Thursday marked the first day of baseball’s Division Series, with two matchups between American League powers. Here’s all you need to know about what happened.
Astros – 8, Red Sox – 2
There won’t be a better Division Series pitching matchup, on paper, than Justin Verlander vs. Chris Sale, a battle of two of the top three hurlers in the American League. And though neither pitcher submitted his best outing Thursday, it was Verlander who got the better end of the bout, lasting six innings and allowing two runs as his team cruised to a Game 1 victory.
Sale’s evening (which ended after he’d allowed seven runs in five innings) could have been considerably more pleasant if not for Jose Altuve, the 5-foot-6-inch MVP frontrunner who became only the ninth player in postseason history to hit three home runs in a single game.
In the first inning, he and Alex Bregman went back-to-back off Sale:
— Houston Astros (@astros) October 5, 2017
In the fifth, he took Sale deep again:
— MLB (@MLB) October 5, 2017
And two innings later he tagged Austin Maddux for his third homer of the game:
Altuve… for 3?
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) October 5, 2017
Though the Astros didn’t need much more than Altuve’s three bombs, they also got two hits apiece from Josh Reddick and Evan Gattis, plus two-run knocks from Marwin Gonzalez and Brian McCann. All in all, seven different Houston batters recorded hits.
With a 1-0 lead in the series and Sale behind them, the Astros are in excellent shape moving forward. They will have at least a slight pitching advantage in Game 2 on Friday, with former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel matching up against Drew Pomeranz.
Indians – 4, Yankees – 0
The second game of the day featured the first truly impressive pitching performance we’ve seen in the postseason so far, and it came via Cleveland righty Trevor Bauer. After getting the nod thanks to a controversial decision by manager Terry Francona, Bauer flummoxed the Yankees with his curveball, firing 6 2/3 two-hit innings while striking out eight. Andrew Miller and Cody Allen reprised the Indians’ highly successful 2016 back of the bullpen, closing the game with 2 1/3 nearly perfect frames.
Cleveland got to Yankees starter Sonny Gray early, loading the bases and plating a run in the second, then knocking him from the game in the fourth. The offensive hero for Cleveland was midseason acquisition Jay Bruce, who went 2-for-3 with two runs scored, three RBIs and a home run that helped break open the game.
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 6, 2017
Bruce’s big day was extra painful for the Yankees because the outfielder was almost sent to the Bronx back in August, but the Mets dealt him to Cleveland instead when the Indians offered to pay his full salary.
One silver lining for the Yankees on Thursday was the continued dominance of the team’s bullpen, which allowed only a single run in 4 1/3 innings. After scuffling toward the end of the season, Dellin Betances looked dominant in the eighth inning, striking out all three batters he faced.
But even more so than Houston, Cleveland is in excellent shape heading into Game 2. Francona’s decision to use Bauer in Game 1 means Corey Kluber, the likely AL Cy Young winner and the man who dominated the 2016 playoffs, is slated to pitch Friday. He’ll face CC Sabathia, who enjoyed a nice second half of the season but will enter as a substantial underdog.
The postseason is just underway, but for the Red Sox and Yankees, it’s already in danger of being over.