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Yankees won't fan the flames, but fans certainly will Tuesday when Astros come to town

Fans react in rightfield during the fifth inning

Fans react in rightfield during the fifth inning between the Yankees and the Astros in Game 4 of the ALCS on Oct. 17, 2019, at Yankee Stadium. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The silence lasted five seconds, though it felt five times as long.

Aaron Judge was asked if he agrees with what Houston manager Dusty Baker said: that the Astros have taken enough grief for their cheating scandal and it's time to move on.

Judge took that long, weighty pause, and his mouth contorted into a humorless smile — one that was closer to a grimace in spirit.

"It’s tough to say," he said finally. "I’ve got no answer for that."

It was a measured reaction but a telling one. The Yankees have not forgotten about the team that defeated them in the 2017 ALCS. And when they face the Astros on Tuesday for the first time since the cheating scandal was uncovered, there will be absolutely no love lost.

The Astros, who have been jeered and taunted throughout stadiums across the country, will have to face what’s likely to be the most formidable battle of all: thousands of fans in the Bronx, all of whom have become very adept at sounding like tens of thousands.

And though Aaron Boone said it is his strong wish that they don’t cross the line, Yankees fans already have done that this season, throwing baseballs at Rays players in the outfield last month.

"Fans are going to heckle," Boone said. "Obviously, there’s no place for throwing things on the field or any time you’re putting anyone in danger . . . Fans have the right to come and cheer and say what they want."

Though the Yankees didn’t quite come out and say all the booing would be deserved, Kyle Higashioka came fairly close.

"I don’t think there’s any question how the fans are going to react to them coming into the Stadium here," he said. "As to whether or not they deserve it, I think the fans will let them know."

That was about as much as the Yankees would say. One by one, they were asked about the Astros, and one by one, they deftly maneuvered out of saying much of anything at all.

Domingo German, who will be on the mound Tuesday, said he is just concerned about his own game. Aroldis Chapman, who has been vocal about how displeased he was about the scandal, said he just hopes they can come out of this with at least two wins in the three-game series.

"For me and I think for us as a team, we just want to win games right now. We’re trying to improve our record," he said. "That’s very important for us and we’re definitely looking to win this series . . . Our focus is to win games."

Boone said the same.

"We’re trying to win ballgames," he said. "We’re trying to play really good baseball and we know we’ve got a good team coming in and we’re starting to play better and move the needle to where we want to get to, and we’ve got now six more games on this homestand and we need to go out and play well and not get all caught up in that stuff."

And there’s probably a lot to that. The best revenge is success, and although these are regular-season games, not ALCS games, every Yankees win this series will mean another Astros loss.

"We’ve got a job to do on the field," Judge said. "There’s nothing better, nothing sweeter than going out there and putting up runs against them and getting some Ws. I think that’s the most important thing, but the fans can do what they want."

They sure can, and they absolutely will.

Notes & quotes: Yankees top prospect Jasson Dominguez may get to debut for low Class A Tampa this year, according to Kevin Reese, the team’s senior director of player development. Dominguez, a centerfielder, is starting the season in extended spring training. "Jasson is an 18-year-old that we’re all excited about. He’s got a lot of talent, a lot of skill [but] hasn’t played in a ton of games, so we just wanted to put him in the best place to succeed" in extended spring training, Reese said of the reasoning. "It’ll provide an environment for more individual attention and will be able to iron out anything that he needs to work through, and then, once he gets going, I’m sure he’s going to steamroll through the minor leagues."

The minor-league season begins Wednesday.

New York Sports