When the Yankees face the Astros tonight, the pitching matchup will be familiar. CC Sabathia will be on the mound for the Yankees, while Charlie Morton toes the rubber for the Astros. They met twice in the ALCS. In Game 3, Sabathia pitched six shutout innings, while Morton gave up seven runs in 3.2 in innings, with Todd Frazier’s three-run homer the big blow.
Then in Game 7, Morton pitched five shutout innings, needing only 54 pitches to record 15 outs against an aggressive New York lineup. Sabathia gave up a solo home run to Evan Gattis, the only blemish in 3.1 innings, but enough for the loss in what would be a 4-0 Astros win.
Between the thrilling ALCS, and an exciting series several weeks ago in Houston, this is turning into baseball’s latest rivalry.
“They’re a great team,” Aaron Boone said. “I mean, obviously they’re world champs, and in some ways it feels like they’re maybe even a better team than they were last year. We understand that we have lofty goals as well and they’re one of the teams that stands in the way and certainly creates a problem for us, but it’s also, having played now in the middle of our second series here in the last few weeks, it’s also fun to be a part of these games where you’re up against really great competition where you know you have to play your best if you’re gonna win each game. I think that makes it fun.”
Charlie Morton was 46-71 in the National League, but went 14-7 with the Astros last season and won Game 7 of the World Series, pitching the final four innings in relief. Proving he’s not a one-hit wonder, Morton has started the season 7-0 with a 2.04 ERA, second only in the league to his teammate Justin Verlander. He beat the Yankees on the final day of April, giving up one run in 7.2 innings.
His curveball is lethal, but the Yankees manager doesn’t want the approach to change. “Nothing changes,” Boone said. “When you’re facing elite pitching it just makes it harder sometimes.”
Sabathia hasn’t won a game since April 29, although the bullpen blew a five-run lead for him in a start early this month against Cleveland. In his last start in Texas, Sabathia gave up seven runs in 4.1 innings and was removed despite the Yankees scoring 10 runs.
“I thought his last start was the first time where I didn’t feel like he had his good stuff,” Boone said. “I felt like he struggled a little bit, struggled with the command of his secondary pitches, the velocity was a tick down, the stuff wasn’t quite as crisp.”
Boone expects Sabathia to get back on track. It would be nice if they can get to Morton as well.