New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone signals for a pitching...

New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone signals for a pitching change during the eighth inning of the first baseball game of a doubleheader against the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday, June 2, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger) Credit: AP/Adam Hunger

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Aaron Boone said his hope is for a “civil” Stadium crowd starting Thursday night when the Astros start a four-game series in the Bronx.

Good luck with that.

With the Stadium at just 20% capacity because of COVID protocols early last May when the Astros came to town – playing their first games at the Stadium since their sign-stealing scandal from the 2017-18 seasons came to light – the revved-up crowd sounded like several times that number.

From pregame warmups until the end, the Astros, Jose Altuve especially, were on the receiving end of a hostility not seen in the current version of the Stadium, which opened in 2009 (Pedro Martinez, then with the Phillies, certainly would be in contention for what he heard during the 2009 World Series).

“That was intense,'' Giancarlo Stanton said after going 4-for-5 with a homer in the opener of the series, a 7-3 Yankees’ victory May 4. "I wouldn’t want to be on the other side of that. They brought something heavy.''

An Astros uniform is all it takes to whip much of the Yankees fan base into a frenzy. But adding to the intensity for this series is the fact the Yankees and Astros may well be on another collision course for October. The Yankees came into Wednesday night’s game with 12-game lead over the Blue Jays in the AL East, while the Astros (42-25), after beating the Mets Wednesday afternoon, had a 10-game lead in the AL West.

“We love going home and playing at Yankee Stadium against another great team and, obviously, a team that we’ve had a rivalry with,” Boone said. “So I think you appreciate being involved in series like that and games like that, but I don’t think we put any more into it. It’s not October. They’re important games against a great opponent that hopefully we go play well against.”

As for the atmosphere, with capacity or at least near capacity crowds expected for the game, Boone smiled.

“I hope it’s civil and people are behaving,” Boone said. “There’s no question anytime we get together with the Astros you know there’s going to be, especially over a weekend as we’re in the summer months now, it’ll be intense. But hopefully good, clean, civil fun for the crowds.”  

The Yankees went 4-2 against the Astros last season, taking two of three in New York and two of three in Houston just before the All-Star break.

IKF returns

Shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa, held out the previous three games with the tightness in his left hamstring that cropped up during Saturday’s victory in Toronto Sunday, returned to the lineup Wednesday. He batted seventh.

“I think he’s good to go,” Boone said. “I think we felt pretty good about it yesterday, and then today there was no hesitation. Feel like we’re in a good spot with him.”

Said Kiner-Falefa before the game: “I’m good to go.” 

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