Tagged: Dallas Keuchel

Astros Leverage Home-Field Advantage for the Win…

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

2017 World Series

Astros 13, Dodgers 12…

Astros lead Series, 3-2

You certainly do not expect a slugfest to develop for a game that featured frontline aces Clayton Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel. That game was as wild as any I have ever seen in the World Series. The YES Network was showing replays of the 2001 World Series yesterday, and Game 4 (a home run by Tino Martinez to tie it and Derek Jeter’s homer to win it) might be the closest to the drama and excitement we saw in the Astros’ big win. 

The win certainly puts the Astros in the driver’s seat as the series will now shift back to Los Angeles for Game 6 on Tuesday night.  

The game started very positively for Dodgers fans. Chris Taylor led off the game with a single to center. Corey Seager struck out, but then Dallas Keuchel walked both Justin Turner anKiké Hernandez to load the bases. Cody Bellinger struck out for the second out and it looked like Keuchel might find a way to emerge unscathed. Logan Forsythe made Southern California sports bars erupt when he singled to left, driving in both Taylor and Turner when the ball booted off the glove of left fielder Marwin Gonzalez.  Hernandez took third. Then, the Dodgers picked up their third run of the inning when Logan Forsythe took off from first too early.  It looked like the Astros would get out of the inning but first baseman Yuli Gurriel’s throw to second was wide which pulled second baseman Jose Altuve away from the bag.  It was just enough for Forsythe to safely slide into second (which the Replay challenge confirmed) and the run scored by Hernandez on the play counted.  

With Kershaw breezing through the first few innings, it appeared that the Dodgers were going to have their way. They picked up another run in the top of the 4th inning. After Bellinger struck out again, Forsythe doubled to deep center with a one-hopper off the wall. Yasiel Puig struck out for the second out but Austin Barnes singled to left, with the ball dropping in front of Marwin Gonzales which brought Forsythe home to score. The Dodgers were up, 4-0, and appeared to be in control of the game. Charlie Culberson subsequently reached on an infield single to shallow right when he beat Jose Altuve’s throw, moving Barnes to second. That was all for Dallas Keuchel as Astros manager A.J. Hinch made the call to the pen and brought in Luke Gregerson. A wild pitch moved Barnes to third but Gregerson struck out Chris Taylor to limit the damage for the Astros. 

In the bottom of the 4th, the craziness ensued. George Springer led off with a walk. Following a fly out to left by Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve reached first on a solid hit to left. Springer moved to second. Carlos Correa smashed a double to left to score Springer. Altuve advanced to third, with Correa sliding into second under the throw (the replay challenge review showed Correa’s heel touched the bag ahead of Charlie Culberson’s tag). Yuli Gurriel then jumped on Kershaw’s first pitch to send it very high over the left field wall for the game-tying three-run homer.  

The Dodgers quickly answered Gurriel’s shot in the top of the 5th. Corey Seager and Justin Turner led off the inning with walks off Astros reliever Collin McHugh. Kiké Herandez had the first opportunity to bring the runners home but he struck out looking (in disbelief at the call). Cody Bellinger was next and he showed the World why he will be the NL’s Rookie of the Year when he blasted a three-run shot to right a few feet above the wall to restore the Dodgers lead at 7-4.  

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

Unfortunately, Clayton Kershaw did not survive the bottom of the 5th. He got two quick outs when Marwin Gonzalez flied out to left and Brian McCann struck out. But it unraveled from there. George Springer battled Kershaw through eight pitches before working a walk, and then Alex Bregman used a 10-pitch at-bat, down at one point to 1-2, to also walk.  Two outs, two runners and Kershaw was done.  

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

Kenta Maeda entered the game and was promptly greeted by a three-run homer to left center by Jose Altuve to tie the game at 7.

Credit:  AP – Charlie Riedel

The Dodgers were able to recapture the lead in the 7th. Brad Peacock was on the mound for the Astros. Justin Turner led off the top of the inning with a double to right center off the top of the wall (bummer, if it had only been a few inches higher). Kiké Hernandez bunted back to the pitcher, but the Astros were able to erase Turner at third with a quick throw from Peacock to third baseman Alex Bregman. Hernandez safe at first. Cody Bellinger’s triple to center, which bounced past George Springer, scored Hernandez. The Dodgers were unable to bring Bellinger home but they had taken a 8-7 lead.   

