When it comes to being on the brink of elimination, the Yankees are like baseball’s “Terminator.” In a baseball sense, they don’t “feel pity, or remorse, or fear” of the opponent and they “absolutely will not stop, ever.”
During this incredible post season, the Yankees have taken a number of shots that would crush most teams but like the famous cyborg of sci-fi fame, they keep coming.
The Yankees trailed 4-0 and were nine outs away from a 3-1 series deficit, not to mention a date with Dallas Keuchel in game five, but as my nysportsday.com colleague, Joe McDonald wrote in his column, “mystique and aura” have returned.
The Stadium seems to have regained its stature as a tough place to play. “There is no doubt the crowd has an effect on these games,” Astros’ designated hitter and former Yankee Carlos Beltran said in a quiet clubhouse after the game.
Yuli Gurriel’s bases clearing double in the sixth gave Houston a 3-0 lead. They added a run in the seventh, thanks to a second error from Starlin Castro, but this Yankee team has shown an uncanny ability to respond to adversity.
The comeback began when Aaron Judge led off the 7th by hitting a monster home run off of Astros’ starter Lance McCullers. “Tonight I was able to get a couple of mistakes and do some damage with them,” Judge said. That got McCullers (6 IP, 1R, 2H) out of the game and the crowd back in it. Once the Astros’ bullpen door opened, the Yankees stormed right in.
Didi Gregorius greeted Astros’ reliever Chris Devenski with a triple to left center field and scored on Gary Sanchez’ (who was the DH) sacrifice fly to cut the deficit to 4-2. The second run was huge because it helped the Yankees come away with some momentum and was a portent of things to come. It was also an indication that Sanchez’ bat is starting to come alive.
In the eighth, there was clear evidence that the “ghosts of Yankee Stadium” had made the move across the street from the old place.
After Todd Frazier led off the inning with a single, Yankee manager Joe Girardi sent up Chase Headley to pinch hit for Austin Romine, who was in the game for defensive purposes. Headley lined a hit to the left center field gap and Frazier took third. Headley took a wide turn around first but fell down and was in “no man’s land” between first and second.
Disaster, right? Not with this Yankee team as “m & a” took over again. Somehow, Headley was able to make it to second, just ahead of the tag of Astros’ second baseman Jose Altuve. Headley, who epitomizes the term “team player,” was relieved that he made it. “When he(second base umpire Jim Reynolds) called me safe, I thought I was safe,” he said, “but with replay you’re still not like OK, I’m out of the woods. That would have been terrible to be out right there.”
It proved to be the key play of the inning and maybe, just maybe, a turning point in the series.
With runners at second and third, Ken Giles was brought in for a six out save. Brett Gardner had a terrific at bat, that concluded with a productive out as he grounded out to second to score Frazier and move Headley to third. Jacoby Ellsbury pinch ran for Headley and scored on Judge’s RBI double to left. The Yankees kept the line moving when Gregorius singled to left putting runners on first and third.
Sanchez, who appears to be coming out of his offensive malaise, smoked a line drive, two run, double to right center field to give the Yankees their first lead of the game. It was the second hit by a Yankee DH and the biggest hit of the series to this point. Sanchez was emotional as he stood on second with his first hit of the series. “I never thought about that I was 0 for 18 or didn’t put any pressure on myself regarding that,” he said through a translator.
Aroldis Chapman pitched a scoreless ninth and the Yankees continued their home dominance in the post season with their fifth straight win.
The series is now a best of three but the Astros have to feel confident about their chances in game five with Keuchel on the mound. The left hander’s mastery of the Yankees is well documented (Keuchel has never given up a home run to the Yankees) but having the game in the Bronx provides a comfort level for the home team against anyone.
This Yankee team shows as much grit and resiliency as any of the recent championship teams. They are battle tested and, so far, have met every challenge.
The next challenge is hours away. When referring to this Yankee run, excuse me if I paraphrase “The Terminator,” “They’ll be back.”