It’s ALCS game three and the New York Yankees are turning to the cagey veteran to get back on track.
In a pivotal Game 3 back in New York tomorrow night against the Houston Astros, New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi has turned to veteran starter CC Sabathia again to lead the Yankees to victory after suffering a heartbreaking loss to the Astros Saturday night.
In Game 5 last Wednesday against the Cleveland Indians Sabathia was economical, using a good dosage of fastballs mixed with a sweeping slider to keep Cleveland hitters off balance. In that game, he threw 4.1 innings, allowed two earned runs, five hits, and nine strikeouts Sabathia followed up another strong performance to another postseason victory that enabled the Yankees to advance to the ALCS.
The decision to go to Sabathia throughout the playoffs has paid dividends for the Bronx Bombers as he’s been able to be everything and then some against opposing lineups. If it weren’t for Girardi taking out Sabathia in Game 2 against Cleveland after only throwing 77 pitches and taking him out early in Game 5 he’d be 2-0 this postseason.
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The game two loss to Houston was a huge opportunity blown for the Yankees for many reasons: one, they had a chance to redeem a tough loss in Game 1 by tying up the series. Two, by failing to pull off a Game 2 victory they will be at risk of losing home field advantage to the Astros as they’ll be returning home Monday for the first game of a three-game set at Yankee Stadium.
Despite the Astros being the 3rd overall best team in baseball record-wise at 101-61 and the best road team in the majors at 53-28, the Yankees are the best home team in baseball at 51-30 so their confidence should still be through the roof to push the series to the brink if they can capitalize on home field advantage.
Justin Verlander was vintage the other night, earning his 3rd win of the postseason by going nine strong innings, allowing five hits, one run, and 13 strikeouts to give the Astros a commanding 2-0 lead in the ALCS. If Charlie Morton and the Astros get the better of the Yankees Monday night then the Yankees find themselves in an extremely tough position. Being down 0-2 against the Cleveland Indians isn’t the same as being down 0-2 against this vaunted Astros lineup. Expect potential AL MVP Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa to be the All-Stars they are, continuously being instrumental factors and putting their team in position to compete for each and every game.
The key for the Yankees moving forward will be to try and make Brian McCann beat them defensively with his arm behind the plate. Throughout the playoffs the Yankees have lacked smart baserunning and the aggressiveness that’s needed to get into a pitcher and catcher’s mind, making them fearful of the threat of having a runner or runners on base.
As evident with Jose Altuve in Game 1 and Game 2, having a base stealing threat on base creates havoc and headaches for opposing defenses and it can be the difference maker in a loss or a win. If the Yankees can manage to get Astros starters pitch counts high enough towards to the 5th or 6th inning their chances of winning against the Astros will be extremely high. Throughout the season and even in the postseason the Astros bullpen has been their weakest link.
Thankfully for the Yankees, that’s where they thrive the most. Keep the game close, be smart on the base paths, get the starter’s pitch count up, and attack the bullpen and we might just see another upset in the making for the Yankees. Only time will time.