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts brought reliever Brandon Morrow into the game for the bottom of the 7th. Morrow has generally been a lockdown pitcher for the Dodgers but not this time. George Springer led off with a massive Aaron Judgian home run to left to tie the game once again. Alex Bregman, swinging on the first pitch, singled to left center and he scored when Jose Altuve doubled to left center over the head of Joc Pederson.  A wild pitch advanced Altuve to third, but it didn’t really matter when Carlos Correa launched a blast over the left field wall while Dodgers manager Dave Roberts could only shake his head. The Astros had their first lead of the game, 11-8. 

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

Tony Cingrani replaced Morrow to retire the next three batters in order and send the game to the 8th inning.

With Brad Peacock still pitching for the ‘Stros, Joc Pederson hit a one-out double off the top of the wall in left. Chris Taylor was hit by a pitch in the ribs. The Astros pulled Peacock and brought in Will Harris.  Harris promptly gave up a double to left center by Corey Seager. Pederson scored and Taylor moved to third. After Justin Turner flied out to right, Harris was pulled in favor of Chris Devenski. The Dodgers sent Andre Ethier (that’s a name I haven’t written in a very long time) up to pinch hit for Kiké Hernandez.  Ethier grounded out to first to leave Taylor stranded at third.  11-9, Astros.

In the bottom of the 8th and Cingrani still pitching for the Dodgers, Brian McCann went deep with a solo blast to right. The Astros had increased their seemingly safe lead to 12-9.

But the Dodgers weren’t done yet. Cody Bellinger led off the top of the 9th with a walk. Devenski struck out Logan Forsythe for the first out.  Yasiel Puig was up next and his homer to left, which just cleared the wall, made it a one-run game. 

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

Austin Barnes followed Puig with a double to center.  Joc Pederson grounded out to short, but Barnes advanced to third on the play.  Chris Taylor’s single up the middle scored Barnes and the game was tied yet again.

The Astros had a runner in scoring position in the bottom of the 9th when Yuli Gurriel doubled (very nearly a home run) but they were unable to bring him home so it was off to extra innings with the 12-12 deadlock.

The Dodgers had a runner on base in the top of the 10th when Andre Ethier singled to left with one out, but they were unsuccessful in moving the runner.

It opened the door for the dramatic bottom of the 10th. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, pitching his second inning, retired the first two hitters before hitting Brian McCann with a pitch on the elbow. Next, George Springer walked. The Astros replaced the slow-footed and elbow-hurting McCann at second with pinch-runner Derek Fisher. Alex Bregman, jumping on the first pitch from Jansen, singled to left center well over the shortstop’s head. Fisher raced around third to score the winning run for the Astros ahead of Andre Ethier’s throw to the plate.  

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

It was a nice touch by the Houston Astros to have former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush on hand for the ceremonial first pitch.  I am not sure how many more times we’ll see the elder Bush in public but it was good to see that he was healthy enough to participate.

Credit:  Pool – Getty Images

A tough loss for the Dodgers but now the series heads back to Los Angeles and away from the raucous Houston crowd. They face an uphill battle but at least they’ll be able to continue the fight on home turf.  

Editor’s Note:  This writer is pro-Dodgers.

Odds & Ends…

Dave Martinez was one of my favorites, among current coaches, for managerial opportunities. As Joe Maddon’s long-time chief lieutenant, I felt that Martinez was ready to run his own show. I didn’t really expect him to get consideration for the Yankees job with no prior connection to Yankees GM Brian Cashman. So, I was not surprised that word leaked yesterday that Martinez is the new manager for the Washington Nationals, signing a three-year deal. It’s a good hire by the Nats and makes the best of a bad situation after they axed former manager Dusty Baker.

There were also reports yesterday the Philadelphia Phillies are close to naming Gabe Kapler as their manager.  Kapler, currently, Director of Player Development for the Los Angeles Dodgers, does not have managing or coaching experience.  If Kapler gets the job, he’ll beat out Phillies Triple-A manager Dusty Wathan, son of John Wathan, to do it.

