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Justin Verlander guides Astros past Yankees in ALCS opener

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HOUSTON Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) pitches against the New York Yankees during the first inning in game one of the ALCS for the 2022 MLB Playoffs at Minute Maid Park. — REUTERS/THOMAS SHEA-USA TODAY SPORTS

HOUSTON — Justin Verlander rebounded masterfully following a scuffling start to his outing and the Houston Astros bashed three home runs en route to 4-2 victory over the New York Yankees in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series (ALCS) on Wednesday.

Yuli Gurriel, Chas McCormick and Jeremy Pena slugged solo home runs for the Astros, who will play host to Game 2 in the best-of-seven series on Thursday.

Mr. Verlander (1-0) needed 66 pitches to complete three innings, 22 pitches of them in the first inning, when he stranded two baserunners.

Two batters into the second, New York’s Harrison Bader clubbed his fourth home run of the postseason, a 411-foot blast to left-center field that provided the Yankees a 1-0 lead. Mr. Verlander allowed three of the ensuing six batters to reach base before finding his groove.

His run started with a strikeout of Josh Donaldson with Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton in scoring position in the third. Mr. Verlander then recorded a called third strike on Matt Carpenter to strand both runners and followed by striking out the side in the fourth, all swinging.

When Mr. Verlander fanned Gleyber Torres to open the fifth, it marked his sixth consecutive strikeout. He struck out Mr. Donaldson and Mr. Carpenter again to close the sixth and cap his 11-strikeout night.

Mr. Verlander allowed one run on three hits and one walk while increasing his career postseason strikeout total to 219 — the most in major league history. The 39-year-old veteran passed Clayton Kershaw’s total of 213 postseason K’s.

Mr. Verlander threw 103 pitches, 69 for strikes, while logging his eighth postseason start with 10-plus whiffs.

The Astros immediately erased the Yankees’ one-run lead in the bottom of the second. Martin Maldonado followed a two-out single from McCormick with an RBI double to right off Jameson Taillon.

Houston threatened again in the fifth when Mr. Pena chased Mr. Taillon with a one-out double, but Yankees reliever Clarke Schmidt snuffed a bases-loaded threat by inducing Kyle Tucker to roll into an inning-ending double play.

An inning later, the Astros rallied against Mr. Schmidt (0-1).

Gurriel opened the sixth with a line-drive homer to left that snapped the 1-1 deadlock. Two batters later, McCormick drilled a Schmidt sinker the opposite way to right. When Pena stroked a leadoff homer to left off Frankie Montas in the seventh, the Astros had a three-run lead.

Houston closer Ryan Pressly recorded four outs for the save, turning back the Yankees after Rizzo homered off Astros reliever Rafael Montero with two outs and two strikes in the eighth. — Reuters