The Yankees’ nine-game win streak will be severely tested starting Monday night in Houston when they begin a four-game series against the defending world champion Astros. The Yankees began the day two games behind the first-place Red Sox in the AL East, while the Astros, who have won seven of 10, lead the Mariners by two games in the AL West.
In the opener, Sonny Gray (1-1, 7.71 ERA) starts for the Yankees against Charlie Morton (3-0, 1.86). On Tuesday, Jordan Montgomery (2-0, 3.76) opposes Justin Verlander (4-0, 1.36). Wednesday, it’s Luis Severino (4-1, 2.61) against Dallas Keuchel (1-4, 4.00). On Thursday, Masahiro Tanaka (4-2, 4.37) faces Lance McCullers Jr. (4-1, 3.71).
Last October, when the teams met in the American League Championship Series, the Yankees held a three games to two lead when they returned to Houston, where it did not end well for New York.
Here’s a look back at the ALCS:
In Houston for the first two games, Keuchel was in his usual Yankees-killer form as he held them scoreless over seven innings, striking out 10 and allowing four hits. Tanaka ran into trouble in the fourth. Jose Altuve reached on an infield single, stole second and scored on Carlos Correa’s base hit. Correa later scored on Yuli Gurriel’s base hit. Reliever Ken Giles allowed the only Yankees run when Greg Bird homered in the ninth.
This time, it was Verlander who handled the Yankees as he struck out 13 in a complete game. Verlander had come over from the Tigers in an Aug. 31 deal that made him eligible for the postseason. Severino gave up a fourth-inning home run to Correa that was disputed by the Yankees but upheld by a replay that showed the ball was not interfered with by the glove of a young fan as it made its way over the rightfield wall. The Yankees tied the game in the fifth with two outs on consecutive doubles by Aaron Hicks and Todd Frazier. The Astros won the game in the bottom of the ninth off Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman. Altuve reached on a one-out single and scored on Correa’s double as Gary Sanchez could not handle shortstop Didi Gregorius’ relay throw.
The teams returned to Yankee Stadium for three games, and this one was no contest. Astros starter Morton, whose dad Chip was a high school basketball star in the 1960s at Cold Spring Harbor, didn’t have it as he gave up a three-run homer to Frazier in the second inning. The Yankees scored five more in the fourth, highlighted by Aaron Judge’s three-run homer off reliever Will Harris. The beneficiary of the offensive outburst was CC Sabathia, who did not allow a run in six innings.
Gray threw five scoreless innings, but the Astros took a 3-0 lead in the sixth when Gurriel hit a three-run double off David Robertson. An error by second baseman Starlin Castro enabled the Astros to take a 4-0 lead in the seventh. McCullers shut out the Yankees for six innings but was removed in the seventh when he gave up a homer to Judge. Gregorius tripled off reliever Chris Devenski and scored on a sacrifice fly by Sanchez. The Yankees came back with four runs in the eighth. Frazier and Chase Headley started the rally with singles. Brett Gardner’s groundout scored the third run and Judge tied it with a double. Gregorius singled, Sanchez doubled and the Yankees had a 6-4 lead. Chapman got the save as the series was tied at 2.
The Yankees finally got to their nemesis, scoring four runs off Keuchel over five innings. Bird had a run-scoring single, Judge doubled in a run, and Sanchez and Gregorius each had RBI singles. Sanchez homered in the seventh off reliever Brad Peacock. Tanaka pitched seven shutout innings as the Yankees drew within one victory of making the World Series.
Yankees fans wished they could rewrite the script of what occurred after leaving the Stadium, however . . .
Verlander, who would be named most valuable player in the ALCS, was on the mound in Houston and threw seven shutout innings as the Astros tied the series at 3. Severino pitched four scoreless innings but gave up three runs in the fifth. Former Yankee Brian McCann doubled in the first run after Severino walked two batters. Altuve hit a two-run single for the 3-0 lead. Judge hit his third homer of the series in the eighth. The Astros scored three more times in the eighth, capped by an Altuve homer off Robertson.
A complete turnaround from Game 3 for Morton, who pitched five shutout innings to defeat Sabathia, who had a 10-0 record and 1.69 ERA following a Yankees loss but pitched just 3 1⁄3 innings. The Yankees had only three hits. Sabathia gave up a homer to Evan Gattis in the fourth for the Astros’ first run. With Tommy Kahnle pitching for the Yankees in the fifth, Altuve homered to make it 2-0. Two singles and a two-run double by McCann made it 4-0. McCullers pitched four scoreless innings in relief and the Astros were in the World Series, where they beat the Dodgers in seven games.