Nobody said it would be easy, but the Yankees are positioned well. After splitting the first two games in Houston, the Yankees have positioned themselves well to advance to the World Series for the first time in a decade. The roadmap is there. It’s a long shot, but all they have to do is win at home. However, this is a really good Astros team, so it will take nothing less than near-perfect execution for the Yankees to win this series, and it starts with game 3 on Tuesday. Let’s take a look at three keys to the game for the Yankees-Astros game 3 matchup.
Don’t Let Cole Get Into an early Groove
This is easier said than done, but the Yankees’ hitters are capable. They certainly can’t replicate what they did against Justin Verlander. Too many times on Sunday night did we see Yankees’ hitters, particularly Edwin Encarnacion and Gary Sanchez, get a bit too jumpy at the plate. They got behind in too many counts and found themselves looking silly while they flailed at Verlander’s curveball. At home, with the crowd behind them, the Yankees hitters may feel a bit more secure. If they can channel that into drawing walks and forcing Cole to work out of the stretch, then the Yankees will have the opportunity to get the multi-RBI home run that they feed off of. From there, it just becomes a question of hitting with runners in scoring position.
I think this is even more important in the first few innings. If Cole is able to get through the first three unscathed then it’s going to be a long night. However, if the Yankees can stay disciplined and pass the baton, then all it takes is one big hit to change the complexion of this game.
Bottom two-thirds of the Lineup Must Produce
Batters 3-9 of the Yankees order went a combined 3-25 in game two. That’s not exactly a winning formula for a team that has survived on its lineup depth all season and all October thus far. It all starts with Edwin Encarnacion out of the four spot. He may not be in that spot in game three, regardless he is an x-factor in this lineup. Since game two of the ALDS Edwin is 0-12 with six strikeouts. Gary Sanchez is another x-factor in this lineup that needs to produce if the Yankees want to have a chance. He is a sultry 2-17 in the Postseason, and the Yankees won’t be able to advance in this series if he keeps up his poor performance at the plate.
Severino Must Get Through at least 4 innings
With James Paxton being pulled in the third inning of the Yankees’ game two loss, their bullpen was put to work. The bullpen delivered, but you have to think that Boone does not want to have to do that two games in a row, especially since the Yankees plan on making game 4 a bullpen game. With that said, Luis Severino needs to go deep into this game. I don’t think Severino will have the constraints on him that he has had up to this point, as Boone said after his start in game three of the ALDS that he’s willing to lengthen Severino’s leash. With game four being a bullpen game in mind, you have to imagine that Severino will get a chance to go deep.
Many things need to go right for the Yankees to win game three. Beating Gerrit Cole is a very tall task, but in the playoffs, all it takes is one big hit to change the entire game. If the Yankees can be patient early and get men on base so that the big bats can drive in runs, then they’ll be positioned well to win the ballgame.