Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
If it feels like the old ghosts are back to leaving their vapor trails around Yankee Stadium, well, maybe they are. The Yankees players can't stop talking about the raucous home atmosphere and every night seems to bring another reminder of glory days gone by.
For instance, the Yankees' 6-4 victory over Houston Tuesday night in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series was the first time the Yanks had rallied to overcome a four-run deficit in a home postseason game since Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against the Red Sox. Yeah, the Aaron Boone game, which, by the way, had its 14th anniversary on Monday.
It all makes for a nostalgic backdrop, especially with big names such as Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez doing big things. The Yankees have always done star power well.
But this series is far from over, even if it feels like the Yankees own the momentum now, and here's why: The ALCS has shrunk to the best-of-three and Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander are starting Games 5 and 6, respectively, for Houston.
"I don't think anyone thought the series was over two games ago," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said after his team's Game 4 loss left the Series tied, 2-2. "These have been two exciting games for the Yankees.
"But you've got to win four to advance, and no one has won four yet."
Keuchel is the man who ended the Yankees' 2015 season in the AL Wild Card Game, the one who shut them down in Game 1 of this series. He's 6-2 with a 1.09 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
His start in Wednesday's Game 5 should give us valuable intel on whether this Yankee October can get even more special. The Yanks would be under tremendous pressure if they go back to Houston down, 3-2, with Verlander looming.
Verlander threw a 124-pitch complete game in Game 2, harkening back to the Postseason performances of Bob Gibson and other October aces. This October, Keuchel and Verlander have combined to go 5-0 with a 1.48 ERA in five games (four starts) with 33 strikeouts and only 19 hits allowed in 30 1/3 innings.
But perhaps the Yankees can counter with their own duo -- Judge and Sanchez. After all the hand-wringing over their struggles this October, both young Yankees are thriving now.
With the Yankees down, 4-0, Tuesday night and nine outs away from facing Keuchel while one loss from elimination, Judge homered to knock out Lance McCullers, Jr. in the seventh inning.
In the eighth, Judge reached out to smash a Ken Giles slider for an RBI double that tied the score at 4-4. During the regular season, Giles' slider was so effective he held opposing hitters to a .362 OPS, according to the scouting service Inside Edge.
Later in the frame, Sanchez smacked a tiebreaking two-run double. The Astros never recovered, and the 48,804 at Yankee Stadium loved it.
"It's tough to describe, to be honest," Judge said in a postgame press conference, talking about the atmosphere. "That ballpark is alive. It was unbelievable. That stadium was rocking."
Added Yankees manager Joe Girardi: "I just feel like the fans are back. And I see things that I haven't seen in a while and it reminds me a lot when I was playing here."
The Yankees were 51-30 at home this season, the best mark in the American League, and have won five Postseason games there, too. Is home field advantage, plus the psychic bruise the Astros took in Game 4's bullpen meltdown, enough for the Yanks to overcome Keuchel?
Whatever happens, there's a lot more to see here. Yankees-Astros feels like it's got a few more twists and it won't be easy for whichever team survives it.