president, general manager and CEO of selling peanuts and popcorn for the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.

Major League Soccer, with all due respect, is not nearly a national obsession like the National Football League.

"I wasn't intimidated," Rootes said. "There's a quote that I love, 'Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.' I've always been a purpose-driven person. As for the step up to the NFL, I went from knowing nothing at the start of my time in Columbus to five years later thinking, OK, I've got this sports thing down. Actually, I had a very significant reduction in my responsibilities in Houston. When I was in Columbus, I ran the stadium, I ran the team's business, I was the general manager so I did the talent side of it, too. When I came to Houston, all I had to do was the business, so that was great."

Rootes has captured his remarkable journey from the soccer team at Clemson to grad school at Indiana University to the business world at IBM and Proctor & Gamble to the Clemson Crew, to ultimately being named President of the Houston Texans in his new book, The Winning Game Plan: A Proven Leadership Playbook for Continuous Business Success, available next week.

I've known Rootes from his day one with the Texans, but I still had to ask: everybody knows what the general manager does, and what the head coach does. What exactly does the President of an NFL team worth $3.3 billion do?

"I like to use the parallel of a pharmaceutical company to describe my job. There are two sides to that company. First you put scientists in one building and you leave them alone. They create products, which is what our football team is. The football side has a coach and general manager and all the people who prepare the team to play on Sunday. But getting that product to market is done by the business side, traditional business disciplines. Those are the things that fall to me. Basically, everything between the white lines is run by the football side. Everything outside of those lines, I do," Rootes said.

Between 1999 and 2002, when the Texans played their first game (let the record show the Texans defeated the Dallas Cowboy, 19-10), the team was essentially a massive start-up project. First orders of business for Rootes involved building a new stadium, developing relationships with suppliers, contractors and government officials, preparing for a Super Bowl and, most important, developing a relationship with fans.

Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March, but it's really an accumulation of lessons learned and behind-the-scenes stories about building the Texans from scratch into one of the most admired and valuable franchises in all of sports.

"I've always been a meticulous note-taker. I've kept every presentation I've ever done. I took all of my notes and concepts and put those down on paper," Rootes said. "To be a good leader, you need a wild imagination. You can show me a blank piece of paper, but I don't see it as blank. To me, it's a finished product that hasn't been created yet," Rootes said.

Rootes lays out his leadership strategy in seven chapters: Are You a Manager or a Leader, Get the Right People on Your Team, Build a Winning Culture, Create Raving Fans, a Winning Playbook for Adversity and Success, Your Leadership Playbook and Play to Win.

He learned lesson No. 1 the hard way. A friend once counseled Rootes, "your staff doesn't like the way you're all up in their business, you need to back off." Rootes took that advice to heart.

"It was an epiphany. I wasn't a leader. That's when I truly began thinking about leadership. I say this all the time, I don't do anything. All I do is create an environment where exceptional people can be their very best self. I know what's going on. I'm fully informed. I leave every game day exhausted. I get there early. I do the things I need to do. I kiss babies. I shake hands. I present checks. I entertain clients. I'm dialed in. It absolutely wears me out because I love this organization so much. I am so proud of what we've been able to do for this great city of Houston."

I asked Rootes, as someone who lives for Game Day and a packed NRG Stadium, are you devastated by 2020, the year of COVID-19 and small crowds limited by Centers for Disease Control guidelines?

"I don't look at it that way. I think there's a song by 10,000 Maniacs that said, these are the days that you'll remember. I told my staff, I know you're all going through hell right now, but later on in life, you'll talk about this year. Things that are important are memorable, for the positive and those things that leave a scar. You learn from adversity and you're a better person for enduring it. Victor Frankl said 'We can discover meaning in life in three different ways, by creating a work or doing a deed, experiencing something or encountering someone, and by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.' Suffering is part of life. He should know, he survived a Nazi concentration camp," Rootes said.

H-E-B President Scott McClelland wrote the forward to The Winning Game Plan. Rootes dedicates the book to late Texans owner Bob McNair. Rootes' book is a fun read. All I kept thinking was, where was this book when I needed it? And before you buy too much into Rootes as a leader, consider that Rootes admits that he had to ask for wife Melissa's permission before he could accept the Texans job.

Personal note: I believe that a big part of leadership is the ability to keep a promise. Several years ago, I was riding my bicycle with my dog Lilly on a leash. It was the only way I could keep up with her. Well, one time Lilly saw a squirrel and pulled me off my bicycle. I tumbled a few times and rolled next to the curb. When I looked up, there was Jamey Rootes. I told him, "There's no need for you to tell anybody about this." He never said a word.

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