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Five reasons for Yankees fans to feel optimistic going into Game Three

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The ending to Game Two was rough, but there’s for Yankees fans to feel good about as the series returns to the Bronx.

MLB: ALCS-New York Yankees at Houston Astros Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday night’s game was so very exciting, but the ending was brutal. We were treated to a game that was a baseball fan’s dream, though not exactly a Yankees fan’s. Nonetheless, as the series stands at one win apiece going into Game Three, there are plenty of reasons for optimism among Yankees fans.

Still on Track

Repeat after me: one of two, two of three, one of two. One of two, two of three, one of two.

Got it? Good. Now, before you start yelling, “The numbers, Mason, what do they mean?” at me, let me explain.

This is the blueprint for the Yankees’ success. Win one in Houston, win two at home, win one in Houston. One plus two plus one equals four, and four equals World Series. Would it have been nice to come away from Houston with an extra game in the back pocket? Of course. But they got the one win they needed to get, and that’s the important thing.

Back in the Concrete Jungle

We’ve had a lot of talk about the importance of home field advantage this postseason. At 57-24, the Yankees were second in the American League at home; unfortunately, the one team better than them was the team with home-field advantage, the Houston Astros, who went 60-21 at home.

For the next few days, however, that does not matter. The Yankees have the leg up in this department at the moment, with three of the five remaining games happening at Yankee Stadium. And what happened the last time the Yankees and Astros teed off in the Bronx, back in June? The Yankees took three of four, including three consecutive wins in the first three games.

Yankees hitters got to Verlander and Greinke

At first glance, this may seem kind of strange, as the two Astros pitchers have held the Yankees’ offense to five runs and 12 hits over 12.2 innings, or a 3.55 ERA, while striking out 13 batters, but the Yankees have done quite a bit of damage. In the first two games, Yankees hitters averaged a 93.8 mph exit velocity against Greinke, and 94.1 mphagainst Verlander — eight-percent and seven-percent better than the two pitchers’ season averages, respectively. Statcast registered 16 balls as hard-hit against them.

They’re not easy matchups for the Yankees, but the Yankees lineup is also not an easy matchup for the Astros, either.

Bullpen has remained dominant

Aaron Boone’s bullpen management has received some scrutiny, but in truth, the bullpen has performed extraordinarily well. In the first two games, Yankees relievers combined for 10.2 innings, giving up only 2 runs on five hits, striking out 13 and walking only five. And the two runs they gave up came off of solo home runs, meaning that they have prevented Astros hitters from putting together any sort of rally.

If they can keep this up throughout the series, the Yankees will be in good shape.

Sharp Defense

Fresh off a strong defensive series, Yankees’ defenders have continued to shine. First there was Aaron Judge doubling off Alex Bregman of first and Gleyber Torres’ seated assist in Game One, then Gio Urshela’s leaping catch in Game 2. DJ LeMahieu has made several great picks on throws at first as well. But while those flashy plays are fun to talk about, it’s the little plays throughout the series, taking away outs from the Astros through defensive positioning and the shift. While this has often gone under the radar, it has been front and center in the ALCS.