A two-games-to-none deficit to the defending American League champion Indians in the Division Series didn’t faze the Yankees. Neither did the same hole they found themselves in against the Astros in the ALCS.
Didn’t think a pesky four-run deficit in the seventh inning of Game 4 would, did you?
With the ballpark at the corner of 161st and Jerome producing a decibel level that brought back memories of its predecessor during those championship runs of the late Seventies and the late Nineties, the Yankees rallied against a suspect Houston bullpen to beat the Astros, 6-4, Tuesday night in front of a delirious Stadium crowd of 48,804.
“This is as loud as I’ve ever heard it,” said 37-year-old CC Sabathia, who has been a Yankee since this ballpark opened in 2009. “It feels like the old Stadium. It’s intimidating to come here and play when the crowd is like it is and it has been.”
The Astros crumbled amid the cacophony. It started with Aaron Judge’s solo homer off starter Lance McCullers in the seventh inning that got the Yankees within 4-1. It continued with Didi Gregorius’ triple one batter later. And it peaked in a jet engine-like roar with Gary Sanchez’s two-run double off closer Ken Giles with one out in the eighth that broke a 4-4 tie and completed the comeback.
“I just feel like the fans are back,” Joe Girardi said. “And I see things that I haven’t seen in a while, and it reminds me a lot of when I was playing here.”
The Yankees tied the best-of-seven series at two games apiece. In a rematch of Game 1, a 2-1 Astros victory, Masahiro Tanaka faces chief Yankees antagonist Dallas Keuchel in Game 5 Wednesday at 5:08 p.m.
“Here we go,” said Chase Headley, whose pinch-hit single helped key the eighth-inning rally. “We’re right back in this thing.”
Todd Frazier’s early three-run homer Monday propelled the Yankees in Game 3. This time Frazier led off the eighth against reliever Joe Musgrove with a single. Headley, hitting for Austin Romine, sent one into the gap in left-center. Frazier was held at third and Headley stumbled and fell after taking a wide turn at first. He got up and somehow made it to second, giving the Yankees runners at second and third, none out.
“Play of the game,” Frazier said of Headley’s scramble to second.
A.J. Hinch brought on Giles to face Brett Gardner. With the infield back, the leadoff man grounded to second, which brought in Frazier to make it 4-3 and moved Headley to third. Jacoby Ellsbury ran for Headley and Houston moved the infield in. It didn’t matter. Giles threw a slider low and Judge reached down and lined it off the leftfield wall for a double that tied it at 4.
“The crowd and the atmosphere, it was unbelievable,” said Judge, 3-for-6 with two homers and five RBIs his last two games after mostly struggling these playoffs. “Tonight I was able to get a couple of mistakes and do some damage with them.”
Gregorius, who tripled and scored on Sanchez’s sacrifice fly in the seventh to make it 4-2, trickled a single to left. Giles fell behind Sanchez 2-and-0 before throwing a 99-mph fastball that Sanchez sliced on a line to right-center for the go-ahead runs. He entered the at-bat 6-for-40 with 15 strikeouts in the postseason.
“We just couldn’t get the inning to end,” Hinch said.
Aroldis Chapman ended it quickly, striking out two in a perfect ninth for the save.
By then, both starters’ days were largely forgotten. Sonny Gray, receiving no run support as usual, allowed two runs (one earned) and one hit in five-plus innings. In his 21 1⁄3-inning postseason career with the A’s and Yankees, Gray never has been given a run to work with. McCullers allowed one run, on the Judge homer, and two hits in six-plus innings.
“It’s kind of like Cleveland when we went down 0-2 and came back here,” Gardner said. “We wanted to find a way to send it back to Cleveland. Coming back here 0-2 we wanted to find a way to send it back to Houston. Now we’re definitely going back to Houston, and we’d like to go there with a 3-2 lead.”