The Yankee starter, Luis Severino, 25, is splendidly talented but he looked like a starter on a hot tin roof through the first innings. On his third pitch, Severino had the misfortune to throw to the 5-foot-6 Jose Altuve.
Altuve unleashed his mighty-mite, cave-man swing and the ball landed in the Astros’ bullpen. In batting practice, Altuve had been a relaxed cat, cracking jokes, standing in the blue autumnal shadows, wagging his bat and lining shots to all fields. After the game, Altuve answered question in a white T-shirt and bomber jacket.
Tell us, a reporter asked, about your approach before your home run. Altuve shook his head. No particular approach. “I don’t like to waste much time at the plate,” he said.
Severino threw 56 pitches in the first two innings. To his credit, he discovered a Zen place and pulled back from death’s precipice, throwing near-five credible innings.
Yankees Manager Aaron Boone acknowledged growing twitchy. Did you think of yanking him? Boone nodded. “Yeah, 36 pitches there in the first inning,” he said, “he’s a hitter away.”
It’s a measure of the Yankees’ determination that they survived a crippling, season-long run of injuries. (Severino was among the wounded, pitching only 12 innings in the regular season). But in this game, their regulars faltered. Catcher Gary Sanchez has looked befuddled, a powerful wizard swinging a weak wand of a bat. Brett Gardner is a fine outfielder but his feather arm calls to mind the 1970s Yankees stalwart Mickey Rivers, who could run the ball in faster than he could throw it in.
As it happens, in this game a fly ball went to Gardner who did not attempt to throw out a runner at the plate. By the end of the seventh inning the Astros led by four runs and the Yankee fans, rarely forgiving of trespasses, offered a boo shower for their team.