NEW YORK – Yankee Stadium woke up at 7:36 p.m. ET. Lulled into a stupor by six feckless innings from the New York Yankees’ offense, the sight of a 427-foot moonshot by Aaron Judge soaring into the night roused it from the slumber. Over the next hour, as the Baby Bombers completed a comeback that evened the American League Championship Series, the 48,804 in attendance turned this place into a tinderbox. The Bronx hasn’t sounded like this since the last Yankees dynasty.
This one – it’s not a dynasty yet, not close. Too many things can derail it. Still, should it grow into that over the next decade, as so many within the game expect, they’ll look back on Tuesday night’s 6-4 victory over the Houston Astros in Game 4 of the ALCS as a seminal moment – the night the kids grew up.
Down 4-0 and limited by Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr. to one hit in those first six innings, Judge led off the seventh with a home run. It chased McCullers and led manager A.J. Hinch to kick off the disastrous spiral of relievers that ended with the series tied.
The biggest hit came from Gary Sanchez, the erstwhile catcher playing designated hitter because of his defensive issues, who sizzled a two-run double into the gap to break open a 4-4 game. The Yankees were there only because of the struggles of Ken Giles, the closer whom Hinch had hoped would close out the final two innings but managed to get only one out.
Giles arrived with the Astros in trouble. The first reliever in the seventh, Chris Devenski, allowed a triple to Didi Gregorius, the first batter he faced. Sanchez screamed a lineout to right field to score him and halve the Astros’ lead. Reliever Joe Musgrove came on to get the Astros out of the seventh.
He fared worse in the eighth. Following a leadoff single by Todd Frazier, Headley laced a ball into the left-center-field gap. Frazier easily reached third. Headley, not exactly the most graceful sort – he plods more than he runs – slipped halfway between first and second and was dead to rights as Carlos Correa, the shortstop, readied to throw. Only Correa fired the ball to first, and Headley, who never turned back, sprinted to second and slid in ahead of a Jose Altuve tag. Replay confirmed him safe.
In came Giles, who induced a Brett Gardner groundout that scored Frazier and moved Headley to third. Judge punctuated the comeback with a double off the left-field wall to tie the game and moved to third on a Gregorius single. And with Gregorius running, Sanchez hammered a 99-mph fastball from Giles to provide the winning margin.
Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman notched the save with a 1-2-3 ninth inning and ended a game not just filled with oddities – Judge missed second base heading back to first and eventually was tagged out stealing trying to avoid an appeal; second baseman Starlin Castro losing his feet and falling backward while fielding a ground ball – but drama for the Yankees. They trailed after Yuli Gurriel’s bases-clearing double in the sixth inning and looked primed to trail three games to one.
Not anymore. But a World Series is far from a sure thing. Waiting for them in Game 5? Dallas Keuchel, who shut the Yankees out for seven innings in the series opener. And in Game 6? Justin Verlander, whose complete-game, 13-strikeout gem won Houston Game 2.