Seems like we’ve been here before. It was just last week that the Yankees were trailing the Cleveland Indians two games to none in the ALDS. One week later, they’re trailing the Houston Astros two games to none in the ALCS. The difference? In two games played over in Houston, the powerful Yankees lineup could only score two runs.
So, it was against the backdrop of Yankee Stadium II that the offense decided to erupt. Nevermind Didi Gregorius egregiously being picked off by Charlie Morton in the first. It would be the bottom of the lineup that would provide the initial catalyst. Gary Sanchez lined out for the first out of the second. Greg Bird would follow with a strikeout. That’s when things finally seemed to click for the Baby Bombers.
Following singles by Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks, Todd Frazier took a 95 mph four-seam fastball low in the zone, hitting it to the right field porch for a three-run homer that would awake the sleeping giants from the lull suffered at the hands of Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander.
But, despite this initial blast, Charlie Morton, the Astros’ starter, kept the game close. That is until two innings later when Bird managed to hit a high fly ball that eluded Cameron Maybin, resulting in a ground-rule double. From there the wheels came off for Morton and the Houston bullpen. Castro and Hicks grounded and flied out respectively. And again, with two strikes, Frazier managed to get on board via a walk. Chase Headley followed with a single (the first hit by a Yankee designated hitter this postseason!), scoring Bird, and Brett Gardner got hit by a pitch. With Will Harris in to relieve Morton, he threw a wild pitch, allowing Frazier to score.
And then came the reason why Aaron Judge will not see another four-seam fastball for the rest of this postseason:
A massive dinger hit to the left-center field bleachers, coming just in at Judge’s hand – the area where he has enjoyed the most success throughout the season. Big mistake by Harris — who on the bright side did not surrender a grand slam. Yet, with that homer, Judge snapped a hitless streak that has gone for far too long according to many Yankee fans. He — and the rest of the lineup — will need to avoid falling into another one if they are to avoid losing the series to the Astros.
I would be remiss if I didn’t compliment Sabathia on another magnificent outing. Sabathia has reinvented himself and is resembling the pitcher that the Yankees acquired way back in 2009, though with a caveat. He is now a finesse pitcher rather than a power pitcher, relying more on breaking balls and offspeed pitches to fool batters. Nevertheless, he can still throw the heat when required. Sabathia managed to throw 6.0 IP, allowing 3 H, 4 BB, 5 K and, more importantly, no runs allowed.
With tonight’s win, the Yankees are 4-0 at home this Postseason and are a game away from tying the Series. It will be up to Sonny Gray, taking the mound against Lance McCullers, to hold the Astros hitters in check while the Yankees light up the Bronx.
Photo Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports