NY Sports Day
Rich Mancuso

Mancuso: Yankees Focused For Astros Or Rays

Robert Cole/ NYSD

Make all the comparisons, analyze all the stats and if the upset minded Rays don’t finish off the Astros we are back to a rematch in the Bronx and in Houston of a classic ALCS in a matter of days.

This will be no different. Seven games  in October of 2017 determined the Astros would move on to the World Series. All seven won by the respective teams on their home field. And if it is Yankees-Astros again, as expected, home field goes to Houston.

Except, this time, the Yankees are different. Those that remain from that 2017 wild card team is not expecting a repeat as the division winner and not the wild card team out of the AL.

“We feel we can hang with anybody,” Brett Gardner said. “We’re going to have to play well if we’re going to stay alive. Only one team goes home happy at the end  and hopefully it’s going to be us.”

Gardner is one of those who remain from that 2017 team. So does the veteran CC Sabathia who hopes to comprise the ALCS roster after being left out of the ALDS sweep over the Twins due to a sore left shoulder.

\By chance, the Yankees would prefer the Tampa Bay Rays to visit the Bronx. They play well at home, 57-24, and won 12 of 19 games against the Rays this season. The Astros, four of seven won this season over the Yankees.

So you do the math as the Yankees prepare this week for their second ALCS in the last three years,

“We played both of them.”Aaron Boone said Thursday afternoon  prior to his team having an official workout and waiting for the results of the Astros-Rays finale. 

“We got confidence in ourselves to do our job,” he said. “ Yeah. I think both teams are great and present serious trouble, competition for us, and I know we’ll have to play really well to beat both teams, whoever it ends up being.”

Boone added,” Obviously with Tampa being in our division, we know them well. We know what makes them successful. You know, we know  how difficult it can be when you go in there, and even though we had some success against them in the regular season this year, you always know how difficult it is and how well we had to play to have that success.” 

Games 1 & 2, if in Houston, that is the task. And the Yankees most likely won’t face the Astros’ best. Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole finished out the series with Tampa Bay.

Advantage, could  go to the Yankees. But this is October baseball and pitching wins ball games. 

So, a few years later, the situation for the Yankees would be the same. Win at least one of the two in Houston and return to the Bronx next week with a chance to advance and return to the Fall Classic for the first time since 2009 where they took it all.

Because pitching is so vital in the postseason, facing Verlander and Cole, two frontline starters, means the Yankees have to be savages in the box as they continued to do in their quick disposal of the Twins.

Reached Tuesday, hours after his team was eliminated, Twins reliever Sergio Romo said about the Yankees, “They attack and know how to keep attacking with their at bats. Slider, curve, fastball, just good all around hitters in that lineup.”

Monday night, and with Romo on the mound in the eighth inning, Cameron Maybin got hold of a breaking ball that went for a home run down the left field line that added cushion to the Yankees 5-1 win. 

“You can throw Verlander, Cole, don’t matter, “ he said. “They know how to get on base.”

Advantage, though, again assuming it is the Astros are the Yankees using the home run ball as they finished second  in baseball to the Twins in a record setting baseball season of balls going out of the yard. 

Verlander has that tendency of giving up one too many, 36, second among starters in the American League. 

But the Yankees relish the opportunity. They are ready for either the Astros or the Rays. This is what they played for and the gap in between series, as Boone said, will definitely help their bullpen which is considered one of the top three in baseball.

“I know out guys will use this as an opportunity,” Boone said. “To kind of recover a little bit, stay fresh, and I know we’ll come out and be focused and I feel like sharp when the bell rings.”

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