HOUSTON — Throughout the postseason, the Astros’ tremendous pitching depth has been on full display, highlighting their greatest asset from the regular season. The Astros possessed the highest ERA in the American League and the greatest bullpen in the Majors, which helped propel them to the AL’s top seed and lofty October expectations.
Beyond Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker, and Alex Bregman, there were still issues over the depth of the Astros’ lineup heading into the playoffs. Was the Astros’ lineup deep enough to withstand the postseason grind? Could opposition pitching staffs circumvent the power hitters and take advantage of certain matchups near the bottom of the lineup?
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The Astros continue to find heroes despite Altuve beginning the 2022 playoffs with a 0-for-19 slump and Alvarez’s game-changing home runs in the first two games of the AL Division Series causing pitchers to change their approach. Yuli Gurriel, Chas McCormick, and Jeremy Pea each hit solo home runs as the Astros defeated the Yankees 4-2 in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday night.
Dusty Baker, manager of the Astros, remarked, “I’m just thrilled that we have enough depth in our lineup to have players that say, ‘Hey, buddy, you picked us up for so long; we’ll pick you up till you get yourself together.'”
The Astros, who are undefeated in the postseason (4-0), will hand the ball to All-Star left-hander Framber Valdez in Game 2 on Thursday with a chance to take a 2-0 series lead to New York this weekend.
In the history of best-of-seven postseason series, teams with a 1-0 advantage have won 119 of 185 (or 64%) games. In all series under the current 2-3-2 format, 64 of 96 (67%) of the teams who won Game 1 at home went on to win the series.
McCormick, who has pushed for playing time in center field since the Astros allowed George Springer to become a free agent following the 2020 season, went 2-for-3 with a double and his first career postseason home run.
“We have a really solid lineup, and if the big players aren’t going, it seems like the bottom of the lineup can get going,” he added. “If the players at the bottom of the lineup aren’t going, then the big men can go. It simply describes how complete this team is.”
Gurriel, a former postseason star for the Astros who had a mediocre regular season at the age of 38 and is now in October, is 7-for-19 with two home runs in four playoff games. And Pea, the hotshot rookie replacing franchise icon Carlos Correa at shortstop, continued his breakout performance in Game 1 with three more extra-base hits.
Pea stated, “I would think that is what makes us so good.” “We pick each other up on a nightly basis. When we don’t put together great at-bats, our pitchers will sometimes carry us. And when they do not perform well on the mound, we keep them in the lineup. As stated, this is what makes us such a strong team.”
While other bats contributed to the attack, it was the dependable ace Justin Verlander who handled the most of the work on the mound. Verlander fanned eleven batters and limited the Yankees to one run over six innings to record his first postseason victory since Game 1 of the 2019 AL Division Series. After Nolan Ryan, he became the second-oldest pitcher in postseason history to record a double-digit strikeout game. Verlander’s eight career postseason games with double-digit strikeouts are two more than any other pitcher in playoff history.
Gurriel and McCormick both homered off of reliever Clarke Schmidt in the sixth inning to tie the game. Pea, whose home run in the 18th inning of Saturday’s ALDS Game 3 in Seattle secured a 1-0 victory, homered off Lou Trivino to open the seventh inning for a 4-1 advantage. Ryan Pressly recorded the final four outs, stranding a pair of runners in the eighth.