HOUSTON — Alex Bregman hit an early three-run homer, Framber Valdez pitched seven strong innings and the Houston Astros edged the New York Yankees 3-2 Thursday night to take a 2-0 lead in the AL Championship Series.
Yankees slugger Aaron Judge just missed a two-run homer in the eighth when his drive was caught just in front of the short wall by right fielder Kyle Tucker. The ball would've landed in the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium, Statcast showed — with the roof open at Minute Maid Park, the wind might've knocked down Judge's bid.
Check out game updates and highlights below.
A night after Justin Verlander fanned 11 in a 4-2 win in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series, Valdez turned in another solid pitching performance and Bregman's third-inning homer was all the offense Houston needed. The Astros improved to 5-0 this postseason.
Valdez allowed just four hits, walked none and struck out nine. The only runs New York mustered were unearned, coming in the fourth after a flustered Valdez committed two errors on the same play.
But he quickly moved past the gaffe and shut down the powerful Yankees lineup the rest of the way. Valdez allowed just one baserunner after that inning on a single to Harrison Bader with two outs in the fifth and retired the last seven hitters he faced, capped by striking out the side in the seventh.
Featuring a mix of pitches, Valdez got 25 swings and misses. He also helped end the Yankees' record run of 23 straight postseason games with a home run.
Bryan Abreu pitched a scoreless eighth. Ryan Pressly walked one in a scoreless ninth, striking out three for his second save of the series.
There was a slight delay before Pressly threw his first pitch after a fan got on the field and appeared to try and hug Astros second baseman Jose Altuve and take a selfie with him. Security and police officers quickly descended on the man and pulled him away from Altuve before wrestling him to the ground, handcuffing him and escorting him off the field.
The series shifts to New York for Game 3 Saturday where the Yankees will try to dig themselves out of a hole to avoid being eliminated by Houston in the ALCS for the third time in six years.
Houston is 7-2 overall against the Yankees this year.
Yankees starter Luis Severino plunked Martín Maldonado on the left forearm to start Houston’s third before the slumping Altuve struck out. Jeremy Peña singled to center before Yordan Alvarez grounded into a forceout at second.
Bregman then knocked a fastball beyond the wall in left field for his second home run this postseason to make it 3-0. It was his 14th career home run in the playoffs to move him past Justin Turner for most homers by a third baseman in MLB history.
It was a bit windy at Minute Maid Park in a rare game where the retractable roof was open, and it was unclear how much the conditions impacted flyballs. Judge, who set an AL record with 62 home runs during the regular season, gave the Houston fans with his drive that Tucker grabbed before knocking into the wall.
The Astros are unbeaten this postseason after sweeping the AL Division Series against Seattle. They’ve done it without any help on offense from Altuve, long a postseason powerhouse.
The three-time batting champion went 0 for 4 Thursday to fall to 0 for 23 in the playoffs this year, which is the longest hitless streak to begin a postseason in MLB history. He passed Dal Maxvill, who went 0 for 22 in the 1968 World Series for the Cardinals.
Judge got his first hit of the series with a single to get things going for the Yankees in the fourth.
Then came a nightmare of a play for Valdez where he made both a fielding and a throwing error. Giancarlo Stanton hit a chopper toward Valdez, and he grabbed it, possibly with time to start a double play, but then dropped it.
Valdez picked up the ball but fell backwards to the ground as he threw to first. His toss was offline, allowing Judge to advance to third and Stanton to reach second on the play.
Valdez remained on his back on the grass for a few seconds after seeing the ball roll past first base and put a hand to his face and shook his head before gathering himself and returning to the mound.
Anthony Rizzo followed with a groundout that scored Judge to make it 3-1.
A single by Gleyber Torres sent Stanton home to get the Yankees within 3-2. But Valdez struck out Josh Donaldson and Kyle Higashioka to limit the damage.
Severino was lifted after allowing a single to Tucker with no outs in the sixth. Jonathan Loáisiga took over and was greeted with a single by Yuli Gurriel. But Aledmys Díaz grounded into a double play to end the inning.
Severino allowed five hits and three runs with six strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.
Gerrit Cole (2-0, 2.03 ERA), who helped the Astros to the 2019 World Series before signing with the Yankees, will start for New York in Game 3 Friday. Houston has yet to name its starter, but it will likely be Lance McCullers Jr.
Houston 3, New York 2
Ryan Pressly relieved Bryan Abreu in the ninth. Anthony Rizzo and Gleyber Torres struck out swinging to start the inning. Josh Donaldson walked but Pressly got pinch-hitter Matt Carpenter swinging to end the game.
Houston 3, New York 2
Bryan Abreu relieved Valdez to start the eighth inning. He got Oswaldo Cabrera to fly out to center for the first out. Harrison Bader struck out swinging for the second out. Kyle Tucker caught an Aaron Judge flyout to the wall in right, but Bader was able to tag up to second. Giancarlo Stanton struck out looking to end the top half of the inning.
Wandy Peralta relieved Jonathan Loáisiga in the bottom of the eighth after Loáisiga got Jeremy Peña to ground out. Yordan Alvarez greeted Peralta with a single to center, snapping an 0-for-12 stretch. Alvarez was picked off first base for the second out and then Alex Bregman singled to left-center to keep the inning alive for the Astros. Kyle Tucker fouled out to end the inning.
