NEW YORK -- The atmosphere for Game 3 of the American League Championship presented by Camping World between the Astros and Yankees tonight figures to be electric and possibly intimidating for those who haven't experienced October baseball at Yankee Stadium before.
For Houston, it should rekindle some great memories.
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It was a little more than two years ago when the Astros stunned the Yankees by winning the 2015 AL Wild Card Game, spearheaded by a gem from that season's AL Cy Young Award winner, Dallas Keuchel. Houston danced and celebrated on the Yankee Stadium infield and then drenched the visiting clubhouse with champagne.
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Returning to the Bronx for the ALCS with a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series has Houston feeling more confident than daunted.
"I don't think we need any more belief," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I think we are right where we need to be in the belief category. From here on, we have the belief that we can be the World Series championship team. We need to play the game of baseball in the moment we're playing. We control our own destiny. We control our own adrenaline level. We're believers before anybody else will be."
The Astros, in Hinch's first season as manager in Houston, surprised many to make the postseason and beat the Yankees, 3-0, in the AL Wild Card Game in 2015. Keuchel threw six scoreless innings and Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez hit home runs. Of the players currently on the Astros' postseason roster, eight played in that game two years ago: Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Evan Gattis, Marwin Gonzalez, Luke Gregerson, Will Harris, George Springer and Keuchel.
"It's really relevant," Keuchel said. "I think experience at any point is going to help you. No matter if you succeed or fail, it's still experience and you can always learn from that. I was going to say there's a lot of us, but there's a few of us left, even from 2015. That just means, obviously, we've had some turnover, but at the same time, we've gotten better and better. I'll take that every day of the week."
The Astros certainly aren't lacking confidence, having won 101 games in the regular season and knocking out the AL East-champion Red Sox at Fenway Park in the Division Series. They could also clinch at Yankee Stadium by winning two of the next three games. Hinch said thriving in tense environments like Fenway and the Bronx is a testament to his team's youthful exuberance.
"We've been the calmest team in the league during the postseason," Hinch said. "Our at-bats, our pitchers, our defense, our ability to stay in the moment has been proven for the games we've played so far. Other than being excitable that we're two wins away from closing out the series, I think our guys will relish in an environment like this."
Confident? Yes. Overconfident? No. The Yankees just battled back from a 2-0 deficit in the ALDS against the Indians with three consecutive wins.
"We're tested enough and have enough players in the clubhouse that understand that there's no celebratory toast going on around here," Hinch said. "We won the first two games. We come here, really tough place to play, somewhere we have played well. But we don't think the Yankees are going to concede, and they certainly didn't concede against the Indians."