HOUSTON — One thing we learned in the Yankees’ 2-1 loss to the Astros in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night:
This Bird can’t fly.
In the biggest play of the game, Greg Bird — running on a 3-and-2 pitch to Aaron Judge — was thrown out at the plate to end the fifth inning when he tried to score from second on Judge’s single to left.
“I’m too slow,” said Bird, who homered with two outs in the ninth for the Yankees’ run. “Wish I was a little faster. That’s baseball.”
The throw from leftfielder Marwin Gonzalez and tag by catcher Brian McCann just beat Bird, who slid straight in instead of going to the outside of home plate.
“I’ve tried sliding around [the plate] before,” Bird said. “But I feel like sliding straight in is the best bet.”
Yankees manager Joe Girardi challenged the call, but it was upheld after a review. He said he didn’t expect the call to be reversed. But after the ALDS fiasco in which Girardi did not challenge a call he should have, the manager said: “We thought he was out. But God knows I’m not doing that again.”
Said Bird: “You never know with the replay thing now. Even when the plays look like they’re one way, a foot sneaks in or pops off the bag . . . You just never know.”
Bird, who missed most of the season with a right ankle injury and had surgery in July, has never been considered a speedster. But it’s rare for a runner to be thrown out at the plate when he had the advantage of getting a head start on a 3-and-2 pitch.
“You think it’s a ball with 3-2 that he’s going to score on,” Girardi said. “But again, if he’s 10 percent faster, 5 percent faster, he scores. It’s just the speed that he has.”
Said Bird: “I was running. I feel like I did what I could do there. I mean, what are you going to do? He made a good throw. He put a good tag on me. So be it.”
The fifth inning was the Yankees’ only true threat against Astros starter Dallas Keuchel, who threw seven shutout innings.
With the Yankees trailing 2-0, Bird opened the fifth with a single. Matt Holliday followed with a grounder to second that Jose Altuve booted for an error.
Keuchel got Todd Frazier on a fly ball to center and struck out Brett Gardner to bring up Judge, who had walked and struck out in his first two plate appearances.
Judge, who was 1-for-20 with 16 strikeouts in the Yankees’ five-game Division Series win over the Indians, lined what appeared to be an RBI single.
It was not.
“When I rounded the bag,” Bird said, “I saw Mac and he didn’t just give up on the play. I could tell there was going to be a throw and there was going to be a play.”
Said Judge: “He fielded it clean and threw a perfect strike to McCann. Perfect play.”