Bronx, N.Y., October 16, 2017; Yankees 8, Houston 1 — That the Yankees plated two runs in the fourth inning Monday night on their third infield single of the game and a wild pitch might lead you to believe that their offensive malaise remained in place, but not once you consider that those tallies were sandwiched between two 3-run home runs. CC Sabathia went six strong for the win, and the home team cashed in an 8-1 victory, and now trail the Astros in the seven-game ALCS, two games to one.
The enigmatic MVP candidate Aaron Judge may have frustrated some of his detractors by striking out twice, but he delighted most with a walk, one of those 3-run jolts, and two fabulous plays in right field. First offensive honors, however, go to third baseman Todd Frazier, who opened the scoring with the other 3-run blast, shockingly to right field on a 1-1 pitch with two down in the second inning. The Yanks scored all of their runs with two outs, while all that visiting Houston could muster was a bases-loaded walk in a long over contest in the ninth inning.
Other highlights included that the Bombers struck out just six times, one less than the Astros, though Yankee pitching did walk seven as well, with the evening’s lone sad outcome being yet another abbreviated outing from reliever Delln Betances, who walked both batters he faced starting off the final frame. Sixty-four of CC’s 98 pitches went for strikes, and he poured 16 first pitches into the zone against 26 batters. He allowed just three singles and struck out five, but he walked four as well. The big man had to battle all night once rookie Alex Bregman extended him to nine pitches before striking out for the game’s second out. And along with two relievers, Sabathia was able to shave 100 points off the otherworldly postseason batting average of second baseman Jose Altuve (0-for-4, with a walk and a strike out), who grounded into a double play to end the game.
October 16 is an auspicious day in Yankee history; Aaron Boone hit an 11th-inning walkoff home run to hand the Yanks the 2003 ALCS on this day, something I didn’t need to tell the fan seated to my left, who treated his then 12-(and now 26-)year old son to both games on his birthday. And to fans a little longer in the tooth, this stands out as the day in `1962 that second baseman Bobby Richardson secured a seven-game World Series win by catching a missile off the bat of Willie McCovey that would have scored both the tying and winning runs had Richardson not snagged it, in a 1-0 Yankee win.
And it is a significant day in sports, and in cultural history, that resonates to this day, as medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos were forced to give up their Olympic medals 49 years ago on October 17. They had raised their fists in a Black Power salute on the podium at the recently concluded summer games in Mexico City, and the Olympics Committee did not look kindly on the protest.
The Yankees are trying to duplicate what they did to the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS, storming back to win after losing the first two games, this time against Houston. And tomorrow afternoon, they attach their hopes to starter Sonny Gray, who has not been very successful in New York since he was traded for at the deadline. Nonetheless, fans hope that the veteran Gray can take some inspiration from the outing CC had this day, and has had for much of the 2017 season. On late Tuesday afternoon, they’ll be looking for,