HOUSTON — When Brian Cashman acquired Gleyber Torres from the Cubs for Aroldis Chapman three years ago, a bevy of talent evaluators praised the Yankees’ general manager for having the stones to make the deal and placing a large bet on a very young Torres.
Four games into the postseason, that transaction looks like Cashman pulled off a heist Queens gangster Jimmy “The Gent” Burke would have been proud of, even if Chapman helped the Cubs win a World Series before returning to the Yankees as a free agent.
With assists from Masahiro Tanaka’s dominant pitching and homers by Giancarlo Stanton and Gio Urshela, Torres led the Yankees to a 7-0 victory over the Astros on Saturday night in Game 1 of the ALCS that was witnessed by a sold-out Minute Maid Park crowd of 43,311.
The win gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven affair that resumes Sunday night at Minute Maid, where the Yankees start James Paxton and the Astros counter with AL Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander.
Any concerns the Yankees would be sluggish after four days off following their sweep of the Twins in the ALDS were removed following a flawless game.
Elevated from sixth to third in the batting order after going 3-for-4 with a homer in Game 3 of the ALDS in which Torres batted .417 (5-for-12) with four RBIs, the 22-year-old second baseman and two-time All Star doubled the Yankees’ first run home in the fourth inning, made it 2-0 with a one-out homer to left off Zack Greinke in the sixth and dumped a two-run single into center against Ryan Pressly in the seventh that stretched the Yankees’ lead to 5-0. Torres finished the game 3-for-5 with five RBIs thanks to driving DJ LeMahieu in from third with a ninth-inning ground out.
Stanton, who singled in the second, crushed a 3-2 fastball from Greinke over the center-field fence for a 3-0 lead two batters after Torres’ blast. Urshela greeted Bryan Abreu with a leadoff homer in the ninth.
Pitching in a ballpark that hasn’t treated him well, Tanaka added to his reputation as an October stud. Tanaka opened the game 0-2 with a 5.14 ERA in five starts at Minute Maid (including postseason).
However in six shutout innings Tanaka faced the minimum 18 batters, allowed one hit, one walk and struck out four. In seven postseason starts Tanaka is 5-2 with a 1.32 ERA and has won his last four.
With the Astros’ MLB-leading 60-21 record at home, Verlander ready on regular rest in Game 2 and fellow Cy Young contender Gerrit Cole waiting in Game 3 at Yankee Stadium, many viewed Saturday night as a must-win game for the Yankees. Torres and Tanaka made it happen.
Greinke gave up three runs and seven hits in six innings and was tagged with his second loss in two starts this postseason.
The Yankees turned two double plays on ground balls and watched Aaron Judge double off Alex Bregman on a fly ball to right-center with a perfect throw. Adding to the solid defensive night was the first baseman LeMahieu digging three balls out of the dirt.
LeMahieu went 2-for-4 with a walk and scored three runs. Aaron Judge had two of the Yankees’ 13 hits.
Adam Ottavino got in and out of trouble in the seventh, Zack Britton stranded a runner in the eighth and Jonathan Loaisiga recorded the final three outs.