Home field a huge advantage for Yankees
As ALDS returns to Bronx, Yanks anticipating loud, supportive atmosphere
NEW YORK -- As much as the Yankees enjoyed taking aim at the Green Monster for the past two games, it pales in comparison to their excitement about returning to Yankee Stadium.
New York has enjoyed a great home-field advantage all season in the Bronx, but its American League Wild Card Game victory over the A's marked the Yanks' seventh consecutive postseason win at the Stadium.
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"I think that's something that really started last year, as this fan base, I feel like, absolutely connected with kind of this new generation of Yankee players, this young core that has developed," manager Aaron Boone said. "Me watching from afar last year, especially in the postseason, you could kind of see that raw intensity connection that the fan base had with the players, and that created a lot of buzz going into the winter, obviously."
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Last October, the Yankees -- who had already beaten the Twins in the AL Wild Card Game at home -- found themselves in an 0-2 hole against the Indians in the AL Division Series, returning home with their backs against the wall.
Masahiro Tanaka led New York to a 1-0 win to stave off elimination, then the bats busted out early against Trevor Bauer in Game 4, forcing a decisive Game 5 in Cleveland, which the Yanks won to advance to the AL Championship Series.
It was more of the same in that series, as the Astros took the first two games in Houston. Having already fought off elimination twice at home the previous week, the Yankees continued their remarkable run at home, beating the Astros on three straight days to send the series back to Houston.
"There's nothing like it," Aaron Judge said. "I've never been a part of an atmosphere like that. The way the fans, they're out there on the field with you. Every single pitch, they're locked in. It's electric. I've tried to describe it, and I still can't."
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The trend continued last week when the Yankees cruised past Oakland in the AL Wild Card Game. The ballpark was loud, baseballs were flying out of the yard and Luis Severino delivered another solid performance, setting up the best-of-five showdown with the rival Red Sox.
"I thought the atmosphere against the A's was special," Boone said Sunday afternoon. "I think there's a potential that it could be even more so tomorrow night."
The Yankees' hitters have certainly enjoyed more success at home this season, posting an .819 OPS as compared to a .744 mark on the road. They hit 21 more homers at the Stadium than they did away from the Bronx, while their average runs per game jumped from 4.91 on the road to 5.59 at home.
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"I think sometimes when we talk hitter's park, pitcher's park, we always just go right to the home run, and that's not always the only indicator," Boone said. "There are places to go in this ballpark; you hit the ball to left-center, center field, it's a big park.
"Our team is kind of built around our lefties, of course, but even our right-handed hitters are very good at taking advantage of the short porch in right field. Not every team is necessarily equipped to do that. Plus, we have good pitchers."
Game 3 starter Severino was far better in the Bronx than he was away from it, pitching to a 2.74 ERA in 15 home starts as opposed to a 3.99 mark on the road.
"Maybe my wife cooks better food here," Severino said when asked why he was so much better at the Stadium. "I don't know; I'm not sure. I think it's just feeling like I'm at home. I feel like it's very good, but I can't tell you any specific reason for it."
Emotion plays into the Yankees' edge at home, too. New York's home-field advantage can be credited in part to the fans, who have made the nine-year-old ballpark feel like its historic predecessor when October rolls around.
"It's unbelievable," Didi Gregorius said. "They push us throughout the whole season, and they push it even more here in the postseason, I think. That's what you want from them."
"Their home fans are incredibly loyal to their team," Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes said. "They make it difficult for opposing teams to play."
The Red Sox know all about home-field advantage, their 57 wins at Fenway Park this season leading the Majors. The Yankees' 53 home victories were the second most, with six of them coming against Boston, which had a 6.24 ERA in the Bronx.
"By no means is it going to be easy to win ballgames here, but we have the absolute confidence that we can do that," Barnes said. "If we can go out and control everything we can and play the way that we know we're capable of, I think everybody in that locker room is confident that we're going to win."
That might be the case, but recent history shows that the Yankees have every reason to feel pretty confident when they take their home field.
"It's going to be electric," Dellin Betances said. "It's been a while since Boston played the Yankees in the playoffs. The fans are going to be excited. They were pretty loud for that Oakland game; they'll be a little crazier because it's Boston."