‘Superstar’ Torres sparks Yanks with 5-RBI night

HOUSTON — When the New York Yankees went back to the visiting clubhouse at Minute Maid Park after their 7-0 victory over the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday night, only one player would be deserving of the championship belt they have been giving out all season: Gleyber Torres.

“We give out that belt after every win and he came up to me before the game and said, ‘I’m getting the belt tonight,'” outfielder Aaron Judge said after the Yankees took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. “I said, ‘All right, we’ll see about that. I know you’re going to have a good game. But we’ll see.’ He proved it tonight. Just comes in every day, ready to work.”

It was “Gleyber Day” on Saturday as the 22-year-old second baseman continued his postseason heroics in a game that shaped up to be a pitching duel between Masahiro Tanaka and Zack Greinke.

Torres’ fourth-inning RBI double gave the Yankees a lead they would not surrender in their imposing win over the Astros. But he was just getting started.

The Venezuelan-born infielder made it a 2-0 game in the sixth inning with a solo home run to left field, also off Greinke, as he became only the third Yankee with multiple home runs in a single postseason before his 23rd birthday, joining Mickey Mantle (1952 and 1953) and Tony Kubek (1957).

Torres would finish out the evening with five RBIs after a bloop single in the seventh inning and an RBI groundout in the ninth, marking just the third time in postseason history — and first time in the ALCS — a player 22 years old or younger drove in five runs.

It was the second time this postseason Judge had to relinquish the championship belt to Torres, who was on the receiving end during the Yankees’ American League Division Series sweep of the Minnesota Twins after going 3-for-4 with three runs scored, two doubles and a home run in Game 3. Torres is now batting .400 (12-for-30) during an eight-game postseason hitting streak, which dates back to Game 1 of the 2018 ALDS in Boston.

Judge said: “Guy is a gamer. He comes ready to play. That’s the thing I’ve noticed about him, even during the [regular] season. It could be April 1 or it could be Oct. 10, it doesn’t matter. He’s coming ready to play. He’s going to give his all. That’s what you want from your 22-year-old superstar.”

“It was so important to come out of the gate and play the way we did today, especially because of the amount of success the Astros have had in this ballpark,” said third baseman Gio Urshela, who hit one of the Yankees’ three solo homers against Houston. “And to see Gleyber at only 22 doing what he’s doing is not surprising, because it’s what he has done all season for us. He works hard to accomplish what he has accomplished; acts and behaves like a winner.”

“He’s played great all year but this postseason, every time he’s come up, it seems like he’s done something well. Just all around really, really stepped it up,” said first baseman DJ LeMahieu, who went 2-for-4 and had a stellar night on the defensive side of the ball. “That’s hard to do, no matter what your age is. It just doesn’t seem like any moment is too big for him.”

For Tanaka, it was his first taste of success at Minute Maid Park, where he has a record of 0-1 with a 5.73 ERA in four regular-season starts. Including the postseason, he was 0-2 with a 5.14 ERA in five starts at Houston.

Tanaka set the tone against the powerful Astros lineup by pitching six scoreless innings, lowering his career postseason ERA to 1.32 over 41 innings pitched. Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera holds the team and MLB records for career postseason ERA at 0.70, with Tanaka now in second place on the Yankees’ list (minimum 40 innings pitched).

The 30-year-old right-hander’s ERA now ranks third in postseason history among pitchers with at least 40 postseason innings (since earned runs became official in 1913), behind only Rivera and fellow Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (0.95 ERA).

“Masahiro set the tone; he was pretty unhittable,” said outfielder Brett Gardner, who had a solid night on defense but went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. “It was a lot of fun to sit back there behind him on defense, and in the outfield we didn’t have a whole lot to do. You could tell early on, [Tanaka] was locked in, when he’s able to throw his off-speed stuff for strikes and get ahead and keep guys off balance, so he’s as good as it gets.”

Gardner added: “It took us a little while to get going, but some guys came through in some big spots, a couple of homers. And obviously Gleyber doing a great job, just continues to have great at-bat after great at-bat. It’s just great to come in here and get the first game and come back here tomorrow and then try and do the same thing.”

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