The intense Yankees-Astros rivalry picked up right where it left off in Game 1 of the ALCS on Wednesday with a familiar result: Houston dominating while New York was mostly dormant.
Game 1 was no different as the Astros won 4-2. They hit the timely home runs and rode Justin Verlander’s arm the rest of the way. The Yankees failed to capitalize on early opportunities and never really had a shot once Clarke Schmidt took over.
Game 2 is now a must-win with Luis Severino set to pitch. Here are some lessons the Yankees can hopefully take into tomorrow night:
Home runs will win the series. Let’s not get blinded by the Yankees beating the Guardians in the ALDS. They hit .185 as a team and only advanced because they hit nine home runs to Cleveland’s three. Harrison Bader’s solo home run set an early tone in Game 1 and Anthony Rizzo added one later, but New York couldn’t maintain a lead.
Rested Houston, on the other hand, stayed focused and waited for the tired Yankees to make their mistakes. Three solo home runs later, the Astros led 1-0 in the best-of-seven series.
Justin Verlander is still that guy. The Yankees took advantage of Justin Verlander struggling early and had the future Hall-of-Famer at 66 pitches through three innings. Unfortunately, nobody accounted for him finding control of his curveball and striking out eight of nine through three more innings.
Let this be a gentle reminder that Justin Verlander is 39 years old, missed last season with Tommy John surgery, and went 18-4 with a 1.75 ERA this season. The Yankees are lucky he didn’t throw a complete game.
Ask questions about Clarke Schmidt. Clarke Schmidt was once a top Yankees prospect. Before the pandemic shut things down in 2020, I even suggested he get a chance in the starting rotation. Now, his future in New York looks cloudy.
Schmidt surrendered back-to-back home runs to Yuli Gurriel and Chas McCormick in the sixth inning to break a 1-1 tie. This is after blowing the save in Game 3 of the ALDS too. His 3.12 ERA in the regular season is a non-factor. The October pressure is eating him alive.
Clarke Schmidt will still be a Yankee next season and should compete for the No. 5 slot in the rotation. Even so, if a team wants to trade for him, New York should absolutely listen to any and all offers.