As for the Yankees, Mark DeRosa is an intriguing name.  I know that like Kapler (above) or Jerry Hairston, Jr, he does not have any coaching experience.  An Ivy Leaguer (he graduated from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania), DeRosa may not have any past connections with the Yankees or GM Brian Cashman, but he’s a Jersey guy (born in Passaic and raised in Carlstadt).  I respected DeRosa during his playing career and by all accounts he was a great teammate.  He was versatile playing all positions except catcher, pitcher and center field.  Listening and watching DeRosa, 42, on MLB Network shows he is a very  smart, talented guy and he would mesh perfectly with the New York media as well as the team’s core of Baby Bombers.  I know you need more than a New York accent to manage the Yankees, but I could easily get behind DeRosa as a potential manager.  After watching the Nationals and Phillies (apparently) make very inspired choices for their field generals, I would like to see the Yankees do the same.  Nothing against Rob Thomson but he represents the old guard to me.  It’s time for a fresh, new voice of leadership for the Pinstripers as they embark into the dawn of a new era.

Credit:  MLB.com

Have a great Monday! It’s an off day so if there will be baseball news before the end of the World Series, it happens today. Go Yankees!  

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End of Astros’ Two-Game Winning Streak…

Credit:  Los Angeles Times: Wally Skalij

2017 World Series

Dodgers 3, Astros 1…

Dodgers lead Series, 1-0

Powered by the arm of Clayton Kershaw and the bat of Justin Turner, the Los Angeles Dodgers captured Game 1 of the World Series. It was a bittersweet game for Yankees fans as we were left to wonder what could have been. Nevertheless, the Yankees turn will be here soon enough.  For now, it’s about the Dodgers and Astros.

After Kershaw easily set down the Astros in the top of the 1st, Chris Taylor jumped on the first pitch from Astros starter Dallas Keuchel to send it 447 feet over the left field wall. The Dodgers led 1-0 on a very hot Los Angeles evening. It seems like every time I watch the Dodgers play, Taylor is coming up big. He filled in for shortstop Corey Seager during the NLCS when Seager was left off the roster to recover from a lower back sprain. Back in center field, Taylor hit 21 home runs and drove in 72 RBI’s in 140 games for the Dodgers this year, batting .288. It’s incredible to think the Dodgers acquired Taylor from the Seattle Mariners in June 2016 for a pitcher (Zach Lee) who has been released two times since the trade.  

Credit:  Los Angeles Times:  Gina Ferazzi

The 1-0 score held up until the top of the 4th inning when Astros third baseman Alex Bregman took Kershaw deep with a solo shot to left leading off the inning.  It was not as far as Taylor’s blast but it still counts the same. It got Kershaw’s attention…he responded by striking out the side. Say what you will about Kershaw but he’s arguably the best pitcher in baseball. He has not had great post-season success to add to his resume…until now. With Kershaw pitching as well as he did, the Astros didn’t really have a chance.

With both starting pitchers still on the mound, the game stayed tied until the bottom of the 6th inning. The Dodgers recorded two quick outs when both Austin Barnes and Kershaw grounded out to shortstop Carlos Correa. But then Keuchel issued a two-out walk to aforementioned Chris Taylor. Justin Turner, the one-time Mets cast-off, strolled to the plate with long red hair and beard flowing. Dallas Keuchel tried to slip a 1-2 cutter past Turner. Boom! Over the wall in the left center and the Dodgers led, 3-1.  

Credit:  Los Angeles Times

Kershaw was done after seven innings, receiving congratulations and hugs from Manager Dave Roberts and others in the Dodgers dugout while the Dodgers were preparing to bat. It was a tremendous performance by the big Texan left-hander. He was never in trouble despite the game-tying home run in the 4th inning, limiting the Astros to three hits and one run. He struck out eleven batters and didn’t walk anyone. A big game performance by the game’s elite.  

Credit:  Los Angeles Times: Robert Gauthier

From there, it was time for the trusted Dodgers bullpen. Despite scoreless relief from Houston’s Brad Peacock and Chris Devenski to hold Los Angeles in check, the two-run Dodgers lead was a canyon with Brandon Morrow and Kenley Jansen setting down the Astros in order for the final six outs. Jansen may have gotten a few dollars less than Aroldis Chapman last off-season when he re-signed with the Dodgers in free agency, but right now, it’s Jansen and not Chapman that you would want for that big final out. He has been Mr Consistency all season long.  

This was a great win for the Dodgers and a wonderful way to start the World Series. The 2017 post-season has been punctuated by home field advantage which certainly works to the favor of the Dodgers.  