Houston 3, New York 2
Framber Valdez got Josh Donaldson, Kyle Higashioka and Oswald Peraza on swinging strikeouts in the seventh. All three strikeouts were on Valdez's curveball.
Chas McCormick grounded out to start the bottom of the inning. Martín Maldonado followed with a walk, bringing up Jose Altuve, who hit a 106-mph grounder that turned into a double play to end the inning.
Houston 3, New York 2
Giancarlo Stanton grounded out, Anthony Rizzo struck out swinging and Gleyber Torres grounded out, albeit unconventionally, to end the inning.
Alex Bregman led off the home half with a pop-out to shallow left field. After Kyle Tucker singled to right, the Yankees pulled Severino in favor of Jonathan Loáisiga to face Yuli Gurriel. Gurriel greeted the reliever with a single through the left side of the infield. Aledmys Díaz grounded into a double play to end the inning.
Houston 3, New York 2
Oswald Peraza struck out swinging, Oswaldo Cabrera grounded out and Harrison Bader singled to right, bringing up Aaron Judge, who popped out to left to end the inning.
Martín Maldonado led off the home half with a bloop single to left, bringing Jose Altuve to the plate with a chance to break out of a prolonged 0-for-21 postseason slump. Altuve's struggles continued, though, and he popped out for the first out of the frame. Jeremy Peña flew out to center and Yordan Alvarez struck out to end the frame.
Houston 3, New York 2
Aaron Judge led off the frame with a single through the left side. The next batter, Framber Valdez fielded a dribbler hit by Giancarlo Stanton and then threw it away trying to get him out at first. Judge moved up to third and Stanton advanced to second. Valdez was charged with two errors on the play. An Anthony Rizzo groundout scored Judge and moved Stanton to third. Gleyber Torres then reached on an infield single, scoring Stanton. Josh Donaldson and Kyle Higashioka struck out swinging to end the frame.
The Astros went down in order in the home half of the frame.
Houston 3, New York 0
Oswald Peraza flew out to center, Oswaldo Cabrera grounded out and Harrison Bader struck out swinging to end the inning.
Martín Maldonado got hit by a pitch on the arm, bringing Jose Altuve to the plate with no one out. Altuve struck out swinging, extending his postseason slump. Jeremy Peña delivered a one-out single and Yordan Alvarez grounded into a fielder's choice, moving Maldonado to third. Peña was forced out at second base. Alex Bregman then delivered a three-run homer to the Crawford Boxes. Kyle Tucker popped out to end the inning.
Houston 0, New York 0
Anthony Rizzo grounded out, Gleyber Torres flew out to right-center field and then Josh Donaldson delivered a two-out, two-strike double to right field to keep the inning alive for the Yankees. Valdez got Kyle Higashioka swinging to end the frame.
Alex Bregman flew out to right for the first out of the home half. Kyle Tucker followed with a walk and Yuli Gurriel followed with a hard-hit single through the left side of the infield, moving Tucker to second. Aledmys Díaz struck out swinging and Chas McCormick popped up to end the inning.
Houston 0. New York 0
Valdez worked a clean top of the first, sitting down Harrison Bader, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in order.
Jose Altuve grounded out and Jeremy Peña and Yordan Alvarez struck out swinging to end the inning.
Game 1 recap
Verlander recovered from a rocky start and struck out 11 over six strong innings to lead the Astros past the Yankees 4-2 on Wednesday night.
Yuli Gurriel launched a tiebreaking homer in the sixth. Chas McCormick and rookie Jeremy Peña also went deep as the AL West champions improved to 4-0 in the playoffs after going 106-56 during the regular season.
It was a familiar result in the power struggle between the teams over the past few years.
Houston knocked New York out of the playoffs in 2015, 2017 and 2019 before going 5-2 against the Yankees during the 2022 regular season.
This is the sixth straight ALCS appearance for the Astros, their third meeting with the Yankees during that span.
Houston is trying to reach the World Series for the second consecutive season and fourth time in six years. New York hasn't made it since beating the Phillies in 2009 for the most recent of its 27 championships.
Verlander set a major league record with his eighth double-digit strikeout game in the postseason. He passed Clayton Kershaw (213) to become the career leader in postseason strikeouts with 219.
New York whiffed 17 times in all to only two for the Astros — the largest difference ever in a postseason game.
“They’re obviously really dynamic,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Outstanding starting pitching, but can shorten the game with the best of ’em. So we’ve got to find a way to break through against them.”
Valdez went 17-6 with a 2.82 ERA during the regular season. He led the American League with 201 1/3 innings pitched and three complete games. In Game 2 of the Division Series against Seattle, he allowed four hits and two runs over 5 2/3 innings.
Severino was 7-3 with a 3.18 ERA in 19 starts this season. He yielded eight hits and three runs over 5 2/3 innings in Game 3 of the ALDS versus Cleveland.
Pettis rejoins team
After missing Game 1 due to an illness, Gary Pettis is back with the team for Game 2. He won't be coaching third base, but he'll be in the dugout.
Altuve stays in leadoff spot
The Astros released their lineup for Game 2
For the first time this postseason, the roof at Minute Maid Park will be open.
Gold Glove finalists
Two Astros were named Rawlings Gold Glove finalists on Thursday: shortstop Peña and right fielder Kyle Tucker.