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Astros and Yankees score: Alex Bregman's three-stage HR gives Houston a 2-0 ALCS series lead

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The Houston Astros are two wins away from their fourth American League pennant in six years. On Thursday night, the Astros waited to beat the New York Yankees in Game 2 of the ALCS (HOU 3, NYY 2). Alex Bregman delivered the game-winning kick, and for the second consecutive night, the Yankees struggled to make contact only on key hits.

Historically, teams that took a 2-0 series lead in the best-seven went on to win 84 percent of the time. The series isn’t over yet, but the Astros are sitting nicely. They have five chances to win two games. The last team to clear the 2-0 series deficit was the Dodgers over the Braves in the 2020 NLCS. The Yankees last made it against the Braves in the 1996 World Series.

Here are four takeaways from Game 2 and a look at the next step.

1. Bregman opened the scoring

Minute Maid Park’s roof was opened on Thursday night for only the second time in 2022. Over the last three years, leftcourt home ownership has been about 13 percent higher with the roof open than with the roof down, and that little extra boost may have helped Alex Bregman and the Astros take an early 3-0 lead. In game 2.

At the end of the third inning, Bregman defeated Luis Severino and parked his inside fastball on the Crawford Boxes for a three-run home run. At 91.8 mph, it was the fifth-weakest postseason home run of the Statcast era (since 2015), with similar-hit balls going for a hit just 4 percent of the time. But it fell on the seats, and that’s what matters. It was suddenly 3-0 Astros.

This was the 14th post-season home run in Bregman’s career, breaking the most ever draw with Justin Turner by a third baseman. Only 15 players reached more post-season homers. Obviously, it’s a function of the era — more postseason games than ever before — but you still have to go out and shoot those scumbags. Not easy.

2. The Yankees responded immediately

Given New York’s offensive struggles, he felt the Astros would go for a Game 2 win after Bregman’s homer. Instead, the Yankees responded in the next half shot. Kick modifier: Framber Valdez makes two mistakes in one game, muting a returning player, then tossing the ball away from the seat of his pants. This put the runners in second and third place with no exits.

The Yankees took two runs that were important if not sexy. Anthony Rizzo pulled a two-hit fielder to first base to score the first point and advance the runner to third, then Gleyber Torres beat a two-hit home single to win the second run. Bregman made the score 3-0, and the Yankees cut the score to 3-2 after just 11 shots.

Entering Game 2, the Yankees had won 18 of their 22 postseason runs on home runs, or 82 percent (the Astros had a similar ratio of 13, or 76 percent of Game 2:17). But in this fourth hit, contact reigned supreme. Good two-strike shot from Rizzo and Torres to put the ball in and take home those important runs — a good 0-2 point shot.

3. Valdez settled

After the Torres infield single achieved New York’s second run, Valdez has retired 11 of the last 12 batsmen he has faced, seven of which are batting. Justin Verlander retired his last 11 innings in Game 1, nine of which were innings. Both Astros starters worked a little early, then found it in mid-kicks and rolled to the finish.

Overall, Valdez hit nine in seven innings, and his 25 hits and misses are a new career record (regular season or postseason). Since 2008, when pitch tracking was first introduced, he has made 16 hits and misses on curveball alone, most on curveball, in a postseason game. The platinum/curveball combination was really dominant.

The Astros took Bryan Abreu to the top of the series in the eighth inning, nearly leaving the lead. Presumably AL MVP Aaron Judge took a dash drive to right field where Kyle Tucker caught him at the top of the wall. The replays showed that the match would not be home made, but it was very close. Take a look at this:

Sports Info Solutions states that Tucker led MLB during the regular season with three home run heists. Again, this wasn’t going to be a homer, but Tucker’s runaway robbery skills were close enough to kick in. Also, Statcast says that Judge’s rocket will only host one MLB ballpark: Yankee Stadium’s short right-court porch.

Abreu survived the eighth inning and Ryan Pressly closed the game in the ninth inning. The Yankees had just three base runners up following Torres’ infield single to hit their second round in the fourth innings. After hitting 17 times in Game 1, they hit 13 times in Game 2.

4. Altuve’s record decline continues

Jose Altuve was 0 to 4 in Game 2, and 0 to 23 at the end of this season. This is the longest streak in 2022 and the longest streak to start a postseason in history. The previous record was held by Dal Maxvill, who missed 22 at-bats in the 1968 World Series with the Cardinals. It’s hard to believe that such a good hitter could be this bad at the end of the season.

To be fair, The Yankees had a great double play to steal a hit by Altuve in the seventh inning. This is awesome:

This sport is brutal. When you’re stuck on the longest streak of hits of the year, He it happens. The Astros will play at least four more games at the end of this season. I can’t imagine Altuve being helpless in all four.

5. Next

Friday is a day off — the only off day in the series — before the ALCS restarts at Yankee Stadium on Saturday night. Former Astro Gerrit Cole (13-8, 3.50 ERA) will start for the Yankees. He’ll be working on an extra day of rest after he kicked off in Game 4 of the ALDS last Sunday, but he also warmed up on the bullring in Game 5 on Tuesday. Astros manager Dusty Baker said they were “undecided” about pregame Game 3 launchers. They’re right Lance McCullers Jr. (4-2, 2.27 ERA) and Cristian Javier (11-9, 2.54 ERA) are the leading contenders.