Former Yankee Rich Hill gets the Game 2 start tonight for the Dodgers. He’ll be opposed by Houston’s Justin Verlander. I look for the Dodgers to grab a two-game cushion before the series heads to Minute Maid Park in Houston. My prediction is Dodgers 7, Astros 4.  

Credit:  Stephen Dunn-Getty Images

Prior to yesterday’s game, I was saddened to see that former Yankee Curtis Granderson was left off the World Series roster for the Dodgers. Based on performance, it was an easy decision for Dave Roberts. The Grandy Man was 1-for-15 in the post-season and he only hit .161 in 36 games for Los Angeles after being acquired from the New York Mets on August 19th (after that tremendous grand slam against the Yankees at Citi Field). Still, it would have been nice to see Granderson, one of the game’s classiest guys, on the roster after such a good career. The Dodgers made room for 12 pitchers on the World Series roster including oft-injured former Yank Brandon McCarthy which cost Grandy his spot.  

It was great to see Corey Seager back on the field after his absence in the NLCS. Kyle’s brother is one of the game’s best young talents and the Dodgers are clearly a better team with him in the lineup. Seager will most likely see time at DH when the series shifts to Houston to limit the wear and tear on his back.  

Credit: Los Angeles Times: Wally Skalij

Editor’s Note:  This writer is pro-Dodgers.  

Odds & Ends…

The World Series means very quiet news for other MLB teams. The only meaningful day for potential news will be Thursday since it is a travel day for the World Series teams.  

Yankees manager Joe Girardi made a one hour visit to Yankee Stadium yesterday which drew tremendous speculation on social media but no news from credible Yankees beat writers. It’s also being reported that the Houston Astros are looking at Yankees third base coach Joe Espada for the bench coach vacancy created when current bench coach Alex Cora accepted the managerial gig in Boston effective at the end of the World Series.    

I was glad to see former Cardinal great and one-time Yankees prospect Willie McGee added to the coaching staff for the St Louis Cardinals. I can still remember feeling so underwhelmed when the Yankees traded McGee, a highly touted young prospect, to St Louis for the forgettable Bob Sykes in October 1981. McGee went on to have a tremendous career for the Cardinals including the 1985 NL MVP Award. He was elected to the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2014.  His specific role on the coaching staff has yet to be announced.  

Have a wonderful Wednesday! Their season may be over, but Go Yankees!

Masa and a Few Runs = Formula for Success…

Credit:  Al Bello-Getty Images

American League Championship Series

Yankees 5, Astros 0…

Yankees lead the Series, 3-2


The Yankees rode stellar pitching and a few clutch hits to take the advantage in the ALCS as the series now shifts to Houston for Game 6 on Friday night.

It was great to see Andy Pettitte throw out the ceremonial first pitch and it certainly brought a championship pedigree to the mound.  Nothing like starting a game exactly right!  As a Houstonian and a former Astro, it would be easy for Andy to root for the road team but I am so glad (and proud) that he has always been entrenched in his love for the Yankees. 

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

The Yankees proved that they are not afraid of Chris Sale and Corey Kluber, the AL’s best, and while they may not be afraid of Dallas Keuchel, the latter has proven to be an enigma in recent years and, in particular, this season. So, there was some reservation, at least on my part, with the thought of Keuchel picking up the ball for the pivotal Game 5.  

First up, though, was Masahiro Tanaka to face the potent Astros line up. It was not that long ago that Jose Altuve blasted three home runs in an ALDS game against the Boston Red Sox. The man short on stature and long on talent will most likely beat out Aaron Judge for AL MVP. Throw in the countless other stars in the Astros lineup, and it is easy to see why the team won 101 games in the regular season. Tanaka easily retired the first two hitters, but then a fielding error by third baseman Todd Frazier allowed the dangerous Altuve to reach first base. Time and again, Altuve has worked his way through the bases, through speed and superior baseball instincts, to find home plate, but not this time. Carlos Correa hit a soft grounder to third to end the inning and send the Astros to the field for the first time.


Of course, Dallas Keuchel treated the top third of the Yankees order like kindergartners trying to connect with Major League heat. He retired the Yankees in order to complete the first inning, including strikeouts of young sluggers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. It looked like it might be one of those days.


Yuli Gurriel led off the top of the 2nd with a double to the wall in left to put the Astros in business. However, Tanaka wasn’t having any of it. Although Gurriel would find his way to third, there would be no homecoming as Masa retired the next three hitters on ground outs.  


