Yankees fall, 3-1, to timeless wonder Justin Verlander and Astros

NEW YORK — Playing to a sold-out crowd at Yankee Stadium that can best be described as wild, the Yankees and Astros were locked in a staring game for five innings.

The Astros eventually broke through in the sixth, thanks to a three-run, bat-flipping homer from Kyle Tucker† At just 25, ensconced in Houston’s batting order after mainstay Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley and Alex Bregmanone lock behind breakout sensation Jordan AlvarezTucker is often the overlooked man in this monstrous lineup.

After springing a spring against the wall on Thursday and pumping this critical home run on Friday, Tucker is making sure Yankee fans will remember his name. They already knew Justin Verlander, who had made 22 regular season starts against the Yankees coming in on Friday. The 23rd was spectacular, as the timeless wonder threw seven innings with a four basehit and one punt.

Luis Severino kept pace with Verlander through the first five innings, but burst in the sixth when Tucker took him deep. That inning ended up being the only blemish on his night, as Severino left after six frames for Ron Marinaccio. For his fifth consecutive appearance, Severino struckout at least seven batters.

Verlander, 39, took things differently and only got three punchouts, but the wily veteran still maneuvered his way through the Yankees lineup. Other than Giancarlo Stanton’s second-deck home run—his second in as many days—the Yankees couldn’t handle much hard contact with Verlander. Even when he was hit squarely by a line drive comebacker in the seventh inning, the still spry pitcher recovered and threw to first base for the out.

Unlike Thursday, the Houston bullpen closed things down to secure the win this time. Phil Maton came through the top of the order in the eighth without being pulverized, a big order for most pitchers this season. Arguably, the two biggest throws of the game came in Maton’s feud with Aaron Judge.

Facing a 1-1 count, Maton brutally threw a fastball into the zone Judge swung through. His 1-2 throw was a 74 mph curveball that turned the MVP favorite into jelly, netting a massive out with the tying run at first base. After Anthony Rizzo walked, Maton also came back to silence strikeouts by Stanton and Josh Donaldson. Rafael Montero retired the last three outs, albeit eventfully, instead of regular closer Ryan Pressly.

Not much has happened this year, but on Friday night, the Yankees were beaten by a team that simply played better than them. On both sides of the ball, Houston outdid the men with pinstripes.

On this night, Houston applied hearing protectors to drown out all the booing and cheating chants, securing a statement win to even this juicy four-game set.

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