Game 31: NYY vs. HOU — Late inning heroics

I think the Yankees can officially declare this road trip a huge success. I mean, the sweep in Anaheim was a big deal, but taking 3 of the 4 games from last year’s World Series Champions (and the team that beat them in the ALCS) really sealed that victory feeling as they fell home today.

The Yankees got ahead of the Astros once again and kept it that way for most of the game. They loaded up the bases in the 2nd with Sanchez’s walk, Walker’s hit-by-pitch, and Andujar’s short single. Ronald Torreyes hit into another short single to keep those bases loaded and score Sanchez. Then Gleyber Torres hit a long sacrifice fly that scored Walker and get the first out of the inning. Two outs later and runners were stranded on base. Then in the 3rd, Gregorius hit a 1-out double, watched Sanchez work a 2-out walk, and then scored on Neil Walker’s single.

This offensive jump-start gave their starter a bit of leeway too. Masahiro Tanaka got the start this afternoon and really had a pretty good outing over all for the first 6 innings of his outing. He was cruising along at just 73 pitches through those 6 scoreless innings and only giving up 3 hits and no walks, with 5 strike outs. But then he got into some trouble in the 7th. He gave up consecutive singles and then hit the next batter. (Or maybe he didn’t, as the Yankees’ challenge of that call was upheld and not confirmed, though honestly, it never even brushed the sleeve, but they don’t ask my perspective at MLB HQ.)

So it was on to Chad Green with the bases loaded and no outs in the 7th. He gave up 2 short singles that kept the bases loaded and scored the first 2 runners, and a messy passed ball scored one more moving the remaining runners to scoring position, the tying run at that point. He finally got an out with a stellar strikeout, and a ground out scored another run for the Astros to put them in a narrow lead. A lead-off solo home run in the 8th gave the Astros an insurance run. And an out later, the Yankees turned to Chasen Shreve for a quick 9-pitch 2 outs to close out the 8th and shut the door on any possible furthering of the Astros’ lead.

And then the Yankees had quite the 9th inning, starting (as all big innings do today) by loading up the bases on this new reliever. Walker walked, Andujar singled, and Hicks singled. The Astros called in another new reliever, but that didn’t stop the Yankees. Gleyber Torres singled and scored both Walker and Andujar (making his RBI count at 3 tonight) that also moved Hicks to 3rd. After an out that was too short to score Hicks, Aaron Judge hit into a little grounder that the Astros fielded poorly, only getting the force out at 2nd and failing to “turn two”. So Hicks was able to score the winning run.

And I say winning because Aroldis Chapman came on for the bottom of the 9th and got a pretty good save, striking out the Astros’ best hitter (and last year’s MVP, I might add).

Final score: 6-5 Yankees, Yankees win series 3-1

Not a bad way to end a road trip.

Next up: The Yankees head home to face the Indians this weekend (their 2017 ALDS foes), and then after an off day on Monday, they will host the Red Sox and Athletics for 3 games each through next weekend to complete this 9-game home stand. Momentum is everything, and the Yankees will need it to get through this home stand as both their first 2 opponents are sitting at the top of their respective divisions.

I’m not much for standings this early in the seasons, but it’s worth noting that the Yankees are 5 games ahead of the Indians and just 1.5 games behind the Red Sox in the AL. (And a game ahead of the Astros now, if you’re wondering where all the leaders land on the chart.) But I’ll warn everyone a simple thing — this means so much of nothing. We’ve watched just 31 games this season. That means there’s 131 games left to play (about 81% of the season left). A whole lot can change between now and the September call-up, and there’s always a dark horse that comes out of nowhere and surprises the world with this just outstanding performance later in the season.

So, hold on to something, we’ve got a long way to go.

Go Yankees!

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