The heavily favored Indians were never the same after Greg Bird’s towering homer into the second deck off Andrew Miller won Game 3 of the American League Division Series.
Now the Yankees hope Todd Frazier’s blast on Monday night does the same to the Astros in the American League Championship Series.
Riding the wave provided by Frazier’s three-run homer, plus six shutout innings from a resurgent CC Sabathia and a “welcome back to the playoffs” performance by Aaron Judge, who homered and made two sterling defensive plays, the Yankees crushed the Astros, 8-1, in front of 49,373 fans who had the Stadium shaking all night.
“We have a chance. We’re still in this,” Brett Gardner said. “We just do a good job of picking each other up. Our fans make a big difference for us.”
After dropping the first two games of the ALCS by identical 2-1 scores, the Yankees are very much back in the series. Game 4 is scheduled for Tuesday at 5 p.m. at the Stadium. “It’s something, we don’t want it to end,” Frazier said. “We said last time when we’re playing down 2-0, we don’t want this to end. We’ve got to get the momentum going. Getting the home run was huge.”
The three-run blast by Frazier — a New Jersey native who grew up going to major league games at the old Stadium and Shea — off righthander Charlie Morton gave Sabathia an early cushion. Frazier reached out and punched a line drive, and with one swing, the Yankees surpassed their combined run total from the first two games.
“It was huge,” said Chase Headley, whose fourth-inning RBI single made it 4-0 and snapped a 0-for-28 skid by Yankees DHs this postseason. “Runs have been extremely hard to come by. So to hit a three-run homer early and get CC a little bit of room to work was huge.”
Sabathia allowed three hits and four walks. Against one of the sport’s top offenses, which has been underwhelming this series, Sabathia — serenaded by loud “CC! CC!” chants — struck out five and stranded eight.
“It’s been amazing to watch him pitch,” Didi Gregorius said.
“We wanted him on the mound tonight,” Joe Girardi said. “We thought we had the right guy on the mound tonight. Just an outstanding effort.”
After getting two hits, including a home run, in the wild-card game against the Twins, Judge had gone 2-for-27 with 19 strikeouts in the ALDS and ALCS before Game 3. But after striking out in the first, he walked in the third before lining a three-run homer off Will Harris, who came in to face him, that gave the Yankees an 8-0 lead in the fourth.
After brilliant pitching performances by the Astros’ Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander in the first two games, Morton allowed seven runs and six hits in 3 2⁄3 innings.
Sabathia struck out two in each of the first two innings. He walked George Springer with two outs in the third and Alex Bregman lined a single to left, putting runners at the corners. Jose Altuve walked to load the bases, but Carlos Correa popped to short.
Judge contributed in the field, as he did in the Cleveland series when he robbed Francisco Lindor of a two-run homer in Game 3. When Yuli Gurriel led off the fourth with a long drive to right, Judge charged back and snagged the ball, saving at least a double, before crashing into the wall, leading with the left side of his face. He then made a diving catch of Cameron Maybin’s sinking liner for the first out of the fifth, his second defensive gem.
“You see a guy put his head basically through the wall and then dive . . . He’s a big guy, he’s got to be careful,” Frazier said. “And that’s what we have. We have guys on this team that will basically go through walls for everybody.”
Judge put it away in the fourth. Houston manager A.J. Hinch brought on Harris with the bases loaded, and he threw a wild pitch to make it 5-0. With the count 2-and-2, Judge lasered one to left, and the three-run blast made the Stadium quake as it screamed over the wall.
“We’re just going to keep fighting until the end,” said Aaron Hicks, whose single preceded Frazier’s first career postseason homer. “It doesn’t matter if we go down 0-2 because we’re going to fight you until the end until we can’t do it anymore.”