NEW YORK -- It seemed fitting that the pivotal moment of this long-awaited showdown between the Yankees and Astros involved a bone-rattling collision, leaving two opponents writhing on the dirt near home plate. Air-drop this game into October and we might have been calling it an instant classic.
That full-speed crash between Rougned Odor and Houston catcher Martín Maldonado capped a bases-clearing play as part of a four-run sixth inning, helping the Yankees pull away for a 7-3 victory on Tuesday at a raucous Yankee Stadium -- their first time seeing the Astros since details of Houston’s sign-stealing scandal were revealed in late 2019.
“The fans led the charge there,” said Giancarlo Stanton, who hit a first-inning homer as part of a four-hit, three-RBI performance. “That was intense. I wouldn’t want to be on the other side of that. They brought something heavy.”
DJ LeMahieu’s two-out dribbler set the events into motion, with third baseman Alex Bregman barehanding the ball and whipping it wildly past first base. Gleyber Torres and Kyle Higashioka scored easily and Odor was waved around as well, tangling his left knee with Maldonado’s body as the ball skipped away.
Stanton jolted New York to its ninth win in 12 games, slugging a two-run homer off Zack Greinke in the first inning, then adding a run-scoring hit in the sixth -- to the delight of a crackling crowd of 10,850 that sounded like much more, especially as the fans slammed Jose Altuve and others with a torrent of salty barbs.
“It felt like a playoff atmosphere,” said manager Aaron Boone. “The energy that was created, we haven’t seen that since 2019. It was a fun game to be a part of, and the guys did a lot of really good things tonight: defensively, some big at-bats, some big pitching performances. It was a fun night to play the game.”
The weight of the last four years seemed to be included with each pitch. Seven Yankees and five Astros remain active with the clubs from the 2017 American League Championship Series, won by Houston in seven games.
After the sign-stealing scandal was revealed, numerous Yankees were furious, including Aaron Judge, who deleted a social media post congratulating Altuve on his 2017 AL Most Valuable Player Award and opined: “I just don’t think it has any value. You didn’t earn it. That’s how I feel. It wasn’t earned.”
This week’s pre-series commentary by coaches and players was more measured, but Tuesday’s crowd saw to it that the Astros received Judge’s original message.
“This series has been circled by a lot of people for a while now,” LeMahieu said. “It was a wild atmosphere. To know the fans have our backs like that, it’s pretty special. I don’t think people will turn the page on [the Astros] anytime soon.”
In the beginning
Bregman momentarily quieted the crowd with a first-inning homer off Domingo Germán, but the volume level swelled as the Bombers had Greinke on the ropes in the first inning.
Houston’s bullpen stirred as the first five batters reached base. A walk, a single and a walk followed the red-hot Stanton slugging a 71.7 mph curveball into the left-field seats for a two-run homer -- the slowest pitch that Stanton, now riding a 10-game hitting streak, has ever homered on.
“He hits the crap out of the ball every time right now,” LeMahieu said. “I feel like pretty good things are happening.”
Clint Frazier rolled into a run-scoring double play that seemed to settle Greinke, who retired 11 of the final 13 batters he faced.
Power of the 'pen
Germán worked five innings, permitting three runs, including Bregman’s homer and Michael Brantley’s impressive second-deck shot to right field in the fourth. Yuli Gurriel added a run-scoring double in the fourth inning that nearly left the park, bouncing off the top of the left-field fence and coming back into play.
“I got into unfavorable counts a couple of times where I couldn’t execute strike one,” Germán said through an interpreter. “Overall, I was able to manage my focus and keep the game there to get through five innings.”
New York’s bullpen combined for four scoreless frames. Gleyber Torres started a sharp double play that ended the sixth inning behind Lucas Luetge, and Jonathan Loaisiga induced another twin killing that ended the seventh. Wandy Peralta and Chad Green each pitched around singles in the final two frames to seal the victory.
“We’re getting there,” Boone said. “Tonight was a terrific defensive game. The pitching has been rock solid for us, the bullpen has been there all year and now we’re really starting to see guys grind out at-bats in a strong fashion.”