NEW YORK -- The Astros, the team nobody believed would make the postseason this year, were dancing and celebrating on hallowed grounds. They were unfazed by the moment and the stage and the opponent.Dallas Keuchel continued his season-long mastery of the Yankees with six more scoreless innings, Colby Rasmus and
NEW YORK -- The Astros, the team nobody believed would make the postseason this year, were dancing and celebrating on hallowed grounds. They were unfazed by the moment and the stage and the opponent.
Dallas Keuchel continued his season-long mastery of the Yankees with six more scoreless innings, Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez homered off Masahiro Tanaka, and the Astros advanced to the American League Division Series with a 3-0 victory on Tuesday night in the AL Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser at Yankee Stadium.
"We're going to have to earn a lot more wins to get where we want to get, but this team is pretty special," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Let's see what happens."
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With the victory, the Astros move on to face the Royals in the best-of-five ALDS, which begins on Thursday night in Kansas City (7:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). The Yanks' first postseason appearance in three years was brief, due in large part to Keuchel, who limited them to three hits in a seven-strikeout performance, pitching on three days' rest for the first time in his pro career.
"I felt better than a week's rest, I'll tell you that," said Keuchel. "I think with the command I need and the stuff I possess, I really feel like I'm better suited for shorter rest than longer rest, and I think a lot of those guys would say the same thing."
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Over the course of three starts against the Yankees this season, Keuchel fired 22 innings without allowing a single run. The Yanks gave the ball to Tanaka, but the right-hander lasted just five innings, serving up a solo shot to Rasmus in the second inning and another to Gomez in the fourth.
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"We had some good vibes going, and with Dallas on the mound, I think that gave us a calming sense," Rasmus said. "Thankfully I was able to hit that home run to get everybody feeling loose and having fun and not tight. I think we stayed poised in this environment, and guys fed off it."
Jose Altuve lined a run-scoring single off Dellin Betances in the seventh inning, providing insurance for the Astros, who secured their first postseason victory since the 2005 National League Championship Series.
"Unbelievable," said Keuchel. "To come into their place and play extremely well was more than I could ask for. I didn't think we were going to play that well. I thought we were going to play a little bit better than average, but to come to Yankee Stadium and play that well is really remarkable."
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MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Gomez returns with a bang: Gomez, who had started once since Sept. 12 because of a mild left intercostal strain, returned to the lineup and clubbed a solo homer to lead off the fourth inning in his second at-bat. It was the second postseason homer of Gomez's career. The other came for Milwaukee in Game 4 of the 2011 NLDS in Arizona.
"I just tried to be simple, because I've been through a lot of injuries this year, everybody knows how I've been the last couple days, trying to put myself in the game," said Gomez. "And today, I got an early phone call from my manager and the trainer about how I feel, and I said, 'I don't know, I'm going to tell you when I get to the field, but put me in the lineup.' They made the decision and put me in the lineup." More >
Tanaka done after five: Yankees manager Joe Girardi promised that he would not hesitate to get his bullpen involved in the game, and so with Rasmus and Gomez both due up in the sixth inning, he pulled Tanaka in favor of left-hander Justin Wilson. It resulted in a scoreless sixth, but Tanaka's five-inning postseason debut wasn't exactly what they had in mind when they gave him a $155 million contract. Tanaka permitted four hits and three walks, striking out two and throwing 49 of 83 pitches for strikes.
"I took him out after five innings because our seven-eight-nine guys were as good as anyone in the league," Girardi said. "I knew we really couldn't afford to give them any more runs, the way Keuchel was pitching." More >
Bullpen rights the ship: The Astros' bullpen, which had the highest ERA in the Majors in September, came through in grand fashion Tuesday. Lefty Tony Sipp worked the seventh and pitched around a one-out walk. Right-hander Will Harris had a 1-2-3 eighth, and Luke Gregerson closed it out in the ninth against the heart of the Yanks' order.
"I'm not going to lie, I don't think I knew what to do," Gregerson said about getting the final out. "I was waiting for everybody else to come to me, and we all started going nuts. It was incredible."
Can't get to Keuchel: If the Yankees were going to snap Keuchel's scoreless-innings string against them -- 16 frames during the regular season alone -- it seemed their best chance might come in the sixth inning, when Didi Gregorius lined a leadoff single. Brett Gardner struck out and Chris Young hit into a fielder's choice, but Carlos Beltran's hard two-out single brought Alex Rodriguez up as the potential go-ahead run. Rodriguez swung at Keuchel's first pitch and flied out harmlessly to center field.
"I thought that was going to be the moment for us that was going to turn it around, but it didn't," Girardi said. More >
"At that moment, you almost want to blink a couple times, wake up and that not be the reality. You want a couple more cracks at it, or even one more inning. We just ran out of time. It's definitely a tough pill to swallow, to see another team celebrating on your field." -- Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner on the end of their season.
It comes as little surprise that Houston, which led the AL in stolen bases and finished second in home runs during the regular season, relied on two homers and a late swipe for its offensive production on Tuesday. As it will continue to do throughout the postseason, Statcast™ tracked the in-depth details of all the key plays from the Astros' victory. More >
Astros: Houston moves on to face the Royals in the ALDS, with Game 1 on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET (FOX Sports 1). Collin McHugh will be on the hill opposite Yordano Ventura. Game 2 is on Friday in K.C. (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1), with the series moving to Houston for Game 3 on Sunday (4 p.m. ET, MLB Network). Game 4, if necessary, would be Monday at Minute Maid Park (Time TBD; FOX Sports 1), and Game 5, if necessary, would be in K.C. on Oct. 14 (Time TBD; FOX Sports 1).
Yankees: The Yanks' season is complete. They open the 2016 season at home on April 4 against the Astros.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.