Getty Images

Dallas Keuchel shines as Astros beat Yankees 2-1 to take ALCS Game 1

10 Comments

Everything the Yankees did well, the Astros did better, edging past their league rivals 2-1 on Friday to take a 1-0 lead in the ALCS. Masahiro Tanaka shone through six quality innings, but Dallas Keuchel positively sparkled, fending off the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of four-hit, 10-strikeout ball for his second postseason win.

Through the first two innings, however, neither starter relinquished more than a single walk. Keuchel cracked on a third-inning single by Brett Gardner, and Tanaka lost his no-hit bid when Jose Altuve collected his first base of the game on an infield hit. That proved to be a crucial mistake, as Altuve promptly snagged second base and came home to score on Carlos Correa‘s RBI single. Two at-bats later, Yuli Gurriel followed that with another RBI single to cap the rally.

Keuchel struggled to maintain control in the fifth inning. Greg Bird roped a leadoff single, followed by a throwing error that planted Matt Holliday at first base. With two outs and runners on first and second, Aaron Judge lined a single into left field that should have scored Bird, but Marwin Gonzalez fired a 97.4-mph throw to catch him at the plate. The Yankees challenged the tag, naturally, and had they been successful, would have been able to push for extras later on.

Tanaka, on the other hand, recovered from his fourth-inning hiccups and retired five consecutive batters before Altuve returned to pester him in the sixth. A base hit and wild pitch later and Altuve was standing on second base again, though neither Correa nor Marwin Gonzalez found themselves able to solve Tanaka to extend the Astros’ two-run advantage. They were no more successful against Chad Green, who pitched a scoreless seventh and eighth with two hits and two strikeouts.

The eighth is exactly where things got interesting for the Yankees. Chris Devenski replaced Keuchel and lasted for just two at-bats after retiring Todd Frazier and walking Brett Gardner on six pitches. Ken Giles promptly came in and repeated the same sequence, inducing a groundout from Judge before walking Gary Sanchez on five pitches, though he was able to recover with an inning-ending strikeout to Didi Gregorius. He returned in the ninth to strike out the side, but not before Greg Bird gave 43,116 Astros fans a mild heart attack:

The Astros still have one game left in Houston before the series moves to New York for Game 3 on Monday. Justin Verlander (15-8, 3.35 ERA) will go up against Luis Severino (14-6, 2.98 ERA) on Saturday for Game 2 at 4:00 PM ET.

Evan Longoria: ‘I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base’

Joe Scarnici/Getty Images
11 Comments

The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.