Houston, as in the Astros, may have a problem with the Yankees when the two teams renew a postseason rivalry Wednesday evening in Texas in the best four-of-seven ALCS. A rivalry that resumes because the Yankees, though many of the names have changed, have previously been in this October position.
The last few years the Yankees have not been in this position, in the American League Championship Series, and again, the Astros are standing in their way of a World Series berth. The Yankees are one step closer to another World Series after disposing of the Cleveland Guardians in five games.
In a late Tuesday afternoon in the Bronx and into the early evening, the Yankees assured that Houston would have a problem. The Yankees pitched, hit their customary home runs, one apiece from Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge in a decisive 5-1 win.
A bullpen, recently the Yankees albatross closed the show and Nestor Cortes billing up to his name as “Nasty” Nestor recording his first postseason win. So, the Yankees are one step closer to another World Series because they have peaked at the right time in October.
But these Houston Astros, who have the home field advantage, will be a problem. They have been waiting, preparing, and rested after a three game sweep over the Mariners. After all, wasn’t this the inevitable outcome, Astros vs. Yankees for a third time in six years and a trip to the World Series?
Tuesday afternoon, the Astros had their final workout at Minute Maid Park in Houston as the Yankees finished their business in what became a long five-game series because of two postponements due to rain. Manager Dusty Baker and his team watched as the video board went live with developments in the Bronx. The Astros had to take note about a problem coming to them in Houston Wednesday evening.
And a problem that Major League Baseball will gladly take because these two teams have that October history, finishing the season with two best records in the American League.
Baker said, “There will be four, the final four, so to speak, that are left standing. So, you just look forward to it and feel fortunate that we’re in this position.”
Yes, the Astros are one of those Final Four again. And the Yankees are also in that position, once again with momentum as they rapidly dressed and boarded their plane for their journey to Houston.
Though the Yankees don’t envision this being a problem, because they know the immediate task is to split or take two games in Houston. Return to the Bronx for Games 3, 4, or 5, and then the Astros will have a problem.
But the Yankees do have this unique situation after clinching the ALDS, because in 24-hours they begin their mission in the ALCS again of finally trying to overtake the Astros.
“The challenge is we’re facing a great team,” said manager Aaron Boone, “As far as the quick turnaround, we’ll be fine. I mean, that’s baseball. We do that all the time. You know, we’ll walk in there with some confidence. We know they are a great team and rested and ready.”
Boone said his team is ready for the challenge, a problem they believe will not be an issue this time in Houston. There is no talk of a sign stealing scandal because that is in the past, though, in the Bronx, Yankees fans are sure to not have that short memory.
Those bitter and walk-off ALCS defeats in Houston, the last one in 2019, when Jose Altuve hit that game winning home run in Game 7, have always been a reminder to seek redemption. A bitter and devastating loss and coming up one game short from another Yankees World Series appearance.
“My ultimate goal is to go out there and win a World Series and the Astros are a team that’s always in the way,” said Judge, who hit a solo home run in the second inning, second in the series and 13th of his career in the postseason.
He said the Astros are a great ballclub and they have to go through Houston. The Yankees will deal with that issue for the third time in six years and that is their problem with a World Series trip again on the line.
“They’re extremely deep,” Jamison Taillon said. “Power, they do a little of everything. Righties, lefties. It’s a good challenge.”
Taillon will get the Game 1 start facing Justin Verlander, his 33rd post season start in a Hall of Fame bound career, who was also MVP of the 2017 ALCS.
“We know what’s at stake,” Stanton said, who got the Yankees started with his three-run home run in the first inning. “We could be packing and going home right now. It took everyone tonight, and we’ll be ready to go again tomorrow.”
Judge and Stanton hit home runs in the same game. The Yankees are 28-2 when they do that. Jonathan Loaisiga, Clay Holmes, and Wendy Peralta threw four scoreless innings out of the pen.
Is this a problem for the Astros in Houston? The Yankees hope so because this time they intend to reverse the problem that has been their albatross in October.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com Watch “Sports with Rich” live on Tuesday Nights at 8pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with Robert Rizzo Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify under The SLG Network.