HOUSTON – Asked what went wrong for his Tampa Bay Rays, manager Kevin Cash invented a word.
“We got Verlandered,” Cash said.
Justin Verlander looked every bit the October ace, Jose Altuve polished his postseason resume and the Houston Astros kept rolling, beating the Rays 6-2 on Friday to open their American League Division Series.
The Astros, who won a franchise-record 107 games for the best record in the majors, began their quest for a second World Series title in three years against a Rays team that downed Oakland 5-1 in the wild-card game this week.
Verlander kept up his dominant run this year when he posted an MLB-most 21 wins and fanned 300, allowing just a soft single in seven shutout innings. He struck out eight and improved to 8-0 in 12 career ALDS appearances — he’s 14-7 overall in postseason play.
He cracked up when told Cash used his performance to turn his name into a verb.
“It’s a pretty great compliment,” Verlander said. “I don’t know what else to say, other than that.”
Tampa Bay got its only hit off Verlander when Brandon Lowe singled to start the fifth. Verlander ended his day by striking out the side in the seventh, pounding his fist into his glove as he walked off the mound after fanning Lowe.
Manager AJ Hinch was asked about Verlander’s knack for getting stronger late in games.
“He’s got an incredible instinct for the moment,” he said. “He leaves some gas in his gas tank at the end of his outings . . . like a good sprinter, like at the finish line, he’s going to win. He’s going to win the race at the end of his outings.”
Rays starter Tyler Glasnow had given up just three singles when he walked Josh Reddick on four pitches to begin the fifth. He struck out George Springer, but Altuve then tagged him for a two-run homer, lining a fastball into the left field seats.
“I just left that pitch up and it was a two-run home run,” Glasnow said. “Hindsight, I would go back and change some things, but can’t do anything about it now.”
The sellout crowd of 43,360, which included Astros Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan and Craig Biggio, erupted into deafening cheers and fans twirled bright orange towels as Altuve trotted around the bases, a huge grin plastered on his face.
Yankees 10, Twins 4
In New York, DJ LeMahieu homered and drove in four runs, Gleyber Torres broke a tie with a two-run double and the Yankees extended their October mastery of Minnesota in their ALDS opener.
Aaron Judge made two diving catches in right field as the AL East champions handed Minnesota its major league-record 14th consecutive playoff defeat — 11 of them to New York since 2004. The second grab thwarted a potential rally and left grateful reliever Zack Britton with both hands on his head to end the top of the seventh, when the Twins were still within striking distance.
Brett Gardner also went deep for the Bronx Bombers in a playoff matchup between teams that finished neck-and-neck this year for the most home runs in baseball history. Minnesota’s Bomba Squad socked 307, one more than New York as both clubs blew away the previous mark of 267 set by the Yankees last year.
But in the 14th postseason meeting of 100-win teams, it was more of the same Yankees dominance against the Twins.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5