HOUSTON -- Dallas Keuchel owned the moment and the Yankees in a way that only he can Friday night. Jose Altuve and Marwin Gonzalez had their moments, too, on a night the Astros' three longest-tenured players shone in the biggest game of their careers.
Keuchel threw seven masterful scoreless innings, Altuve had three hits and scored a run and Gonzalez threw out a runner at home plate from left field in the fifth inning to lead the Astros to a 2-1 win in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World at raucous Minute Maid Park.
:: ALCS schedule and coverage ::
"We went out there today with the same attitude that we played the last series, and with Dallas on the mound, that would be key for us," Altuve said. "It's really fun to play behind him, and we did and it feels really good. We've got to keep the momentum going and play 100 percent [Saturday]."
What's more, Keuchel joined Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and Cliff Lee as the only pitchers with at least seven scoreless innings and 10 strikeouts against the Yankees in the postseason. Keuchel combined with closer Ken Giles to strike out 14 Yanks.
"I made a few good pitches and I got lucky on a few," Keuchel said. "But hey, that's great company to be in, I'll take it. I mean, if I'm in that company and we get a loss, I don't really care about it. But since we got the win, it's a nice couple guys to be with. And this franchise has a rich history of not just good players, but good pitchers, and I'm glad to just be a part of this."
Masahiro Tanaka took the loss, though the right-hander pitched well, holding the Astros hitless into the fourth and permitting just two runs and four hits over six innings. Greg Bird broke up the shutout in the ninth with a two-out homer off Giles, Bird's third homer of the postseason. Houston will send Justin Verlander to the mound in Saturday's Game 2 against New York's Luis Severino.
"I said it after Cleveland, you've got to beat good teams and good pitchers if you want to get to where you want to be," Bird said. "We were in that game the whole way, really. We didn't get some hits or didn't get some runs in, but really, we were in that game. Masa pitched well. We're in this thing."
Keuchel, who threw six scoreless innings to beat the Yankees in the 2015 AL Wild Card Game, allowed only four singles. The only runner who reached second base against him came in the fifth when Bird singled and went to second on an Altuve fielding error. Gonzalez bailed him out when he threw Bird out at the plate from left field to end the inning following an Aaron Judge single.
"Well, that was their best moment in the game, probably to stop the momentum," Gonzalez said. "All I was thinking was to go get the ball as fast as I could, since I knew he was on second and I knew that that was the only chance to get a chance at home plate."
Altuve sparked the Astros in the fourth when he beat out an infield hit, stole second and scored on a single by Carlos Correa. Correa scored one out later on a single by Yuli Gurriel to put Houston ahead, 2-0. Keuchel took it from there and sent down the Yanks in order in the sixth and seventh innings.
"I knew it was going to be a close game," Correa said. "But again, we showed another one of our qualities. We don't need to score eight runs per game for us to win. We can still win one-run ballgames."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Start me up: With "M-V-P!" chants ringing throughout the crowd, Altuve sparked the Astros' offense in the fourth, legging out an infield single to second baseman Starlin Castro for Houston's first hit off Tanaka. Altuve stole second base, sliding in ahead of Gary Sanchez's one-hop throw, then scored as Correa lined a run-scoring single into left field. Gurriel knocked a two-out single to center later in the inning that provided Keuchel with a 2-0 lead.
"You have to try to control that running game," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "He's one of those tough guys you don't really want on base."
Motion denied: As he did in Game 4 of the AL Division Series presented by Doosan against the Red Sox, Gonzalez threw out a runner at home plate to save a run. This time, Gonzalez fielded Judge's sharp fifth-inning single and uncorked a 97.4 mph laser, nailing Bird attempting to score from second base. The Yankees challenged, but the call on the field was confirmed, ending the inning. Gonzalez is the first left fielder with outfield assists in consecutive postseason games since Jim Rice in the 1986 World Series.
• No regrets for Bird after testing Gonzalez's arm
"That's huge," Bird said. "I obviously would have liked to have scored there. Judge did his job and I didn't get in there. It's tough, but we've just got to turn it around."
Said Astros manager A.J. Hinch: "Back-to-back series now, and obviously Game 1 now, but where his defensive play is at the position that he's the least experienced at comes up with the biggest play." More >
Strand man: After Brett Gardner worked a one-out walk in the eighth against Chris Devenski, Sanchez looked at ball four from Giles, putting the potential tying run at first base with two outs. The Yanks sent pinch-runner Ronald Torreyes in for Sanchez, but Giles was able to strike out Didi Gregorius, who hit a key three-run homer in the AL Wild Card Game against the Twins and homered twice against the Indians in the deciding ALDS Game 5.
"I thought the first pitch was off the plate," Gregorius said. "You've got to let it go, there's nothing you can do with that. I couldn't get the job done. It was not a good at-bat."
"Well, we thought he was out. But God knows I'm not doing that again." -- Yankees manager Joe Girardi, on why he asked for a replay on Gonzalez's throw to the plate
• Girardi pokes fun at himself after challenging tag on Bird
"Man, that was key right there. It was big because it kind of like killed the rally for them. I love it."-- Altuve, on Gonzalez's throw home
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Since the LCS expanded to a best-of-seven format in 1985, Game 1 winners have gone on to win the series 40 out of 62 times (64.5 percent). And the subset of teams that won Game 1 at home have advanced slightly more frequently: 22 of 33 (66.7 percent).
• DYK? Facts, figures about ALCS Game 1
Houston designated hitter Carlos Beltran is the first player to play postseason games for one team in two different leagues since players on the 1889-90 Brooklyn Bridegrooms, which switched from the American Association to the National League.
Yankees: Severino returns to the mound Saturday after excelling in a pivotal ALDS Game 4 start against Cleveland on Monday. Severino went seven strong frames, surrendering three runs on four hits with nine strikeouts in a 7-3 win at Yankee Stadium. He struggled in two starts against the Astros this season, allowing nine runs on 15 hits over 7 2/3 innings. More >
Astros: Verlander, who won two games in the ALDS against the Red Sox (Game 1 as a starter and Game 4 in relief), starts Game 2 of the ALCS on Saturday at Minute Maid Park. He's 9-6 with a 3.36 ERA in 18 career postseason games (17 starts). More >