Astros vs. Yankees ALCS Game 4 takeaways: Astros jump on Masahiro Tanaka; Yankees' defense struggles
The Astros now have a commanding 3-1 lead in the ALCS
The Astros topped the Yankees, 8-3, in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Thursday night (box score). With the win, Houston now has a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. That means the Astros are one win away from their second pennant in the last three years. The Yankees, meantime, are now on the brink of elimination. Now let's hit seven key takeaways from Game 4 in the Bronx.
1. The Astros are almost certainly going to win the pennant
As noted the Astros are now up 3-1 in the series. That means in order to advance to face the Nationals in the World Series, the Astros need to win one game before the Yankees win three. As you can probably guess, history is very much on Houston's side. Overall, teams up 3-1 in a best-of-seven MLB postseason series have gone on to win that series 84.9 percent of the time. Of course, Houston has home-field advantage in this series, and that means potential Games 6 and 7 would be back at Minute Maid Park. Teams up 3-1 in postseason series while holding home field advantage have gone on to win that series 85.7 percent of the time. Throw in the fact that the Astros during the regular season were 60-21 at home, and maybe that figure should be even higher. On top of all that, consider that the Game 5 pitching matchup of Justin Verlander versus James Paxton should favor the Astros.
2. The Yankees had their chances
In the first, Houston starter Zack Greinke, normally something of a control artist, issued a four-pitch walk to begin a game for the first time in his career, and then he went on to walk three batters in the first inning for the first time since April of 2007. In that first, he threw just two of 11 fastballs for strikes, which allowed Yankee hitters to be more mindful of his breaking stuff. They got one run on a bases-loaded walk by Brett Gardner, but then Gary Sanchez bailed out Greinke by whiffing on a two-strike breaking ball far out of the zone.
In the fifth, the Yankees had the bases loaded with one out. According to basic win expectancy, the Yankees would have a 64.4 percent chance of scoring at least one run, and teams have averaged 1.51 runs in such situations. Throw in the fact that the Yankees had perhaps their best hitter up in Gleyber Torres, and you can probably increase those figures. Instead, Ryan Pressly was able to strike out Torres — Torres leaked his checked swing just a little too far — and then the struggling Edwin Encarnacion and end the potential rally. Then in the sixth, Aaron Judge struck out with two outs and DJ LeMahieu on second (Judge also struck out in the second inning with two outs and a runner on second). In all the Yankees, even though they put three runs on the board, went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position and as a team left nine runners on.
3. Springer made Astros history
Coming into Game 4, Astros center fielder George Springer had been enduring some uncharacteristic struggles in the 2019 postseason. In the ALDS win over the Rays, he put up an unthinkably bad OPS of .325. Despite his Game 2 homer against the Yankees, he had an ALCS line of .083/.214/.333 this year. Well, Springer's old self came out in Game 4, as he crushed one off Masahiro Tanaka to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 Houston lead. Here's a look:
#SpringerDinger right on cue.#ALCS pic.twitter.com/d9fQCy684I
— MLB (@MLB) October 18, 2019
That's also Springer's 13th career postseason home run, which is a franchise record. He had been tied for the franchise lead with Jose Altuve, so that leaderboard is subject to change. As well, there's this:
Most career #Postseason HR among players with fewer than 200 career regular season HR
13 George Springer (160)
12 José Altuve (128)
11 Jason Varitek (193)
10 Lenny Dykstra (81)
10 David Freese (113)
10 Hideki Matsui (175)
— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) October 18, 2019
More to come from this guy, very likely.
4. So did Correa
Astros shortstop Carlos Correa has mostly struggled this postseason, no doubt thanks in part to an ongoing lower back issue. However, he did manage to hit his second home run of the ALCS on Thursday night. No, this one wasn't as stirring as his Game 2 walk-off, but it did provide some needed insurance runs:
You hear that? #ALCS pic.twitter.com/gBdKeiunD6
— MLB (@MLB) October 18, 2019
That's the 10th postseason home run of Correa's career, and at 25 years and 25 days old he's now the youngest player in MLB history to reach 10 postseason home runs. As Sarah Langs notes, the only other player to reach 10 playoff home runs before age 26 was Albert Pujols. As well, Correa and Springer have set a record by homering in the same postseason game for the sixth time.
5. LeMahieu and Torres made (bad) history
DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres are typically pretty good glovemen, but Game 4 wasn't kind to them defensively. Each made a pair of errors in the game, and that was a postseason first:
First baseman DJ LeMahieu and second baseman Gleyber Torres each have 2 errors for the Yankees tonight.
It's the first time in MLB postseason history a team has had 4 errors from the right side of its infield (1B/2B) in a game.
— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) October 18, 2019
Not optimal, from the Yankee standpoint. In all, three of the Astros' eight runs were unearned. Just three times during the regular season did the Yankees allow more than two unearned runs in a game.
6. This was the worst postseason start in Tanaka's career
Yankees Game 4 starter Masahiro Tanaka didn't fare well:
View Profile Masahiro Tanaka NYY • SP • 19 vs. HOU, 2019 ALCS Game 4 IP5H4R4ER3SO1BB2
Those aren't strong numbers, and they're even worse in the full light of Tanaka's postseason career. Coming into Game 4, Tanaka boasted a playoff ERA of 1.32 with no unearned runs allowed in seven starts. Tanaka was also the first pitcher in MLB history to allow two runs or fewer in each of his first seven playoff starts. Obviously, that trend didn't hold up through ALCS Game 4.
Really, it could've been worse for Tanaka. That Springer homer in the third made it 3-1 Houston, but following the homer Tanaka was able to get out of a jam that had runners on first and second with no outs (and then second and third with one out). Overall, though, Tanaka didn't have his best stuff, and it showed.
7. Sabathia probably threw the final pitch of his career
Yankees' 39-year-old lefty CC Sabathia is retiring at season's end. In Game 4, Sabathia worked 2/3 of an innings out of the bullpen before leaving with an injury — and it had to be some serious pain for CC to leave in the middle of a postseason inning. If not for a Torres error, Sabathia's final inning would've been a 1-2-3 frame to strand a pair of inherited runners.
The Yankee Stadium crowd and both dugouts gave him a hero's exit, as everyone knew Sabathia would likely never pitch again:
After appearing to experience some discomfort on the mound, CC Sabathia leaves the game. Yankees fans give him a standing ovation as he walks off the field. pic.twitter.com/rLf7v0vM5s
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 18, 2019
It's probably little consolation at the moment, but Carsten Charles is probably bound for the Hall of Fame. Speaking of which:
Players with ✅250 Wins ✅3000 K ✅Cy Young ✅Postseason (LCS or WS) MVP:
— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) October 18, 2019
Thanks for the ride, CC.