NEW YORK -- Carsten Sabathia never suited up in pinstripes at the old Yankee Stadium. For him, the ballpark on the other side of 161st Street represented everything a visiting player hated about playing on the road.From the architecture that made you feel the fans were on top of you,
NEW YORK -- Carsten Sabathia never suited up in pinstripes at the old Yankee Stadium. For him, the ballpark on the other side of 161st Street represented everything a visiting player hated about playing on the road.
From the architecture that made you feel the fans were on top of you, to the noise that reverberated in the biggest of moments and shook the old building to its core, the old Stadium was among the toughest places for a visiting team to play.
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Nine years into its run as the Yankees' latest home, the new Stadium is beginning to have that same effect.
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"The fans here have been incredible," Sabathia said after throwing six shutout innings in leading the Yankees to an 8-1 win over the Astros in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World on Monday night. "It's easy to feed off their energy from pitch one."
Sabathia's first season with the Yankees coincided with the debut of the new ballpark, a year that culminated with a World Series championship in 2009. Surely the fans were just as loud back then, right?
"Way different animal," Sabathia said. "There's more hype this year. It's like the old Yankee Stadium. It's very intimidating. I wouldn't want to be on the other side of that right now."
It's hard to calculate why the Yankees play so well at home, but numbers don't lie. After putting together an AL-best 51-30 home record during the regular season, manager Joe Girardi's team is now 4-0 this postseason in the Bronx. Three of those games came with the Yanks' season on the line against the Twins and Indians, while the latest victory felt like a must-win after the Astros won the first two games in this best-of-seven ALCS at Minute Maid Park.
Only Game 3 didn't produce the nerves that typically accompany such situations. The Yankees believed from the moment they stepped on the field that this would be their night.
"We play well at home and we know it," Brett Gardner said. "When we come here, we expect to win."
That's why the two-game hiccup in Houston didn't faze the Yanks, who overcame a similar 0-2 hole against the Indians despite having even less wiggle room in the best-of-five AL Division Series.
Knowing the next three games would be played at The House the Boss Built left the Yankees with a confidence teams don't usually have in their situation, especially after scoring only one run in each of the two losses.
"Obviously if you lose a couple games at home and you're going on the road, it seems a little bit bigger than it is the opposite way," Chase Headley said. "Coming home, we felt pretty good about our chances."
"We just like sleeping in our own beds," Gardner said.
Given the hitter-friendly dimensions in the Bronx, it makes perfect sense for the Yanks' lineup to have more success here (.817 OPS) than on the road (.755 OPS). But what about the pitching staff, which boasts an ERA nearly a half-run better at home (3.54) than its mark on the road (3.96) this season?
"We're somewhat built for this ballpark, No. 1," Girardi said. "No. 2, you're familiar with it. You're familiar with everything that you do on a daily basis. You have your routine and you're able to be in your routine. I find that baseball players like routine."
For the Yankees, winning at home has become routine. With two more games scheduled in the Bronx, the Yanks aren't just expecting to force the series back to Houston; they're planning on heading south with a lead in the series.
"When we play a game at home, we expect to win," Gardner said. "We know we need to win at least one game on the road to get where we want to. I look at it like we have to win all three of these games. We got No. 1 today."
If they get another in Game 4, things will get really interesting.
Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.