HOUSTON — With an opportunity to win the season series versus the Yankees, Astros supervisor Dusty Baker handled the very first video game of Thursday afternoon’s doubleheader at Minute Maid Park like it was a winner-take-all Game 7 in October.
Baker, not stressing over accessibility of his pitchers in Game 2, went out his 4 finest relief pitchers after starter Cristian Javier’s 5 innings and all however cleared his bench in the ninth inning. The seriousness settled when J.J. Matijevic scored Alex Bregman from 3rd base with an infield single in the bottom of the ninth for a 3-2 walk-off win over the Yankees.
“We were trying to chase a team and wanted to really win this first game, and that put us in a position that if we end up tied, we won the tiebreaker,” Baker stated. “We really didn’t want to take that into the second game. We went through our bullpen in the first game and that’s why it was important for us to win it, because I don’t know if these guys are available or not for the second game, the back end of our bullpen.”
The Astros beat the Yankees, 7-5, in Game 2 to sweep the doubleheader and beat the Bronx Bombers for the 5th time in 7 conferences this year. The next time they play each other might be in October, which would be their 4th postseason match given that 2015 (all won by the Astros).
“It’s definitely news to watch us play each other, but at the end of the day, we got to stay ahead of them on our home field and every game is important,” Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton stated.
The Reds, who took 2 of 3 in New York previously in July, are the just other group to have actually won the season series over the Yankees this year. Houston pulled to within 2 1/2 video games of New York for the very best record in the American League with its 60th and 61st wins of the season.
“I’m not going to say it doesn’t mean anything,” stated Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez, who struck a solo homer in the very first inning of Game 2 and a two-run double in the 2nd inning. “They’re a really good team, but we also know we’re a really good team as well. Beating them feels good, but we know that we’re capable of doing it.”
If the groups complete the routine season connected, the Astros would get home-field benefit for a possible face-off in the best-of-seven AL Championship Series. In the 2017 ALCS, the house group won all 7 video games in between the clubs, with the Astros advancing, and Houston got a walk-off homer from Jose Altuve in Game 6 of the 2019 ALCS to win the pennant.
“I’m aware of that, but it doesn’t change the fact that we’re going to try to win this game and win the night game,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “We’re in the business of being the best team we can be right now and trying to win every time we are out there.”
The Astros and Yankees divided 4 video games in June in a great series at Yankee Stadium, with the Yankees protecting bookend walk-off wins. Houston tossed a combined no-hitter on June 25, in which Javier began and set out 13 in 7 innings. The Astros beat the Yankees, 2-1, in a makeup video game at Minute Maid Park on June 30.
“Home-field advantage is a great thing for the playoffs, and playing here in the playoffs and in front of the amazing fans goes a long way,” Matijevic stated.
The schedule doesn’t get any much easier for the Astros, who head to Seattle following the doubleheader for a three-game series versus the second-place Mariners, who have actually won 14 video games in a row. Still, the Astros lead the department by 10 video games and wish to keep Seattle at bay while putting pressure on the Yankees.
“It’s huge,” Baker stated. “It’s huge for us to start out [the second half] 2-0, it’s huge for us to take our [division] lead back to double digits. On to Seattle late tonight, and get some rest and come out for a big series this weekend.”