In the bottom of the 2nd, it looked like it was going to be more of the same with Keuchel. He struck out Didi Gregorius on a foul tip and got Aaron Hicks to ground out to short for the first two outs. Hits were starting to look like they would be hard to come by when Starlin Castro hit a sharp line drive to the warning track in left and off the wall for a double. Greg Bird followed with a single to right and the Yankees had their first run off Keuchel in the post-season. Todd Frazier struck out to end the inning but the Yankees were able to walk back onto the field with a 1-0 lead.

Credit:  Michael Ciaglo-Houston Chronicle

After the Astros were unable to do anything with a one-out single by George Springer in the top of the 3rd, Chase Headley led off the bottom of the inning with a single to center. Brett Gardner grounded into a force out at second but all things considered, I was okay with substituting the speedier Gardner for Headley. It paid off when Aaron Judge ripped a double to the left field corner, bringing Gardner around to score. The Yankees were up, 2-0. A couple of strikeouts ended the inning, but at least the Yankees were getting their hits against the very difficult Keuchel.  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

After the teams traded ‘3-up, 3-down’ innings in the 4th, the Astros looked like they might put together a little rally in the top of the 5th. Tanaka struck out the first batter, Carlos Beltran, but Marwin Gonzalez followed with a single to right. A wild pitch during Brian McCann’s at-bat moved Gonzalez to second. McCann subsequently took a walk to put two runners on with only one out. Tanaka rose to the occasion and struck out both George Springer and Josh Reddick. A huge performance by Tanaka in a tough spot.

Credit:  Andrew Maclean-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Chase Headley hit a soft grounder to third to lead off the bottom of the 5th. A throwing error by third baseman Alex Bregman (ball was low and skipped past first baseman Yuli Gurriel) allowed Headley to take second. After a ground out by Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge drew a walk. I think the FOX TV Crew described it as the ‘intentional unintentional walk’. That’s fine. Bring Gary Sanchez to the plate. El Gary did not disappoint when he singled to left into the corner, bringing Headley home to score. Judge moved to third. Didi Gregorius lined a single up the middle that deflected off the glove of diving second baseman Jose Altuve in center field. Judge scored to make it 4-0. End of the day for Yankee killer Keuchel. 

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

The Astros made the call to the pen to bring in Will Harris. Win or lose, the Yankees were finally able to find the solution for Keuchel like they had Sale and Kluber. Harris got the Astros out of the inning when Aaron Hicks flied out to left, but it had been a very productive inning for the Pinstripers. However, last night showed that a 4-0 lead is not safe, so onward we go. Or rather I should say onward Tanaka went.  


Tanaka breezed through the 6th and 7th innings although the final out of the latter inning saw the third strike get away from Gary Sanchez. Fortunately, El Gary was able to retrieve the ball in foul territory and throw a zinger to Greg Bird ahead of Marwin Gonzalez to complete the final out. 

Credit:  Karen Warren-Houston Chronicle

Regardless of the final outcome of the game, it was a masterpiece by Tanaka. Seven innings, three hits, no runs, one walk, and eight strikeouts. Okay, I think I am back in “Masa, please do not opt out” mode.


While David Robertson was warming up in the Yankees bullpen, Gary Sanchez unloaded on a pitch from Astros reliever Brad Peacock in the bottom of the 7th to send it flying into the left center seats. 

Credit:  Kathy Willens-AP

Didi Gregorius followed El Gary with a sharply hit ball to left and he slid into second just ahead of the throw for a double. David Robertson took a seat after the Sanchez home run and Tommy Kahnle began warming up. The Yankees weren’t able to do anything with Didi when Aaron Hicks struck out and Starlin Castro grounded out to third, but at least they had padded their lead by one and now led the Astros, 5-0.


Kahnle, as expected, got the call for the 8th. He did his job…make it an uneventful inning and he did. A couple of fly outs and a punch out of Josh Reddick and it was time to get the Yankees back up for hopefully their final at-bats of the night.


