NEW YORK -- Unlike most American League clubs with potent offenses, the Yankees do not rely heavily on the designated hitter. As proof, they had DH Chase Headley batting ninth for Game 5 of the AL Championship Series on Wednesday. Three hits from Headley later -- along with some powerful
NEW YORK -- Unlike most American League clubs with potent offenses, the Yankees do not rely heavily on the designated hitter. As proof, they had DH Chase Headley batting ninth for Game 5 of the AL Championship Series on Wednesday. Three hits from Headley later -- along with some powerful pitching from Masahiro Tanaka -- the Yanks had a 5-0 victory over the Astros and are one win away from going to the Fall Classic.
"I couldn't be happier for the guy," teammate Todd Frazier said. "That's why we have a team. We play as a team. We are not focusing where we are hitting. We are just worried about doing what we are supposed to do."
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Hitting ninth as a designated hitter is rare during the regular season. A team started its DH in that spot just 29 times (1.2 percent of all games played with a DH). The Yankees never did it until October.
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Headley's three starts hitting ninth as a DH in the postseason are tied for the most all-time with Kenny Lofton in 2004 (also for the Yanks). Before Headley, no DH batting ninth had ever collected multiple hits in a postseason game.
Prior to Tuesday's Game 4, Yankees DHs went 0-for-27 in the first eight games this postseason, but they are 5-for-10 since. Headley is the reason that number improved.
"You know, I think you have to keep in mind that sometimes in 15 at-bats, things aren't going your way," Headley said. "And the last four or five at-bats before I started getting some hits, I had some better at-bats. I just tried to stick to the plan and trust the results were going to come."
Headley's most productive at-bat against Dallas Keuchel came in the fifth inning. With one out, he reached base on an infield single and reached second on a throwing error by third baseman Alex Bregman. After Aaron Judge drew a walk, Gary Sanchez singled to center, scoring Headley and giving the Yanks a 3-0 lead. Headley also doubled off of reliever Will Harris in the sixth, his first extra-base hit of the playoffs.
Why were the Yankees finally able to get to Keuchel on Wednesday? This is the same guy who pitched seven shutout innings and struck out 10 batters in Game 1 of the ALCS presented by Camping World.
"One, I think whenever you face a pitcher twice in a week, it makes it a little easier for the hitters," Headley said. "You understand what his stuff is doing. Obviously, he had a lot of success against us the first day, so we thought he was probably going to attack us close to the same way."
After the game, Headley felt a sense of relief that the Yanks were able to beat Keuchel.
"He is as tough as anybody on us," Headley said. "And to really break through in the second inning, ... I thought that lifted everybody's spirits and gave us some confidence that we could get to him going forward."
Bill Ladson has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002 and does a podcast, Newsmakers. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats.