The Yankees did what they had to do last night: one game, one win. Get a lead, hold it, and you get to play one more game: rewind – play – repeat.
The Yankees, when they celebrated on the field last night after defeating the Astros, probably weren’t thinking they had just increased their odds to win the seven-game game series by twenty percent (Source: S.A.B.R.). And it can be understood if subdued sighs of relief overtook the celebration.
To find the Yankees last three-game losing steak, their schedule takes you back to August 21 when they dropped a series at home to the Oakland A’s. A team that wins 103 games in a season always bounces back.
But this time it’s different. These are the Houston Astros sending Justin Verlander to the hill to sweep the rug from underneath the Yankees on their home turf. And so it was when the Astros struck first against James Paxton to push across a run in the first inning, the crowd noticeably lost its zeal.
Bounce back. You’ve done it countless times before, so do it again. DJ LeMahieu, the Yankees hands-down MVP, answered the call. Home run, to tie the score, and the baton is passed to Aaron Judge, who promptly does something he hasn’t done all series, pulling a screamer to left field.
Verlander is not executing his pitches. The time is now, or probably never. Gleyber Torres is there again to keep the line moving, bringing up much-maligned (is this guy ever not hurt?), Aaron Hicks. Verlander gets ahead in the count, only to let Hicks prolong the at-bat.
Until finally, Verlander hangs a slider over the middle of the zone, allowing Hicks to “blast” a 315 ft. home run that hits the fair pole (I refuse to call it a foul pole for what should be obvious reasons) – and voila – the Yankees have a three-run lead they carry to the last out of the game.
Yankees: Answering The Bell One More Time
I usually don’t do play-by-play. But this was a particular case of the Yankees stepping up as a team to do what they needed to do. Ironically, Verlander proved that to be the case by tossing the next six innings virtually untouchable. This while Paxton tightened his belt through six innings.
In a short series, momentum is everything. The Astros had it but lost it, and the pendulum now swings towards the Yankees.
Indications are A.J. Hinch will not send Gerrit Cole to start Game 6 on short rest, choosing instead to have a “bullpen game.” Aaron Boone will do the same, sending Chad Green out as his opener. Advantage Yankees right from the get-go, as Green is a nemesis bent on missing bats.
The Yankees may have Plan B ready after Green, but by the time the game is over, they’ll likely be on Plan J, depending on how the game is going. Aaron Boone will be tested tonight as much as his players to push the right buttons at the right time, flying by the seat of his pants with the “playbook” sitting idle beside him – where it belongs in a Game Six, down 3-2.
The bottom of the Yankees lineup is doing nothing, so once again, it’s going to up to the same hitters to strike early and often. We can expect the tone of the game to be set early. And that means the Yankees must take the crowd out of the game, just as the Astros did at Yankee Stadium in Games Three and Four.
Easier said than done. But we’ve had a good feeling about this team all season long. And if you think about it, this is just another bump in the road for a Yankees team that “flushes away” adversity – to find a way to get the job done.