HOUSTON -- The Yankees have played in four games that could have ended their season this month, winning them all in a span of eight days. As they prepared for a fifth, the decisive Game 7 of the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World against the Astros, manager
HOUSTON -- The Yankees have played in four games that could have ended their season this month, winning them all in a span of eight days. As they prepared for a fifth, the decisive Game 7 of the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World against the Astros, manager Joe Girardi acknowledged that this one seems bigger than the others.
"It does kind of feel a little bit different, I think," Girardi said. "The ultimate goal is to win the World Series. When you're this close, I think it feels a little different, yeah. I like the fact that we've been through some elimination games with this group."
• Dress for the ALCS: Get Yankees postseason gear
:: ALCS schedule and coverage ::
The string of win-or-winter games started with the AL Wild Card Game against the Twins at Yankee Stadium. They recovered from an 0-2 series deficit to dispatch the Indians in the AL Division Series, then recovered from an 0-2 hole against Houston to take a 3-2 ALCS lead before losing in Game 6.
Girardi said that while he expected Saturday's crowd at Minute Maid Park to be just as raucous as the previous three, the Yankees' experience in a hostile environment for ALDS Game 5 at Cleveland's Progressive Field -- as well as any number of trips to Boston's Fenway Park over the past few months -- should have served as adequate preparation.
"We're used to it," Girardi said. "There's a lot of places we go that it's kind of a rough crowd. I think playing in our division helps us in these situations."
Girardi said that he did not feel the need to address the team after Friday's loss. After seven weeks of Spring Training, 162 regular-season games and 12 more in the postseason, they know what they need to do.
"I'm sure there's going to be a lot of excitement out there," Girardi said. "We're excited. They're excited. One of us is going to L.A. and one of us is going home. It's been a great series up to this point. I think we're all a little anxious to get this going."
Dallas for Houston?
Girardi said that he would not be surprised if the Astros call upon Dallas Keuchel in relief during ALCS Game 7, anticipating that Keuchel could be available to throw 40-50 pitches.
"I don't know what will happen. I really don't," Girardi said. "Do I think it's a good possibility we see him at some point? Absolutely."
There has been speculation that Justin Verlander also is lobbying to pitch in Game 7. Girardi said that he would be "maybe a little bit" shocked to see Verlander come through the bullpen gates, "but I wouldn't be surprised that he wants to go out there."
"We'll have as many of them available as much as we can," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Obviously, Verlander, it would be a dream scenario to have him. But it's a lot to ask out of him."
On the Yankees' side, Girardi said that all of his relievers should be available with the exception of Chad Green. Tommy Kahnle would likely be the first arm to relieve Carsten Sabathia. Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka are the starters considered unavailable, with Sonny Gray assigned to the bullpen.
The ALCS has featured six games of chants for the fans' choice of AL Most Valuable Player -- three here in Houston for Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, three in New York for Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge. Girardi said that if anyone remains on the fence, their respective performances in ALCS Game 7 could tip the scales.
"They've both had their moments, definitely," Girardi said. "Altuve has been really big here. Aaron has had some big hits for us as well, hit some home runs. I think they've both had their moments. This game could sway some people, I'm sure."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.