ALCS: Tanaka Superb, Keuchel Superber; Astros Take Game 1
The closer the game, the more every little thing gets amplified.
Add another level of scrutiny in the playoffs, as TV cameras are relentlessly unforgiving.
And if that doesn't drop the hint that results are as dependent on mental discipline as physical performance, then ask any player this year who probably spawned the ancestral line that gave Star Trek those dudes in red shirts.
Starters Dallas Keuchel and Masahiro Tanaka set the tone as the American League's Championship Series got under way. Both showed the sort of superior control and approach that are key reasons why the Houston Astros and New York Yankees got here.
They thus placed the focus on intensity elsewhere:
- José Altuve rose to the occasion with his speed, beating out an infield single and following it up with a barely-safe steal of second that allowed him to score the game's first run; and
- Marwin González putting a 97mph throw home on a dime to deny what -- as events transpired -- woulda been a game-changing run.
That's the play where Bomber baserunner Greg Bird earned the dreaded red shirt. Twice:
Not only that, but dude's gotta get that part of his bod nearest to the plate to touch the plate.
Easier said than done, obviously. Still, fundamentals like that are even more important to the bigger, slower players.
As fate would have it, Bird's the dude who kept it close at the end.
Ironically, his ninth-inning blast put even more focus on what turned out to be the play of the game.
Houston's just all-purpose solid.
The Yankees are here in spite of their engine room's lack of production:
- Aaron Judge is now 1-21 with 17 strikeouts since the start of the ALDS, with his only hit being the single in this one where Bird didn't score; and
- Gary Sánchez is currently 1-12 with 8 punchies in his last three games.
Clearly, those are becoming big things.