4 reasons not to count the Yankees out just yet

4 reasons not to count the Yankees out just yet

The Yankees are on a two-game losing streak in the American League Championship Series, and we won’t lie to you: it doesn’t look great. The eye test says the Astros are clearly the better team and the numbers say that teams down 2-0 in a best of 7 come back to win just 15% of the time. At FanGraphs, which takes into account players specific to those teams, the Yankees get one 19% chance to win the series.

Of course, 15% or 19% is not 0%, right? The 2-0 comeback happened as recently as the 2020 NLCS, when the Dodgers came back from a 2-0 deficit to the Braves to win the World Series. Yankee fans might remember – or choose not to remember – the 2004 ALCS, when they weren’t down 2-0, but 3-0 against Boston, and then…well, you probably know the rest. (In the history of seven-game streaks, there have been There have been 14 comebacks from a 2-0 deficit.)

Winning four of the next five games is a difficult task, but not impossible. The numbers tell you the Yankees have about a one-in-five shot at making it back. They just have to find the right combination of factors to make this timeline one of those who come out ahead.

If they do, this is how.

1) Now they can use their best starting pitchers.

The series starts again in Game 3. No, you obviously can’t write off the fact that the Astros are up 2-0 in the series, but there’s nothing the Yankees can do about it right now. All they can do is focus on what’s next, and the truth is this: Houston just used its two best starting pitchers, and the Yankees are about to use their two best starting pitchers.

right? Justin Verlander and Framber Valdez, two of Houston’s All-Stars, are unavailable for Games 3 and 4. Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes Jr., two of New York’s All-Stars, are in the lineup for those games. It’s not that Jameson Taillon and Luis Severino (who started the first two games for New York) pitched poorly; not that Cristian Javier and Lance McCullers Jr. (Houston’s Game 3 and 4 starters) aren’t talented pitchers in their own right. It’s just that Houston had a clear starting advantage over the last two games, and New York likely will for the next two.

Including the postseason, the Yankees were 43-22 this year when Cole and Cortes started. That’s a .661 winning percentage, or a 107-game winning streak during a regular season.

“If it’s 2-0, if it’s 1-1 or 0-2, it can’t affect the way I do my business,” Cole said. “We all have a job to do. We play each and every game for itself, we play each and every field in each and every game until there are no more fields to play, win or lose.”

Now, there are some twists and turns to this. In Games 5 and 6, you’ll likely be back to the same matchups you saw in Games 1 and 2, meaning the Yankees must win the next two games. But if the Yankees can survive that and get to a Game 7, there’s an option for Cole to go on three days’ rest. The Astros wouldn’t have the same option with Verlander and Valdez, and using Javier on short rest seems a bit unlikely given that A) he’s never started a postseason game before and B) he’s never started on three days’ rest after another start.

That’s not to say Houston wouldn’t have Game 7 options, because Jose Urquidy or Luis Garcia could be in plenty of other playoff rotations for other teams. But they’re not Cole either. The ability to use him twice more when Houston can’t use Verlander or Valdez twice more is the key to a possible Yankee comeback.

2) The next three games are at home.

Without going into all the angst about the open roof and Aaron Judge’s short fly ball in Game 2 – as if the Yankees have never benefited from a short right field porch before – there are some interesting aspects of the home field for the next three games.

There’s the simple fact that the Yankees were a much better home team (.704, tied for best in baseball) who were a road team (.519, 10th best) during the regular season. They score more runs per game at home (5.2 to 4.8); they allow more home runs (3.3 to 3.7). The Astros are obviously a good all-around team, though much better at home (.679) than away (.630). At least it positions the Yankees better in Games 3-5 than they did in Games 1-2.

For the Astros, the name to watch here is Alex Bregman, who has a pretty serious hitting gap at home (.972 OPS) vs. the road (.673 OPS) this season. Lest you make the laziest sign-stealing joke possible, keep this in mind for your career there is no division, but it tells you a little bit about his hitting style this season. For a power hitter, he doesn’t actually hit the ball that hard — just 36th percentile in slugging rate this year.

But look where those hits have gone, and particularly those home runs. Nobody loves Crawford boxes in Houston like Bregman loves Crawford boxes.

Of his 25 homers this season, including his pair in the postseason, 18 of them have come in Houston, and 16 of them have gone to that short left-field porch, an advantage he won’t have in New York.

It’s not a team-wide thing, necessarily; Yordan Alvarez had no home/road split this year, and Yuli Gurriel and Kyle Tucker hit better on the road. But if the next Bregman flies into left field into a fielder’s glove instead of a fan, it could be of immense importance.

3) It has been a tight game this season.

The Yankees and Astros have played nine games against each other this year. The Astros have outscored the Yankees by eight runs. Baseball wins count the same whether you win by one run or 20, of course, as long as you have more, and so the Astros have won seven of those nine.

Maybe that’s the difference between a team that “gets it” and one that doesn’t, but the point here is that they’ve played close games all year — it’s not like the Astros outscoring the A’s by 37 runs, or the Angels by 30, or the Yankees beating the Red Sox by 33 runs.

It’s usually less than one run per game, close enough that a single break (a fly ball to right field that goes three feet too far, for example, or a controversial strikeout call by another way) can be the difference between a win and a loss.

4) Aaron Judge remains the (presumed) AL MVP.

Going back to those two times the Yankees beat the Astros, and remember how they happened.

On June 23 in the Bronx, Taillon pitched poorly (allowing six runs in 5 2/3 innings), and the Yankees were down 6-3 in the bottom of the ninth. After an incredibly rare rally against one of baseball’s best relievers in Ryan Pressly tied the game, believe it or not, a home run by Aaron Hicks – In came Ryne Stanek, finally facing Judge with two on and two out. The judge didn’t let it go to extras:

Three days later, Urquidy held the Yankees to just one run through seven innings, before DJ LeMahieu’s home run off Phil Maton tied the score at 3-3. That’s where he stayed in the 10th inning, when Judge stepped up with two on and two outs against Seth Martinez. The judge hasn’t gone further away in extras

You wouldn’t necessarily think so, given the payroll and the names the Yankees can offer, but one of their biggest problems right now is a lack of offensive superstars.

Aaron Boone might get lucky with a keystroke from a Kyle Higashioka, an Oswaldo Cabrera, or an Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Maybe Josh Donaldson (who at least has a .393 OBP to go along with a major hitting problem this postseason) turns the clock back a decade once again. But postseason offenses, for the most part, run on stars and homers. There is no bigger star than Aaron Judge. You don’t like to say “it’s him or they go home,” but if that’s the case, there are very few hitters you’d count on more.

If the judge does not bring it? Well, then the Yankees will never get that ring, anyway. It may seem bad right now, being down 2-0 always is, but in the grand scheme of baseball, two games is next to nothing. The momentum is never real, unless we remind you that Seattle had one return of all times in Game 2 of the Wild Cards series and in their next game quickly snuffed out a 7-3 lead at Houston in Game 1 of the ALDS.

The fact that the Yankees are down 2-0 reflects how they have played and is a credit to the Astros. What will happen over the next two, three, four or five games? Well, that’s entirely up to them.

#reasons #count #Yankees

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