The New York Yankees spent innings two through eight completely lifeless against the Houston Astros on Thursday night, sadly turning the series opener into yet another referendum on why their biggest October hurdle still owns an eternal edge over them, no matter how many wins they rack up.
Then came the ninth.
Much like 2021, the two teams exchanged blows in the first inning, with Giancarlo Stanton answering Alex Bregman’s three-run shot with one of his own. But after Yordan Alvarez’s three-run liner to the short porch, nobody moved.
But, again, this is 2022. The Yankees opt not to die. They occasionally sit silently, but when the time comes to swipe an opponent’s heart, they typically reengage and steal a soul or two.
The Astros turned to closer Ryan Pressly to finish the middle of the Yankees’ order off in the ninth, but he failed to oblige. Instead, he walked both Giancarlo Stanton and a blinded Gleyber Torres, who needed eyedrops before the 3-2 pitch but still spat on a spiked curve.
Then came Aaron Hicks, who took a 1-2 pitch miles deep into the bleachers. Tie game, on Hicks’ third clutch hit in a six-game span. He’s having a month of June, in case you hadn’t noticed.
Yankees’ Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks beat Astros as Isiah Kiner-Falefa caught stealing
MONSTER sigh of relief.
But the job wasn’t done yet. And what would a comeback win be without a little adversity? Isiah Kiner-Falefa tapped an infield single into the shortstop hole, then tested Martin Maldonado’s arm and was caught stealing.
Or was he? The replay showed he was clearly safe. The head office decided the evidence wasn’t clear enough. How clear was clear? Were the Yankees really going to be felled by an umpire malfunction?
No. No, they weren’t. Not this team.
Jose Trevino singled anyway, because of course he did. Joey Gallo followed with a strikeout, because of course he did.
But DJ LeMahieu worked a full-count walk against Ryne Stanek, who attempted four straight splitters against Aaron Judge.
The first three missed the strike zone. The fourth? Well, that might’ve been low, too, but it stayed high enough for Judge to rocket it down the left-field line and end the game.
Judge’s splendid career featured zero walk-off hits entering Game 162 of 2021, when he knocked a grounder up the middle that bounced too many times for an out at the plate to materialize.
In 2022? He’s got a walk-off home run on the docket, as well as Thursday’s extremely improbable single that entirely flipped Houston’s mojo for one night only (and potentially beyond).
Is Ryan Pressly terrifying to anyone anymore? What about Stanek? This is as massive as a one-game, regular-season momentum shift can get. And that’s 15 straight wins in the Bronx, by the way.