Rematch with Astros gives Yankees a chance to be more than also-rans, for once – The Denver Post


On the anniversary of Reggie’s three against the Dodgers in 1977, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge had hit two by the bottom of the second on Tuesday afternoon. By the time Judge came around third, you got the idea he wasn’t heading home, he was already headed to Houston. The Yankees have wanted the Astros for three years. Now they’ve got them. At the same time they’ve got their chance to be something other than the champions of being pretty good, which is basically what they’ve been for a long time.

It was 4-0 early on Tuesday afternoon, 5-1 in the end. They rolled the Guardians in the end, the way they rolled through the first 90 or so games of the season, when they did look as if they might be the best team in the world again, even in a world that had the Dodgers and Astros already rolling through the regular season themselves, and the Mets and Braves on their way to each winning 101 games. The Yankees hit 254 home runs during the regular season, and now, with the money on the table in Game 5 at Yankee Stadium, they hit two more early, both to right field.

Now they get their title shot, at least in the American League, against an Astros team that won 106 this season, and has proven, without question, that they are as good winning baseball games without banging trash cans and stealing signs as they were when doing that. The Astros beat the Yankees in seven games in the American League Championship Series of 2017, and then again in six in ‘19, when Jose Altuve walked the AL season off at Minute Maid Park, and the Yankees walked away from the season sure that Altuve knew what pitch was coming from Aroldis Chapman.

Brian Cashman was still talking about ‘17 earlier this season, still trash(can) talking an Astros team that ended up winning a World Series that Cashman obviously believes should have gone to the Yankees, even though it’s somewhat difficult to square how sign-stealing had anything to do with the Yankees scoring exactly one run in Games 6 and 7 in Houston that year, looking helpless against Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton in the process.

“The only thing that stopped us [in 2017] was something that was so illegal and horrific,” Cashman told The Athletic this spring. “The only thing that derailed us was a cheating circumstance that threw us off.”

Now Cashman’s Yankees get this shot at the Astros and this chance to show that the team that started 64-28, the one that we kept reading was halfway to the Canyon of Heroes, whose only competition was supposed to be from the greatest teams of the past, was not just the best version of the ‘22 Yankees, but the real one. The Yankees have had plenty to say about the Astros for five years. Well, here they are.

This isn’t the AL Central now. This isn’t the Twins or the Guardians. This is the chance for the Yankees to be the best team again, something they haven’t been since 2009, the last time they won a World Series or played in one. This is the chance for the Yankees to measure up to all the money they spend, and all the talking they do, every single season, about how it’s World Series or bust. Here they are, four wins away from going back.

Here is their chance to be the Yankees again, which means the Yankees they want to be, and used to be.

Since they last won the Series, they have been knocked out of the postseason in the first round they played – either a Wild Card game or in the division round – three different times. In postseason series in which the opponent wasn’t the Twins, their record is 24-33. In the four league championship series they have played since they beat the Phillies in the World Series of ‘09, their record is 7-16. They have been a wild card team six times.

They have been the champions of being pretty good, and sometimes very good. They never have a losing season and they’ve averaged 93 wins since that last World Series win and they’ve managed to win 100 games in a season twice. But they are the New York Yankees. The bar is set higher than that in a sport with no true salary cap. They get the opportunity over the next week or so to set it as high as they used to.

This is a tough, flinty Yankee team, and there is much to admire about it. After they staggered around the way they did after the All-Star Break, they won games against the Rays when they had to, and held on to first place in the AL East. And when they had to come back against the Guardians, when they had to play for their season, Gerrit Cole pitched like an ace and a star in Game 4, and then Stanton and Judge swung for the fences in Game 5.

“We’ve got to play our best to be the last ones standing,” Aaron Boone said in the middle of this baseball summer. “That’s what we’re working on, to try not to let anything get in the way of that.”

The Yankees best sluggers hit two October home runs when their team needed them to do that, on the anniversary of Reggie’s three. Now they need to win four against the Astros. Give themselves a chance to be the Yankees again. To finally be great again, not just good.



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