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. 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.
Justin 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.