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ALCS – Game 1 Perspectives (Yankees Win 7-0)

Yes, indeed, that first game went exactly as planned. Wow! A 7-0 win over the Astros, in Houston, against the pitcher the Astros acquired to help put them over the top at the eleventh hour of the trade deadline was a great way for the Yankees to begin the American League Championship Series. A great way!

They play again tonight (obviously) and if they can do the same, the Yankees will really be in the driver’s seat.

Here are some other perspectives following the Game One victory:

After much thought, I like the fact that Aaron Hicks was added to the roster. I don’t think he will play at all, but he basically replaces Tyler Wade who wasn’t going to play either. Wade’s strengths are his ability to play the infield and run fast (and well – he’s the best bet to steal a base in a pinch running situation), but those skills will probably not come into play in this series. The infield is set. I don’t see (barring injury, which with this team is always a possibility) any of the current infielders coming out of any game. They have all played excellent defense and have all hit. Aaron Hicks, on the other hand, gives them a better left-handed batting threat, a good deal of speed, and the best outfield defense they can have off the bench. I can see a scenario where the Yankees need Hick’s bat, and glove, more than they’d need Wade’s speed. (I can see a situation where Aaron Hicks pinch hits for Cameron Maybin who was brought into the game as a defensive replacement for Giancarlo Stanton. In fact, that seems likely to occur at least once this series.)

I love the line-up that Aaron Boone put out there each day for the series against the Twins. It worked. Batting Brett Gardner third was an inspired move. With the Astros pitchers all being right-handed, I was certain we’d see the same thing, but instead Gleyber Torres batted third and was remarkable. This is great managing. A great manager does what he thinks will help his team win. Changing a successful formula allows for the classic second guess. Great managers do what they feel is right regardless of the second-guessers. That’s when a manager becomes a manager – when they manage the team without concern for what others say. Aaron Boone is now doing that. I like it!

Nothing more needs to be said about Gleyber Torres. He is AMAZING! What a start to the series he had last night! He went 3 for 5 with a homer, a double, and five runs batted in. It is possible that he just claimed the #3 spot in the batting order for the next ten years…

I do get worried when so many accolades are thrust upon a player from so many. Torres, to me, was the MVP of the ALDS and now he has started the ALCS just as impressively. He’s a professional so he knows what to do, but I hope he does not get caught up in the hype and just focuses on playing his best baseball. I would imagine that it must be very hard to stay focused when you’re twenty-two and all the whole world starts telling you that you are the greatest. The Yankees need Torres to just stay being himself. I am confident he will.

I am certain that some of the behind-the-scenes things that great teams do is in helping their players stay “balanced.” The leadership on the Yankees, including C.C. Sabathia and Brett Gardner, but I am also sure, the coaches and the manager, and even younger player-leaders like Aaron Judge, play vital roles in helping the others players stay focused on the game and doing the right thing. At least I hope this is true. When writers and commentators talk about “leadership,” this is probably a lot of what they are talking about. The people on the inside see these interactions. They see the mentoring. I would surmise that the teams that are great year-after-year are great, in part, because these structures are in place to support the younger players – and, really, all the players. This is one thing, it seems, that the Yankees do very well.

I am thrilled that the Yankees line-up includes D.J. LeMahieu at first base. His defense has been so great. He made a few important scoops last night that helped the Yankees tremendously – especially in the earlier innings when the game was much closer than how it turned out.

It was GREAT to see Giancarlo Stanton hitting a big homer!

I had a sense Edwin Encarnacion might homer last night. He didn’t…and he didn’t look great. He and Brett Gardner were the only starters not to get at least one hit last night.

Masahiro Tanaka brought his A-Game – and then some. He was brilliant. He allowed only one hit and one walk over six innings. He was dealing. He was tremendous. And he threw only 68 pitches. He started fourteen of the eighteen batters he faced with a strike. Because of two double-plays, he faced the minimum amount of batters through six innings. Tanaka was pitching great, his pitch count was super low, and…

He was taken out of the game. Oh boy! This set the stage for a classic second-guess of the manager. (It was really a first-guess.) What? Taking out Tanaka? A rationale can be made that the Yankees’ had a longer top of the sixth inning, and the added rest time might not have played to Tanaka’s favor. Maybe? But, it seemed all but certain that he was already done for the night no matter what the Yankees batters did. That was a bold move by Aaron Boone In many regards, taking out Tanaka, especially for Adam Ottavino, who didn’t have a great ALDS, was risky. (Before Ottavino pitched out of a jam, it looked like it might backfire as well.) But, more and more, we are seeing that this is Aaron Boone’s team and he is managing in the way he sees to best win. Bottom line – It worked.

I was glad that the Yankees didn’t use Aroldis Chapman yesterday. He could use the work, but I’d rather they have him well rested (very well rested) for tonight’s game than after having pitched last night. I think a relief pitcher also gets a little advantage the first time he faces a team in a series. The more the opponent sees him, the more they can note any new tendencies and such. There had to be a temptation to use him to slam the door shut. It wasn’t necessary. And it didn’t happen. Again, this was excellent managing.

Last night, with a 7-0 lead, would have been a nice time to use C.C. Sabathia to close out the game. I’m just as happy the Yankees didn’t do this, but if ever there was a spot for the big guy, that might have been it.

The Yankees had to win at least one road game this series. They did just that. Tonight they have the opportunity to really make a big mark in this series. Justin Verlander is great, but he was mortal his last time out against the Tampa Bay Rays. If James Paxton brings his “A-game”, the Yankees could be in a great position in this series.

Let’s Go Yankees!!!!

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