3 reasons why Yanks down but not out of ALCS

N.Y., returning home after 2 losses, has shown resilience through postseason

October 15th, 2017

NEW YORK -- Minutes after had slid past with the decisive run in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World, Yankees manager Joe Girardi applauded the Astros' aggressiveness, then urged his team to turn the page quickly. The Yankees may be down in this best-of-seven set, but they are assuredly not out.

"It's not like we haven't been here before," Girardi said. "My message to our team is, 'Hey, let's go home, win one at home and let's see what happens.'"

Both of the games at Minute Maid Park were instant classics, won by the Astros by a combined score of 4-2. Though the Astros won 101 games during the regular season, the Yankees felt as though they were able to keep pace every step of the way.

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"We've had our backs against the wall for the last week and a half or two weeks," Greg Bird said. "There's no panic here."

As the ALCS prepares to shift venues to Yankee Stadium, here are three reasons that the Yankees can come back and advance to the 41st World Series in franchise history:

Deja vu all over again

As Bird alluded to, no postseason team has played from behind so often or as well as the Yankees in 2017. They played -- and won -- four elimination games in the span of nine days, fighting out of a three-run hole early in the AL Wild Card game against the Twins, then reeling off three straight wins against the Indians to escape an 0-2 AL Division Series hole.

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Why does that matter now? The Yankees seemed to be crushed when they left Cleveland after Game 2. They'd just blown a game that they believed they should have won, in part because of Girardi's non-challenge on the hit-by-pitch, but also because served up a grand slam to a couple of pitches later.

As they headed back to New York from Houston, the Yankees were obviously disappointed that they were doing so without a victory in their pocket, but this felt nothing like the Cleveland series. Had they been able to score more than one run in either game, they knew it might be a completely different story.

"We're in this thing," Bird said.

The Baby Bombers

and Sanchez were the Yankees' dynamic duo during the regular season, combining to hit 85 homers, setting a Major League record for a pair of teammates age 25 and younger. The previous mark was held by the 2007 Brewers, who had and team up for 84 homers.

The Yankees have gotten to this point largely without significant contributions from either player, especially of late. Judge has racked up an alarming 19 strikeouts in six playoff games. After knocking two hits in the Wild Card Game against the Twins, Sanchez has gone 4-for-30 with 15 strikeouts, and he's hitless in his past 12 at-bats, fanning nine times.

"I've missed pitches that I should have been hitting," Sanchez said. "There's some bad pitches that I shouldn't have swung at."

Sunday's off-day was a complete day of rest for the Yankees, who opted not to work out at the Stadium. If Judge and Sanchez are able to use the breather to reset, it could make a seismic impact on the ALCS.

"The beautiful thing about baseball is we have another one," Judge said. "We just have to continue to play our game. We've faced some tough pitchers and some games, but this is a team that battles. We don't give up, so we're going to keep fighting."

Hometown heroes

The Yankees are built for their ballpark, and they've shown it. No AL team has won at home more this year; including the postseason, the Yankees have played to a 54-30 record in the Bronx over the 2017 season. At the very least, that inspires confidence that they will be able to answer Girardi's call to win one game, then go from there.

"We know what we're capable of," said. "It's just going to take one thing and one little spark to get us going. I think in two days, we're going to find that."

Maybe the good news is that Astros manager A.J. Hinch revealed that he intends to have Charlie Morton and possibly start in Games 3 and 4. Morton and McCullers are serviceable, but they represent a significant drop-off from what the Yankees saw in Games 1 and 2, when and were dominant.

"We have a whole lot of baseball left to play with a seven-game series," said. "We're going back home. We've played really well at home all year, especially recently. We haven't lost a playoff game there yet. Hopefully we can keep that streak going."