Behind the facade of superiority that the Yankees naturally carry was a look of desperation. They knew they were Dead Team Walking. A roster loaded with heavy salaries and over-the-hill arms and legs knew their wobbly season would be put out of its misery as soon as they realized Dallas Keuchel was not going to be denied. The Mets had that look when Mike Scott took the mound in 1986 and now it was the Yankees' turn to squirm at the sight of a post-season ace.
Gomez gets a group hug
(c) Associated Press
Working on three-days' rest, the lefty with the House of David hair spun six innings of three-hit ball and received timely relief from the bullpen to put a 3-0 exclamation point on their own post-season worthiness.
Yankee starter Masahiro Tanaka did not pitch poorly but he allowed two monster first-pitch shots to Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez that was more than enough cushion for this night. Jose Altuve flicked an RBI single in the seventh for insurance but the bullpen of Tony Sipp, Will Harris and Luke Gregerson had everything firmly in control with three innings of hitless relief.
The veteran Rasmus belted a low inside fastball halfway to Connecticut in the second to give Keuchel an early lead. Gomez doubled that lead with a laser into the Yankee bullpen.
Keuchel did not allow any Yankee past second base and his biggest out was the last one - getting Alex Rodriguez to fly out harmlessly with two on in the sixth.
After a travel day Wednesday, the Astros open their first LDS since 2005 and their first as American Leaguers on Thursday in Kansas City in what might be dubbed The Cinderella Series.
The Royals were the underdog darlings last season after a couple of decades of woeful ineptness. This year, the Royals have the best record in the league while the Astros will be the ones with nothing to lose.
Head-to-head, Houston won four out of six and lost another in extra innings. I don't think they'll be intimidated. They may also be a little chippy since it was the Royals who broke George Springer's wrist and put him out for two months. Kansas City has been known to pitch a little too close inside and have had a few scraps with other teams over it.
Although the Astros have not revealed their rotation plans, all signs point to Collin McHugh (19-7) starting Game 1 for Houston. Yordano Ventura (13-8) will pitch for Kansas City in the 6:35 Central opener. While the starting pitchers won't wow you, their bullpen certainly will and any close games in the late innings would favor the Royals.
The Astros will need to strike early so as not to be ground down by the firemen at the end.
Keuchel's next game will likely be Sunday afternoon for Game 3 at home if you are interested in getting tickets.
- Bob Hulsey