The top two teams in the American League played ball in the sun, hitting home runs. José Altuve hit the first pitch over the left field wall and Aaron Judge did the same with the last pitch. More than 44,000 fans gathered at Yankee Stadium for the fourth consecutive day. Some even stayed on promotion after the game, playing ball on the pitch of their dreams.
It was baseball as it should be, as the Mets said in the 80s, and maybe we’ll actually get a Subway series at the end of October. But the path to the AL pennant always goes through Houston, and the Astros plan to keep it that way. The Yankees are back to beat ’em on Sunday 6-3 in 10 inningsbut it was probably their toughest test of the season.
“The fans just know that these two teams, we’ll see each other a lot, probably in the future,” said Judge, who connected right hand Seth Martinez with his winning three-way homer.
“We saw each other a lot in recent years in the postseason. Every time we play it will be a good game and the fans expect it. They bring their energy from the first pitch and that’s what you like. You’re looking forward to this weekend, playing good teams and seeing how you perform in AL.”
The Yankees are 53-20, seven and a half games better than the Astros, but they really had to work on dividing the series into four games. They went 16 innings without a hit — from the eighth on Friday to the seventh on Sunday — and needed heavy hits from the referee to win games one and four.
“It was Judge 2, Us 2,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said.
It was made for a compelling theatre, only marred by fans who were tired of booing Altuva over the 2017 Astros sign theft scandal. Another member of that team, Marvin Gonzalez, now plays for the Yankees, and two more – Carlos Beltran and Cameron Maybin – call games on the YES network. But only Altuve defeated The Judge that season for the AL Most Valuable Player.
This season, Judge is the undisputed favorite; He now leads the standings with 28 homers, one more than Roger Maris had in 1961. He ended Thursday’s game with a long single to left field and a home run to end Toronto’s game last month.
“Unreal,” said Giancarlo Stanton. “He came big for us anytime we needed him.”
The last Yankee with three hits in a season was Melky Cabrera in 2009 when they won their last World Series title. The Yankees didn’t get back to that stage, most often being beaten by the Astros, who eliminated them in the playoffs in 2015, 2017, and 2019 — and caused at least a mild panic this weekend.
“I don’t believe in anyone’s number,” Baker said Sunday in the dugout before practice. “It depends on how you play at this time and also how many of your front line guys are out, how your guys serve; there’s a lot of factors, especially in the short series. I don’t believe guys have numbers – and I don’t believe no one has. our amount. “
While the Astros stay in town to play the Mets this week, the Yankees welcome the Oakland Athletics on Monday for a three-game series. The A’s have the worst record of the majors, 25-49, and hit .211 overall on Saturday. It would have been the worst average for an AL team in over a century.
As soon as the lockout ended in March, the A’s staged a sell-off, getting rid of several expensive veterans and forcing one top-tier rookie, right-hander Frankie Montas, to peddle by the bidding deadline. Several other teams – Cincinnati, Detroit, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Washington, Chicago Cubs – have been equally hopeless this season.
When these teams meet rivals, it’s a mismatch, and everyone knows it – the opposite of the intense, exciting weekend the Yankees and Astros just had. It was not what the players imagined during the lockout, when they were looking for ways to make the league more competitive.
The collective agreement reached by the players with the team owners includes a lottery for the top six picks in the draft, an extra spot in each league, and rewards for promoting top players on Opening Day instead of hiding them in the minors. manipulate service time. But change takes time.
“Hopefully next year and the year you see more teams competing,” said Zach Britton of the Yankees, a relief pitcher who served on the union’s executive subcommittee. “But I think it’s pretty much teams competing and then there’s kind of a bottom. There really aren’t many in the middle right now, although more teams have access to the playoffs and the like.
“We were hoping that if we moved forward it would be better that by the fifth year of this CBA we would see some changes. I’m not sure we expected it to happen right away, just because of how the teams were structured last year and the year before.”
The goal, according to Britton, was to limit the rewards for consistent losses and de-incentivize those endless recovery phases. Not every team can make it and turn into the Astros, the powerhouse that showed the Yankees that a sprint to the World Series—even in an enchanted season in the Bronx—won’t be a guarantee.