The Yankees have been running away in the East. The Astros have been running away in the West. They may be on course to collide in a third ALCS showdown in six years.
But Houston got its first firsthand look Thursday night at how tough an out the Yankees are this season.
The Astros were back in the Bronx to begin a four-game renewal of the raging rivalry. The atmosphere was charged, with a loud crowd of 44,071 to see it. The fans saw the Yankees rally twice from three-run deficits, the second time in the ninth when they stunned Houston with four runs.
Aaron Hicks hit the tying three-run homer. Aaron Judge then delivered a walk-off single in a 7-6 Yankees victory.
“We’re just never out of a game, no matter the score, if we get down early, if we have a lead and blow it,” Judge said. “It doesn’t matter. As long as we’ve still got a chance to hit, this team has a chance to win the ballgame.”
This was the Yankees’ 21st comeback win, the top total in the majors, with San Diego having 20 entering its late game. This was also the Yankees’ major-league-leading ninth walk-off win.
It also moved them to 52-18, the third-best 70-game start in franchise history. They are just the fourth team in the last 93 years to win 52 times in the first 70 tries.
They also own a 15-game winning streak at Yankee Stadium, their longest home streak since they won 15 straight in 1961. The franchise record is 18 set in 1942.
“We don’t like to lose,” Hicks said. “We’re a team that’s going to fight to the end.”
The Yankees entered the ninth against closer Ryan Pressly (1-2) with just two hits, both in the first inning off Framber Valdez. They sat in a 6-3 hole.
Giancarlo Stanton, who launched a three-run homer in the first, opened with a walk. Gleyber Torres followed and he walked, too. Hicks was next. He sent a fastball to the right-center bleachers.
“I definitely knew something big was about to happen,” Hicks said.
One out later, Jose Trevino lined a single to center. Ryne Stanek replaced Pressly and fanned Joey Gallo. DJ LeMahieu then worked a full-count walk.
It was Judge’s turn. He lined a 3-and-0 splitter into left for a single, making a winner out of Miguel Castro (4-0).
“There’s a confidence that if the game’s in the balance or within reason, they’re going to find a way to win,” Aaron Boone said.
The game had been a parade of three-run homers.
After Alex Bregman delivered a three-run shot off Jameson Taillon for the Astros (43-26) in the top of the first, Stanton hit his to the second deck in right, homer No. 15.
But Taillon wasn’t sharp.
Jose Altuve, who was booed every at-bat since Yankees fans haven’t forgotten Houston’s sign-stealing scandal, singled in the third, one of his three hits. Bregman, who also felt the boos spill on him every time up, then reached on a one-out infield single.
“That’s why New York is one of the toughest places to play,” Judge said.
Yordan Alvarez lined a changeup into the rightfield seats, homer No. 22. It was 6-3.
“I just threw a couple of pitches to real good hitters in bad areas,” said Taillon, who yielded 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings “I deserved what I got.”
In the end, the Yankees got what they wanted.
Or as Boone put it, “Pretty special game for June.”