After coming back from a 2-0 deficit in the ALDS, the New York Yankees are at it again – and so far, it’s working.
New York dropped Games 1 and 2 of the ALCS in Houston but stormed back in the Bronx, taking Games 3-5 by a combined score of 19-5. The Yankees are 19-3 over their last 22 home games and even got to Dallas Keuchel in Game 5 on Wednesday. Keuchel entered the day with a 6-2 record and a 1.09 ERA in eight career starts against the Yanks but was rocked for four runs in 4 and 2/3 innings.
The Astros – a 101-win team that took a commanding 2-0 ALCS lead Saturday – are now fighting for their playoff lives. Game 6 is Friday in Houston at 8:08 p.m. ET.
“I think the Astros are really feeling the pressure,” New York Daily News MLB columnist John Harper said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “I thought they actually had pretty good at-bats against Keuchel in Game 1. I know he ended up with 10 strikeouts, but there were a couple innings there where he was leaving balls up, they hit some balls hard – it was the best approach they’ve ever had against him. They’re just riding this wave of confidence, so I can’t say I’m shocked because I thought (Masahiro) Tanaka would give them a shot.”
That’s putting it mildly. Tanaka dazzled in Game 5, throwing seven scoreless innings. He scattered three hits and struck out eight. The Yankees gave Tanaka a 1-0 lead in the second, a 2-0 lead in the third and a 4-0 lead in the fifth.
Tanaka took it from there.
“Once they got to Keuchel early, you could almost see the Astros’ shoulders sag,” Harper said. “The manager (A.J. Hinch) after the game was pretty candid talking about how they’re feeling the pressure. He used the word cracking a little bit in terms of their approach at the plate. That’s not a good sign for Houston, that’s for sure.”
Houston’s season now hinges on Justin Verlander, who will start Game 6. Verlander pitched a complete game in Game 2, striking out 13 Yankees in the process.
“I have no doubt that Verlander will be good (in Game 6). He’s a big-game pitcher. He has no fear,” Harper said. “But I wonder: He went 124 pitches and nine innings the other night. He’s not a kid anymore. I wonder if that might take a little steam out of him in this start and make him a little bit more hittable.”
The Yankees, meanwhile, will turn to Luis Severino, who has allowed four runs in 11 innings since failing to survive the first inning against Minnesota in the AL Wild Card.
“Severino has been really good since that Wild Card game, where he just wasn’t ready for the (emotion) and adrenaline and all that,” Harper said. “I just think the Yankees are riding such a high now. This feels to me like when they went back to Cleveland and beat (Corey) Kluber. I think they’re kind of sensing the kill, sensing that the Astros are vulnerable. It’ll be tougher in Houston, but I would be surprised (if they lose the series). Maybe they don’t beat Verlander, but I’ll be surprised if they don’t win Game 6 or Game 7. They’re playing like the best team in the American League in this postseason so far.”
Game 7, if necessary, is Saturday at 8:08 p.m. ET.