With Francisco Liriano taking over for Brad Peacock in the bottom of the 8th, Greg Bird led off with a walk. While Todd Frazier was batting, a wild pitch freed Bird to take second. Frazier subsequently grounded out to third. Chase Headley was next and his short squibbler that died in front of home plate was scooped up by catcher Brian McCann who threw Headley out at first. Bird made his way to third. Unfortunately, Bird was left stranded when Brett Gardner struck out.  Off to the 9th inning…


Holding a five-run lead, Tommy Kahnle returned for the top of the 9th. Jose Altuve jumped on Kahnle’s first pitch to fly out to center. One out. Carlos Correa lined a hard hit ball to right for a double, causing some movement in the Yankees bullpen. Nevertheless, Yuli Gurriel hit a grounder to short which Didi Gregorius threw to first for the out. Two outs. Correa advanced to third on the play. Obviously, Correa was inconsequential at this point, but everyone wanted the shutout (well, except for maybe the Astros, their fans and the Red Sox Nation). Kahnle made it happen when he got Alex Bregman to fly out to Aaron Hicks in center. Three outs…game over. Yankees win!  

Credit:  John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Best case scenario played out as the Yankees now head back to Houston needing one win in the next two games to advance to their World Series since 2009. The Astros are now the team with their backs to the wall. The road ahead remains difficult but the young Baby Bombers have heart and ‘no quit’ desire like none other.  


This was a great team victory, led…obviously…by the great Masahiro Tanaka. I am sure that Sonny Gray is asking, “What is this run support you speak of?”. Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius…too many heroes to name. Great job by Tommy Kahnle to finish off the win for Tanaka! 


Let’s keep this winning streak alive. Great job, Bronx Bombers! Thumbs down, Guys!  

Credit:  Michael Ciaglo-Houston Chronicle

Odds & Ends…

There was a funny Twitter exchange between the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees prior to Tuesday’s game. The Red Sox tweeted “Today’s basically a holiday…” showing a clip of Game 4 of the ALCS on October 17, 2004 when the Red Sox tied the series on a walk-off home run by David Ortiz in 12 innings after falling behind 2 games to none. The Yankees had the perfect response, “Ah, work day for us. Game time is 5:08pm, if you’re not busy”. The Red Sox could only respond with a rolling eyes emoji.  

Have a great Thursday! It’s a day off as the Yankees head back to the deep of the heart of Texas. Bring home the AL Championship, Boys! Go Yankees!

No Love for Dallas in Houston…

Credit:  Tony Gutierrez-AP

American League Championship Series

Astros 2, Yankees 1…

Astros lead Series, 1-0

The Yankees had the answer this season for Chris Sale and they finally figured out likely AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber in the post-season but Dallas Keuchel remains a mystery. Unable to generate any runs against Keuchel, the Yankees fell to the Astros in the first game of the ALCS despite a solid outing from Masahiro Tanaka.

Credit:  Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees didn’t pick up their first hit against Keuchel until Brett Gardner lined a single to left with two outs in the 3rd inning. Unfortunately, he didn’t go anywhere when Aaron Judge followed with his only strikeout of the game.

Starlin Castro picked up a single to left, just past the outstretched glove of running shortstop Carlos Correa, in the top of 4th inning, also with two outs, but like Gardy, he did not do anything except have a brief conversation with first baseman Yuli Gurriel. Aaron Hicks flied out to center, on huge fly that nearly took center fielder George Springer to the wall, to send Castro looking for his hat and glove to take the field. A couple more feet and the Yankees might have taken the early lead.

The Astros, meanwhile, didn’t miss the only opportunity that Masahiro Tanaka gave them. With one out in the bottom of the 4th, Jose Altuve singled on a grounder to second, beating the throw to first.  He subsequently stole second to put himself in scoring position. Carlos Correa’s single to left brought the probable AL MVP around to score the game’s first run.  Marwin Gonzalez hit a  slow grounder to second and was thrown out at first for the second out, but Correa advanced to second base. Yuli Gurriel’s single to center, a grounder up the middle between Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius, scored Correa and the Astros had a 2-0 lead.

Credit:  Elsa-Getty Images

The Yankees had their chance in the top of the 5th but were unable to convert.  Greg Bird led off with a single to right, a sharply hit ball just past first baseman Yuli Gurriel. Matt Holliday reached on a fielding error by Jose Altuve (bobbled the ball after stopping the grounder) so the Yankees had runners at first and second with no outs. Todd Frazier lined out to center and Brett Gardner struck out but Aaron Judge followed them with a single to left. Bird hesitated a moment and then raced around third and headed home. Unfortunately, left fielder Marwin Gonzalez threw a perfect strike in to catcher Brian McCann to nail Bird at the plate for the final out of the inning.  The Yankees challenged the play but replay showed Bird was less than a second too late. Sadly, Bird’s run around third seemed like slow motion compared Jose Altuve’s run in the prior inning. Credit Gonzalez and McCann for the stellar play.

