In the top of the third inning, the Orioles’ eighth hitter drove a ball deep into the right field seats at Yankee Stadium for a 1-0 lead. The Yankees rallied back to tie things up in the bottom of the third. But now Baltimore’s ninth hitter has made some noise.
Manny Machado, a 20-year-old infield prospect who was promoted to the major leagues in early August, drove a Hiroki Kuroda slider over the fence in left field in the top of the fifth, lifting the Orioles back on top of the Yankees 2-1 in Game 3 of this ALDS.
Machado batted just .262 with a .294 OBP in 202 plate appearances this summer, but he tallied seven dingers, eight doubles and three triples for a respectable .445 slugging percentage. And now his power has launched him into an elite historical class. Before tonight, only Mickey Mantle, Miguel Cabrera and Andruw Jones had hit postseason home runs before age 21.
Following the Astros’ decisive 4-0 shutout over the Yankees on Saturday night, Justin Verlander was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series. Hall of Fame outfielder and former MLB manager Frank Robinson handed the award to Verlander, who was beaming as he thanked his teammates and members of the Astros’ organization.
“I’ve got to say, it came down to the wire, and one thing kept going off in my head was Dallas,” Verlander told the crowd gathered at Minute Maid Park. “When he called me, he said that I won’t regret my decision to join the Houston Astros. And here we are right now, it’s the best feeling in the world. We’ve got four more wins to win a World Series, and I do not regret my decision to come here. This is the best feeling a player can have. So, thank you.”
Among a cast that boasted the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel, among others, Verlander was spectacular. He locked down a complete game win in Game 2, holding the Yankees to one run on five hits and a walk and striking out a postseason-high 13 batters. In Game 6, he saved the Astros from elimination with seven scoreless innings, helping propel the club to their eventual 7-1 finish that set up their series-clinching finale on Saturday.
The 34-year-old righty also took his place among some postseason greats. Thanks to an eight-strikeout outing on Friday night, his collective 136 postseason strikeouts are good for sixth-most in MLB playoff history, just a smidgen shy of Tom Glavine (143), Mike Mussina (145), Roger Clemens (173), Andy Pettitte (183) and John Smoltz (199). He also joined Bob Gibson, Curt Schilling and Sandy Koufax as one of just four hurlers to strike out 20+ Yankees in a postseason series.