ALCS: 5 takeaways from Yankees win over Astros in Game 3
Five takeaways from the New York Yankees’ 8-1 victory over the Houston Astros in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.
1. Home sweet home
The Yankees had the American League’s best home record during the regular season (51-30) and they won both games in the Division Series at Yankee Stadium. So it shouldn’t have come as a shock to see them bounce back in their return to the Bronx.
“We love playing here. It’s electric,” said first baseman Greg Bird, who doubled and scored the first of five runs in the fourth inning that broke the game open.
“We’re somewhat built for this park,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “Our players are used to this field. They know how to hit here, and our fans. Our fans are great.”
It also helped that starting pitcher CC Sabathia held the Astros scoreless on three hits through six innings to get the win and cut the Astros’ lead in the series.
The home fans can be even more encouraged by recent history. Five of the last 10 teams to face a 2-1 deficit in a postseason series have come back to win it.
2. Judge comes alive
After leading the American League with 128 runs and setting a rookie record with 52 homers, Aaron Judge entered Game 3 mired in a deep postseason slump.
He went 1-for-7 in the two games in Houston and was hitting just .127 in eight playoff games – with 19 strikeouts in 31 at-bats.
“You’ve got to take the ups with the downs,” Judge said as he kept trying to prepare for each game the same way. “It works during the regular season, and why would I come into the postseason and try to change something, even though I’m struggling for three or four games, five, six games?”
In Game 3, he turned things around almost as quickly as he turned around a Will Harris fastball on the inside part of the plate. Judge ripped a line drive just over the left-field wall for a three-run homer.
Despite his October hitting woes, Judge never slumped on defense. He made a pair of outstanding catches – one going back as he crashed into the right field wall and another coming in to make a diving grab in shallow right.
3. Where has the Astros offense gone?
Houston led the majors during the regular season in scoring, on-base percentage and slugging. Yet the Astros have only scored five runs in three games in the ALCS.
Getting clutch hits and winning both games in Houston has a way of smoothing out the rough edges, but the offensive woes loomed large when compared to the Yankees’ eight-run explosion in Game 3.
Meanwhile, Houston managed just four hits in Game 3 and is batting .169 as a team in the series.
“Our whole lineup’s not hitting,” said outfielder Josh Reddick. “We’re relying on (Jose) Altuve and (Carlos) Correa a little too much in the first two games. We’ve just got to come together as a team … like we were doing in the Boston series.
Altuve and Correa have nine of the Astros’ 15 hits through three games. Everyone else in the lineup is 6-for-66 (.091).
“The scoreboard doesn’t always show how hard you hit the ball,” outfielder George Springer said. “I thought we hit some balls hard tonight. Just didn’t fall. That’s the game.
“We’re not going to change our plan or our approach just because we fly out to the track. We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
4. Bullpens will matter
The run of three games in three days in New York will take a toll on both teams’ bullpens. That’s why it was important for the Astros to get four shutout innings from Collin McHugh after the outcome was most certainly decided.
With Lance McCullers set to start Game 4 for Houston, manager A.J. Hinch has just about everyone fully rested thanks to McHugh’s efforts on Monday and Justin Verlander’s complete game victory in Game 2.
The Yankees, meanwhile, should have been able to cruise through the late innings of Game 3 with their big lead. However with an eight-run lead, Dellin Betances walked the only two batters he faced in the ninth inning, forcing Yankees manager Joe Girardi to bring in Tommy Kahnle and even warm up closer Aroldis Chapman – despite the 8-1 final.
“I was hoping not to use Tommy tonight. And Greeny (Chad Green) was up a little bit,” Girardi said. “But it’s good. It’s good to have those guys. And maybe I’ll have Tommy for an inning tomorrow. We’ll see.”
If the Yankees have to pull Sonny Gray early in Game 4, it could spell trouble for the Yankee bullpen, which has been so effective (2.13 ERA in 38 innings) this postseason.
5. You only had one job
The Yankees finally snapped this postseason’s most mystifying streak in Game 3 when Chase Headley singled in the fourth inning. It was the first hit by a New York designated hitter in the playoffs – and the first by a Yankee DH since Raul Ibanez singled in the fourth inning of Game 2 of the 2012 ALCS.