Credit:  Elsa-Getty Images

Dallas Keuchel finally left the game after seven scoreless innings (and ten strikeouts). Houston fans may love Dallas (the pitcher, not the city) but I was very glad to see him leave. But the Astros bullpen is strong and set up artist Chris Devenski has been a better version of Dellin Betances this year. Still, the Yankees had their chance in the 8th against Devenski. Brett Gardner worked a one-out walk, which brought Astros manager A.J. Hinch out of the dugout to replace Devenski with closer Ken Giles. Giles promptly threw a wild pitch with Aaron Judge at the plate, allowing Gardy to move to second.  Judge grounded out to third for the second out, but Gary Sanchez walked to put two runners on for Didi Gregorius. The Yankees replaced Sanchez at first with pinch-runner Ronald Torreyes. Didi has come up so big for the Yankees in key spots this year but on this night, Giles won the battle when Didi swung and missed on an 0-2 count after three successive foul balls.  

In the top of the 9th, Giles struck out both Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks to start the inning. Greg Bird finally put the Yankees on the board when he homered to right, a high fly inside of the foul pole, to make it a one-run game.

Credit:  Anthony J Causi-NY Post

DH Matt Holliday was due up next, but Manager Joe Girardi opted to send Jacoby Ellsbury to the plate. Ellsbury went down swinging to end the game and hand the series advantage to the Astros.

In retrospect, the huge missed opportunity was Greg Bird’s out at the plate in the 5th inning. If he had gotten a good jump when Aaron Judge hit that drive to left, he might have beaten the throw. But hats off to the Astros for making their plays. The Yankees pitched a good game but the Astros pitched a little better. Fortunately, the bullpen will be rested for Game 2 as the Yankees only had to burn Chad Green in relief of Tanaka. Green pitched two frames of scoreless relief with 31 pitches thrown.  

Credit:  Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

On the bright side, Dallas Keuchel won’t take the mound again until a potential Game 5. The Yankees offense should fare much better against crafty veteran Justin Verlander (15-8, 3.38 ERA) and the rest of the Astros starters. For Game 2, Verlander will be tough, no doubt, but the Yankees can win this game and send the series to New York with a split. We’ll have staff ace Luis Severino (14-6, 2.98 ERA) to lead the way. I like those odds.

Have a great Saturday! A perfect day would feature a Yankees win! Let’s make it happen. Go Yankees!

Guilty of Playing Favorites…

There have been better Yankees than Derek Jeter.  Yes, I said it…

I know I should not say any disparaging words about Jeter but for as many fans as he had during his playing days, he was just not one of my favorites.  Sorry guys and more importantly, gals.  I liked the player and enjoyed his time, but probably more so in the earlier part of his career.  When everyone was wearing #2 jerseys, I was just not feeling it.  Throughout the last Yankees dynasty, my favorite player was Mariano Rivera.  So, basically from the time he started until he walked off the field for the final time, Mo was my favorite Yankee.  Well, I guess I should say that he didn’t technically become my favorite until 1996 when he zinging bullets in front of closer John Wetteland.  Up to 1995, my favorite was Donnie Baseball.  

Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoyed watching Jeter’s final days and the memorable last game at Yankee Stadium.  I’ll watch on Sunday with interest as the Yankees retire #2 to Monument Park.  I’ll be thankful for his time in pinstripes, and he’ll not be forgotten.  He just wasn’t one of my favorites, that’s all.  Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte…loved those guys when they wore pinstripes.  I can’t put a finger on it but I’ve never  felt the same way about Jeter.  For all his faults, I even loved Darryl Strawberry.  His home run swing is still one of my all-time favorites.  Maybe this is why it is easier for me to accept the fact that Jeter might be part of the ownership and management team for the Miami Marlins.  At that point, he’ll just be another dude.  No different than Brian Sabean, Dick Tidrow and Dave Righetti in San Francisco except that he’ll have an ownership stake in his team.  I am sure that Jeter will pull for the Yankees as long as they are not playing the Marlins but you know if they do meet, Jeter will be pulling out every stop to beat Baseball’s most storied franchise.  

