They have faced the specter of elimination four times already in this post season, and have won all four. “We’ve been in this situation before,” Aaron Judge said
They’re in that situation for a fifth time because the Astros scored a 7-1 win in game six of the American League Championship Series to force game seven tonight at Minute Maid Park. Nothing has come easy for the Yankees during this totally unexpected post season so it’s only fitting that their resilience will be put to the test one more time.
A ”do-or-die” scenario was set up, thanks to Astros pitcher Justin Verlander who pitched brilliantly for a second straight time in this series.
Verlander tossed seven scoreless innings to keep down a Yankee offense that produced 19 runs in the three games at Yankee Stadium. On the flip side, the Yankees have scored 3 runs in three games in Houston.
This time, Houston’s bullpen got the job done as Brad Peacock followed Verlander’s gem by getting three important outs, sandwiched around an Aaron Judge solo home run, in the eighth. Houston blew the game open with four runs after that and Ken Giles pitched a stress free ninth.
I’m sure some of you were thinking Yankee Manager Joe Girardi should’ve lifted starter Luis Severino when the bases were loaded, even after he got Josh Reddick on a short fly to center, but the bottom line is you have to tip your cap to the former Cy Young Award and MVP winner. Plain and simple, Yanks got beat but they’re fortunate that they still have one more chance.
So what’s ahead for tonight’s game seven?
The road team has yet to win a game in this series and the Astros, like the Yankees, are a different team at home. The Yankees were not a good road team during the season and it’s carried into the post season where they are now 1-5 away from Yankee Stadium. “More teams have a better home record than away record,” Girardi said, “that’s kinda the way baseball is.” The Yankee offense adopts a totally different identity away from home but they’ll need to find a way to score some runs if they hope to earn an improbable berth in the World Series.
Girardi is comforted by the fact he’s got C.C. Sabathia on the mound. “It’s something that he loves to do, pitch in these type of situations and we need him to come up big,” said Girardi.
Sabathia has thrived after a loss (including post season, he’s 10-0) and the Yankees will lean on the big southpaw one more time to deal with an Astros’ lineup that looks like it has awoken out of its slumber. “This is a great team, tough lineup, it’s gonna be a battle tomorrow,” Sabathia said.
The southpaw came up big in the game five win against Cleveland and the team is hoping he can do it again. “We have confidence in him,” Todd Frazier said, “that’s the guy we want out there for sure.”
Astros Manager A.J. Hinch has tabbed his game three starter, Charlie Morton, to start game seven. “He’s on regular rest,” Hinch said but added “all hands on deck.”
Girardi may have some decisions to make with his lineup. Aaron Hicks is 0 for his last 14 and has not looked good at the plate. Does the Yankee manager stay with his cold bat with the hope that he’ll wake up in time or does he gamble and play Jacoby Ellsbury. (Hicks is 2 for 6 off Morton and was 1 for 2 against him in game three, Ellsbury 0 for 2)
For a young team, the Yankees have been battle tested and they’ll rely on that recent experience to navigate their way through this latest challenge. “It’s a situation that our guys have been in a lot,” Girardi said. “We still have a shot to do what we want to try to do tomorrow.”