If we were to imagine a universe where the Yankees come back and win the series, this is what Game Three would look like. In many ways it mirrors the first three games of the ALDS against the Indians: Game Two was so crushing that it makes you feel there was some lost opportunity. The Yankees took that as a challenge last series, and it looks like they view it the same way now. Something about the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium makes this team elite, and the roar of the Bronx crowd reminds them of their capability to bounce back.
The first inning and a half of this game looked identical to what we’ve seen in this series. Astros starter Charlie Morton was inducing whiffs, and CC Sabathia struck out four batters in the first two innings.
Morton had one major hiccup (which would foreshadow another hiccup to come) in the bottom of the second. All with two outs, the Yankees rallied. Starlin Castro muscled out an infield single, and Aaron Hicks flared a single into left center field. Then, with two runners on, Todd Frazier came up huge.
On the broadcast Tom Verducci told an interesting anecdote. When Frazier was nine years-old he attended Game Two of the 1995 ALCS, a game where Jim Leyritz hit a walk-off home run in the 15th inning. Frazier is a story sportswriters can swoon over as well: the bombastic, Jersey kid who came in as a role player and delivered clutch hits in the postseason.
In this inning, Frazier merely flicked his bat, almost with one hand alone, and knocked Morton’s fastball on the outside corner over the short porch. Morton, despite decent stuff throughout his outing, would get knocked out in a crucial fourth inning.
Greg Bird led off the inning with a bizarre ground-rule double, a ball that fell in front of a bewildered Cameron Maybin and bounced into the stands. Morton nearly got out of it there, getting Castro and Hicks to ground out and fly out, bringing up Frazier once again. He walked, putting runners on first and second.
Chase Headley then got the first designated hitter base hit of the postseason, a postseason hitless streak that stretched back to Game Two of the 2012 ALCS. That brought home the Yankees’ fourth run, and Brett Gardner was hit to load the bases. Morton was chased out of the game, only to see his pitching line crumble: Will Harris threw a wild pitch to plate another run, and Judge’s bat finally arose as he smacked a 93 mph heater into the left field seats.
The score was 8-0, and the Astros were in the mirror. As much as Jose Altuve is such a big factor in this series, this is where Judge becomes a threat. Writers have questioned his spot in the lineup and his consistency, but you see the nail in the coffin a Judge home run can be. That doesn’t even include the fact he had two leaping catches, one a shoestring dive and another leap against the wall, rounding out a night where he reminded everyone why he is also in consideration for the AL MVP.
CC Sabathia ultimately worked six shutout innings, striking out five and walking four. He wasn’t perfect by any stretch—the Astros really made him hit his spots—but the few jams he got in, he worked out of easily. When Sabathia loaded the bases with two walks and a single in the third, he got a key pop-up from Carlos Correa to end the inning. Even in his final inning, when he put runners on the corners with two outs, he got Josh Reddick to ground out. His ability to force weak contact as well as strike out batters has been a difference maker this postseason.
Adam Warren worked two scoreless innings after Sabathia’s exit, and Dellin Betances came in to close the door in the ninth. Betances was absolutely awful, walking two straight batters, and Tommy Kahnle had to come in to finish it off. Kahnle allowed a hit to Cameron Maybin, struck out George Springer, and walked Alex Bregman to give Houston their first run, then got Jose Altuve to ground into a game-ending double play.
The Yankees now trail in the series 2-1, and they have two more games at Yankee Stadium ahead of them. Game Four will start at 5:08 PM EST tomorrow, and Sonny Gray on 12 days rest will take on what looks to be Brad Peacock or Lance McCullers, but it is officially TBD. Get home from work, tune into FS1, and watch the Yankees as they try to tie up the series.