I was glad when Jeter was finally out of the way and we were able to upgrade, first defensively and later offensively, with Didi Gregorius.  It was time for change.  I am sure the day will come when I’ll be glad to see Didi’s replacement. Unfortunately, all of us are adversely afflicted with aging.  Well, except for maybe Betty White.

I am not trying to offend anyone.  It’s simply a case that all of us are entitled to our own opinions.

I’ve been aware of Jeter since he was an 18-year-old from Kalamazoo, Michigan, picked 6th overall in the 1992 MLB Draft.  It was a great long successful career.  But there is nothing in the Yankees Fan Rule Book that says he had to be one of my favorites.  I always thought the crowds Jeter would draw at baseball games were somewhat humorous.  Women swooned in his presence and maybe a few guys.  He now lives a life in a mansion in Florida and is married to one of the most beautiful women in the world.  He obviously has excess cash to spend as part of the ownership group seeking to purchase the Marlins.  He lives in a world that I’ll never know or understand.  Pardon me, but I’d rather cheer for Aaron Judge or Gary Sanchez on Sunday.  Enjoy your day, Derek.  Lou Gehrig had it wrong.  You’re the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.

Since I seem to be on a negative roll today, I’ll go ahead and include Carlos Beltran.  Despite Beltran’s interest in returning to the Yankees in the off-season, I am thankful that he opted to grab the one-year, $16 million deal from the Houston Astros.  Beltran did a fine job as a Yankee and he was arguably our best hitter the first part of last year, but I strongly prefer Aaron Judge in right field (the obvious no-brainer) and Matt Holliday at DH.  I have absolutely no issue with the Yankees for not engaging Beltran in talks during his free agency period last November-December.  His present team might be one of our biggest roadblocks to October but I had/have no interest in a reunion tour with Beltran.

The Yankees fell to the Houston Astros 3-2 last night in the first game of a four game set.  This series is one of the major tests to determine if the Yankees are for real.  I knew, looking at the pitching matchup, this was going to be the hardest one with Yankee killer Dallas Keuchel on the mound.  In picking up his sixth win of the year, Keuchel dominated the Yankees as he always does.  In 50 2/3 innings, he has only allowed seven Yankees to cross home plate.  CC Sabathia would let teams do that every game if Joe Girardi allowed him to go deeper into games.  For the game, Keuchel went six innings.  He only gave up 5 hits and allowed an unearned run.  He walked one and struck out nine.  As tough as Keuchel was, the Yankees had their chances.

It didn’t help that the Astros jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning before many people had even gotten to their seats.  The first hit of the game was a double by Josh Reddick that fell between Didi Gregorius and Jacoby Ellsbury.  It was a play that Ellsbury should have called but didn’t, leading Didi to attempt a failed catch with his back turned.  With two outs, Carlos Correa homered to center, scoring Reddick.  The Yankees were never able to recover.

I certainly do not place any blame with Michael Pineda.  He did his job.  He gave up three runs over 6 2/3 innings, allowing six hits and a walk.  He struck out seven.  

With the bases loaded in the fifth and two outs, Jacoby Ellsbury was credited with an RBI on catcher’s interference (his bat hit Brian McCann’s glove).  It was the 28th catcher’s inference that Ellsbury has accumulated over his career, trailing Pete Rose by one.  Gary Sanchez grounded out to end the threat, leaving the bases loaded (one of the game’s missed opportunities).

The Yankees couldn’t get anything going against Chris Devenski, who replaced Keuchel in the seventh inning.  Devenski has been one of Baseball’s best setup men so far this young season.  But opportunity presented itself in the bottom of the ninth inning with the Yankees trailing 3-1.  With two outs, the Yankees had runners at second (Ellsbury) and third (Aaron Hicks) against Astros closer Ken Giles.  Gary Sanchez hit a single to left, scoring Hicks.  Third base coach Joe Espada also sent Ellsbury, but a perfect strike from left fielder Jake Marisnick to Brian McCann nailed Ells at the plate to end the game.

Credit:  Kathy Willens/AP

The Yankees fell to 21-11, allowing the Baltimore Orioles to re-take sole possession of first place in the AL East by a half-game (the O’s were off).  On the bright side, we won’t be seeing Keuchel again this series.  Tonight’s matchup will be tough as young Lance McCullers, Jr has performed well so far this year (2-1, 3.40 ERA).  The Yankees counter with Jordan Montgomery (2-1, 3.81 ERA).  

Have a great Friday!  Time to show the Astros that we are for real!