Five key takeaways from the Astros big win in Game Two of the ALCS.
When their backs were essentially against the wall, the Astros responded with a much-needed victory. Game Two was basically a must-win, and though it wasn’t perfect, three key hits and a fantastic performance from the pitching staff have tied the ALCS.
The series shifts to New York for three games, and the Astros have to win at least one of them to stay alive. Here are five key takeaways from the first two games of this ALCS.
Correa is Clutch
Carlos Correa hasn’t exactly been a fan favorite this year. He missed half the season with injuries and hit just .152 in the ALDS against the Rays and went hitless in ALCS Game One. But he stepped up in a big way on Sunday.
He drove in the first run with a double in the second inning, and of course hit the walk-off homer in the 11th. In between, he made a sterling defensive play to throw out a runner at home. It’s a reminder that he’s still one of the most important players on this team.
Offense Still Struggling
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Despite the win, the offense again had difficulty scoring runs. The team went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left 10 runners on base. They did much better about getting baserunners, but just couldn’t bring them home for the most part.
Thankfully, Justin Verlander and the bullpen bailed the team out, keeping the Yankees offense at bay. They can’t count on that kind of performance in every game, though. It’s imperative that the offense start clicking better, and there’s one thing that may help them.
Yankees Empty Bullpen
They’ve already seen the Yankees bullpen. The only relievers they’ve not seen are Luis Cessa and Tyler Lyons, and there’s probably a reason Aaron Boone didn’t use them in Game Two. The ones he figures to lean on the most have already pitched once or twice this series.
The Astros may not have scored off Aroldis Chapman, but they did drive up his pitch count, limiting him to just one inning. They’ve gotten four hits off Adam Ottavino in the two games, and they’ve also seen Zach Britton twice. That doesn’t mean they’re going to beat them, of course, but the familiarity doesn’t hurt.
Smith > Pressly
Ryan Pressly has looked just plain awful this postseason. He gave up two runs on four hits in one inning in the ALDS, and he did the same in two-thirds of an inning in ALCS Game One. He came into Game Two and allowed a hit to the only batter he faced.
Joe Smith, on the other hand, has looked stellar. He’s thrown 3.1 scoreless innings this postseason after putting up a 1.80 ERA during the regular season. With so many right-handed hitters in the Yankees lineup, it looks like Smith should join Will Harris and Roberto Osuna as the most trusted pitchers at the back end of the bullpen.
The left-handed hitters in the Astros lineup have struggled so far this series. Yordan Alvarez has had the worst time, going 0-for-7 with five strikeouts. He looks every bit like a rookie and seems overmatched at times. Evidently the Yankees have found his weaknesses.
Michael Brantley is 2-for-9, which is better than some hitters are doing, but still not great. Kyle Tucker had a hit in Game One but struck out in both of his Game Two at-bats, and the first strikeout was just plain ugly. Josh Reddick hasn’t hit yet this series, but will likely get the start in Game Three.