NEW YORK -- Few teams have been able to answer Justin Verlander this season, a group that still includes the Majors' most prolific offense. Despite a shuffled lineup, the Yankees were again stymied by the right-hander, who fired 6 2/3 dominant innings to down the Yanks, 5-1, on Monday at
NEW YORK -- Few teams have been able to answer Justin Verlander this season, a group that still includes the Majors' most prolific offense. Despite a shuffled lineup, the Yankees were again stymied by the right-hander, who fired 6 2/3 dominant innings to down the Yanks, 5-1, on Monday at Yankee Stadium.
Earlier this month in Houston, Verlander struck out 14 Yankees over eight brilliant frames, and he picked up where he left off as last year's American League Championship Series participants renewed acquaintances in the Bronx. Verlander held the Bombers to Greg Bird's seventh-inning homer, scattering five hits while striking out five in a 113-pitch effort.
"He uses all his pitches where he wants to, when he wants to," Bird said. "That makes for a long day. You've just got to grind him out, really, and capitalize when he makes mistakes. You kind of tip your cap to him. He throws the ball well, and he's consistent. That's why he's been at the top of our game for a long time."
Verlander entered the afternoon 6-2 with a 1.08 ERA, prompting manager Aaron Boone to remodel his batting order. Gleyber Torres was promoted to the fifth spot, his highest assignment yet, while Didi Gregorius was dropped to seventh. Giancarlo Stanton spent the afternoon on the bench, with Neil Walker taking over duties at designated hitter.
Though Verlander retired nine straight through one stretch, the Yankees had opportunities. Torres was picked off second base to end the second inning, and Walker popped out with two men on to end the fifth, drawing boos from the sellout crowd of 46,583.
"You know you're up against one of the game's best," Boone said. "That said, I know we're always in it. I even felt that way today; if we could just ding him enough. Obviously the pickoff at second kind of hurt. ... You realize it's going to be tough, but with our guys, you know that if we can continue to grind and create traffic, we're always one swing away."
J.D. Davis hit a three-run homer in the second inning off Yankees starter Domingo German, who was charged with the loss after allowing four runs (three earned) and five hits over 5 2/3 innings. German walked two and struck out seven in a 104-pitch effort that Boone said was "an encouraging bounce-back outing" coming off two subpar starts.
"They're a really good team over there," German said through an interpreter. "Any opportunity you get to face them, you earn more experience. Especially facing Verlander; he's a really good pitcher, a lot of experience. Veteran. You can't make mistakes when you're opposing that caliber of a pitcher like that."
German was let down by his defense twice on balls hit by Yuli Gurriel. Gregorius misplayed a grounder that was scored as a hit to open the second inning, which Gregorius said hit the lip of the infield grass and changed direction. Torres committed a throwing error in the fourth, pulling Bird off of first base.
"Sometimes we put in too much confidence in that play. I threw bad," Torres said. "I'll be better tomorrow and try to do my job."
Torres atoned with a pair of sharp defensive plays that stole hits from Jake Marisnick in the fifth and Davis in the sixth. Evan Gattis' fourth-inning RBI single cashed Houston's fourth run off German, and Jose Altuve homered off A.J. Cole in the eighth, the reigning MVP's fourth blast of the year.
Bird's home run was his first since Game 1 of the ALCS, when he hit a ninth-inning shot off Houston's Ken Giles. Bird played in his third game of the season on Monday, having missed the Yankees' first 47 games while recovering from right ankle surgery.
"I just feel good, and I like that. I'll take my chances off anyone," Bird said.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
The Yankees were threatening against Verlander in the second inning after Torres singled to center field and Aaron Hicks reached base on a reviewed play that showed a pitch had clipped his left foot. With two outs, Torres took an aggressive secondary lead, prompting Verlander to whirl and fire a strike to Altuve that picked the rookie off.
"I know it's a good time for the team to [score] the first run of the game," Torres said. "He picked me. I feel super bad for that. I will prepare tomorrow and be better."
HE SAID IT
"Top to bottom, as the game progressed, they got better at laying off some of the stuff. The last three innings were pretty tough for me. I know I've had some success against them in the past, but every day is a new day going up against a lineup like this." -- Verlander
The Yankees and Astros will continue their rematch of last year's ALCS on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET, as left-hander Carsten Sabathia (2-1, 3.55 ERA) takes the ball for New York in the MLB Network Showcase Game. Sabathia will be looking to bounce back after his last outing, during which he allowed seven runs in 4 1/3 innings to the Rangers. Sabathia is 2-1 with a 4.15 ERA in three regular-season starts against the Astros, and he pitched against them twice in last year's ALCS, taking a win and a loss. Right-hander Charlie Morton (7-0, 2.04 ERA) goes for Houston.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.