Home is where runs are for Yankees (Oct 17, 2017)

October 17, 2017

NEW YORK -- Throughout the postseason, the New York Yankees are proving to be a different team offensively at home than on the road.

The Bronx dominance helped the Yankees rally from a 2-0 deficit in the American League Division Series against the Cleveland Indians, and now the Yankees hope it helps them stage a comeback against the Houston Astros in the AL Championship Series.

New York will try to remain unbeaten at home in the postseason and even the ALCS at two games apiece Tuesday in Game 4 against Houston.

New York posted a league-leading 51-30 record at home during the regular season. In four postseason home games, the Yankees have scored 24 times despite hitting .232 (29-for-125). They produced 14 of those runs on eight homers after Todd Frazier and Aaron Judge slugged three-run shots in an 8-1 win Monday.

"We're somewhat built for this ballpark, number one," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "No. 2, you're familiar with it. You're familiar with everything that you do on a daily basis. You have your routine and you're able to be in your routine.

"I find that baseball players like routine. We're told where to be all the time. Whether it's in spring training, this is what time we report, we have (batting practice), this is what time we meet. I think the routine is normal for them, and I think it helps."

Despite amassing more runs (eight) than hits (seven) on Monday, the Yankees raised their series batting average from .159 to .183 and earned their first ALCS win since beating the Texas Rangers in Game 5 in 2010 at home. The Yankees are now looking to post consecutive ALCS wins for the first time since winning the first two games in 2009 against the Los Angeles Angels.

The Yankees will be trying to get the split knowing Houston's ace pitchers are looming. Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel will pitch Game 5 on Wednesday, and right-hander Justin Verlander would start Game 6 on Friday in Houston, if necessary.

Meanwhile, Houston will try to get its offense going again. Despite holding the series lead, the Astros have scored five times just and are hitting .169 (15-for-89). Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa are a combined 9-for-23 (.391), while the rest of the team is 6-for-66 (.090).

Among the more notable players slumping for Houston, George Springer is 1-for-11 with four strikeouts while Josh Reddick is 0-for-10.

The Astros also hope that Lance McCullers Jr. can deliver a better outing than Charlie Morton's 3 2/3 innings in Game 3.

McCullers was named the starter for Tuesday after the Monday defeat. Manager A.J. Hinch kept his explanation short by saying: "He's really good."

McCullers was very good against the Yankees in New York on May 12 when he struck out seven and allowed four hits in six scoreless innings in a 5-1 win. He allowed three runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings during a 13-4 home loss to the Yankees on June 30.

McCullers is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in three career outings against New York.

The right-hander ended the regular season with a 7-4 record and a 4.25 ERA. His ERA rose due to some late-season struggles that saw him go 0-3 with an 8.63 ERA in his final eight starts. In three starts since returning from a back injury, he was 0-1 with a 6.92 ERA.

He made one appearance in the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox, allowing two runs on three hits in a relief appearance in Game 4. Houston lost 10-3, though he wasn't involved in the decision.

McCullers said of his Tuesday night start, "It's a big game for us. It's a big game for the team. The Yankees have a great home record and are a great team. And we do the job putting ourself in the situation getting up 2-0.

"We knew it was going to be hard-fought innings, hard-fought games. It's a big situation to be able to pitch in, put us within a game of the World Series."

Sonny Gray will make his second postseason start for the Yankees, and he hopes it goes better than the first.

Gray started Game 1 of the ALDS on Oct. 5 in Cleveland and allowed three runs on three hits in 3 1/3 innings while throwing 73 pitches in a 4-0 loss. He gave up a solo homer to Jay Bruce, and he has allowed 12 homers in 68 2/3 innings since being acquired from the Oakland Athletics.

Due to the long layoff between starts, Gray pitched a simulated game before Game 1 in Houston while getting looks at the Astros' lineup from the dugout during the games.

"I feel good -- I got to work on a lot of stuff," Gray said. "That's something that has been pretty beneficial to me. I've thrown a handful of bullpens and got to throw a sim game the other day. The positive thing is, I feel really good. I feel fresh and should be ready to go."

Gray's postseason debut for New York also continued his trend of recent struggles. He went 2-4 with a 4.58 ERA in his final six regular-season starts.

Over his career in the postseason, Gray is 0-2 with a 3.31 ERA.

Gray is 4-3 with 3.09 ERA in nine career starts against the Astros. He last faced the Astros on June 20 in Oakland, and he allowed five runs and seven hits in five innings.

Houston's current roster holds a combined .287 (31-for-108) average off Gray. Altuve is hitting .367 (11-for-30) against the right-hander, while Correa is 1-for-14 (.071).

"I know these guys pretty well," Gray said. "I think they know me pretty well. I've faced them quite a bit."