Yanks pushed to brink after G4 loss to Astros

NY will need to win three straight games to advance to World Series

October 18th, 2019

NEW YORK -- Minutes after ' fly ball was secured for the final out in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, the Yankees trudged into their clubhouse and embraced a new reality. They must win three consecutive games to avoid zipping their suitcases for the offseason, but after a season in which this “Next Man Up” squad has overcome so much, they are ready for that challenge.

In a brief meeting, manager Aaron Boone urged his players to produce a tighter effort than their four-error performance on Thursday night. The Astros’ and notched the game-changing hits that the home team could not, slugging a pair of three-run homers that pushed the Yankees to the brink of elimination with an 8-3 loss at Yankee Stadium.

“We’ve had our backs against the wall all year long with injuries and setbacks, things kind of not rolling our way,” said. “This is nothing new to this team. Stranger things have happened in baseball.”

The Yankees now trail the best-of-seven ALCS three games to one, and their path includes a pair of substantial stumbling blocks in leading AL Cy Young Award contenders and , needing to defeat both if they are to advance and face the Nationals in the World Series.

“We need to flush this immediately,” Boone said. “We talked about it as a team. We need to get over this in a hurry and come put our best foot forward tomorrow. We need to play a cleaner game, obviously, if we're going to beat a team like that.”

Springer’s third-inning homer was hit off , who was charged with four runs (three earned) on four hits and two walks over five-plus innings. Tanaka lamented that splitter that stayed up in the strike zone, but the onus must be placed upon the offense -- a recurring theme during this ALCS, in which the Yanks have gone 4-for-27 with runners in scoring position, leaving 33 men on base.

“We haven’t been able to get that good hit,” said. “I think it’s a combination of their pitching and the ball not going our way. Their pitching has done a pretty good job so far. Hopefully we can turn the tables.”

The Yankees were unable to convert several of those tantalizing opportunities in Game 4, including a big first-inning spot that would have knocked starter out of the game. Greinke appeared to be rattled by the boisterous crowd of 49,067 as he walked three, including a bases-loaded free pass to that provided the Yanks with their first lead since the fifth inning of Game 2.

With hurriedly tossing in the visiting bullpen, Greinke recovered to strike out the struggling on three pitches to end the inning. The Yankees were finally able to chase Greinke four innings later behind a LeMahieu single and a Judge walk, prompting Houston to call upon , who walked to load the bases with one out.

Pressly recovered to strand all three men aboard, striking out Torres -- rung up on a check-swing by first-base umpire Mark Carlson -- and then fanning Edwin Encarnación, who is 1-for-15 in the ALCS. Greinke survived the shaky four-walk effort, charged with a run on three hits over 4 1/3 innings.

“I missed the opportunity, but it's part of the game,” Torres said. “Tomorrow, I guess I've got another opportunity. I’ll make some good contact and try to make runs.”

Correa provided the Astros with a healthy cushion in the sixth inning, clearing the left-field wall off for the shortstop’s second homer of the ALCS. Sánchez reclaimed two of those runs with a sixth-inning homer off , having been 2-for-23 with 11 strikeouts this postseason at the time.

“All these at-bats, I’ve been battling, trying to find my way,” Sánchez said. “I never put my head down, never lost confidence in myself, and I was able to put a good swing on that ball. I’m hoping this is it, this is what gets me back on track.”

made another ineffective appearance in the eighth, as both batters he faced reached base -- one on an error by LeMahieu at first base. It was Ottavino’s fourth appearance of the postseason in which he did not record an out, establishing a dubious Major League record.

In what could be the final appearance of his 19-year Major League career, faced four batters and retired two before leaving with a left shoulder injury, seeing Houston’s seventh run score on a Torres error.

“It was tough, man,” Hicks said. “He's a great person, a great player, obviously. He's going to be a Hall of Famer. He means a lot to this team, to this organization. For him to go out like that is not something you want.”

In all best-of-seven postseason series, teams taking a 3-1 lead have gone on to win 73 of 86 times (85%). Under the current 2-3-2 format, those ahead 3-1 and holding home-field advantage in the series have gone on to win 39 of 46 times (also 85%).

However, the Yankees can look to a recent example in the 2016 Cubs, who were down 3-1 to the Indians in the World Series before winning three straight -- including Games 6 and 7 on the road.

“One pitch at a time. That’s how it starts,” Judge said. “You can’t be thinking about [Games] 6 and 7. You’ve got to be thinking about the next game. You’ve got to slow the game down, taking it one pitch at a time. If we go down early or we get an early lead, you’ve got to treat it like a 0-0 ballgame. If we try to win every single pitch, we’ll be in a good place.”