Right now, things seem pretty bleak for Yankees fans. After thumping the Astros in Game One, the team had several chances to win Games Two and Three, but ultimately dropped both. The Game Three loss was particularly damaging, as it came at home and put the Yankees in their first series deficit in this year’s playoffs.
However, this series (and by extension, this season) is not over.
Let’s get this out of the way first – the Houston Astros are good. They’re really good. They might be the most complete team in baseball. But the Yankees are right there with them.
Despite Game Two seeming like a lost cause after James Paxton’s poor start, the Yankees only lost by one run in 11 innings. The bullpen got a lot of grief from fans, but it only allowed two runs in more than eight innings of work. In Game Three, Luis Severino clearly wasn’t right. However, he pitched into the fifth inning and only allowed two runs. He kept his team in the game. While some fans will blame the bullpen and Severino for these losses, they’re not the real reason the Yankees are down two games to one.
The Yankees’ offense needs to step up. After scoring the most runs in the league and hitting the second-most home runs of all-time, the bats have gone cold at the wrong time. While there’s plenty of reason to be concerned, let’s not panic. Just four days ago, the Yankees dropped seven runs on the Astros. At that point, we had all basically penciled the Yankees into the World Series in our minds, which was decidedly premature.
No championship is ever won without adversity. This may sound cliche, but it’s true. To win the World Series, you have to be the best team in the league, which means knocking out every other team that’s just as qualified as you are. The Yankees were never going to go 11-0 this postseason. Right now, they’re only down by one game, with two straight home games on the docket. It’s not the end of the world.
The 2017 Yankees were down two games to none against the mighty Cleveland Indians, and came back to win. The 2017 World Series champion Astros got taken to seven games by the Yankees in the ALCS and the Dodgers in the World Series. They ultimately won, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that Astros fans thought they had things in the bag the whole time. Winning championships isn’t easy, and the best teams find a way to overcome adversity.
The 2019 Yankees have overcome adversity time and time again. Right now, the team is about as healthy as it has been all season (although still not 100 percent). This is not a team that’s going to roll over after a one-run, extra inning loss on the road and a three-run loss at home that felt a lot worse than it actually was.
The Yankees may even get a small boost from the weather – ALCS Game Four is in doubt due to impending rain, which would give the two teams an extra day off. This would let the Yankees (as well as the Astros) reset their rotations, and avoid the dreaded bullpen game in a pivotal Game Four. Assuming a rainout, the postponed Game Four would feature Masahiro Tanaka against Zack Greinke. Yankees fans would have to feel good about that matchup at home, looking to even the series. The extra day off would also give the bullpen another day of rest, which would allow it to get back to full strength for Games Four, Five and (hopefully) Six.
This is where things would get tough – Paxton vs. Justin Verlander in a potential Game Five would be the Yankees’ biggest challenge of the season, but you’d have to think the Yankees would benefit some from home field advantage. Games Six and Seven in Houston wouldn’t be easy either, featuring another match with Gerrit Cole and a Johnny Wholestaff Game Seven, but baseball rarely follows the “on-paper” rules. The best team on paper rarely wins it all – just look at the Dodgers.
I know things don’t look good for the Yankees right now, but it’s too early to give up. The playoffs are a whole different animal than the regular season, but I’m willing to trust what I’ve seen from this team over a full season rather than what I’ve seen in two games. The Yankees are in must-win mode, but that doesn’t mean they can’t win. Sometimes, all it takes is a little motivation to put all the pieces together.
Losing Game Four would all but end any comeback hopes, but as of now, the Yankees are still very much in this series. With two games at Yankee Stadium still to come, the Astros haven’t seen the last of these Yankees.