When predicting the outcome of a postseason series, analysts, pundits and fans alike can look at all the stats, matchups and trends they want, but there’s one thing that no one can ever foresee: Momentum.
So while the ALCS looked as though it would be a fairly easy stroll into the World Series for the Houston Astros, the New York Yankees had the oldest trick up their sleeve to get back in the series and that’s home-field advantage.
For the first time since opening its doors in 2009, Yankee Stadium II had the look and feel of the old Yankee Stadium I, which was the Roman Colosseum of sporting venues; a haven for its inhabitants but a nightmare for any who dared enter its walls as unwelcomed guests.
The volume was deafening, the fans, ravenous.
It was just what New York needed as it hobbled back home after a pair of demoralizing losses in Games 1 and 2 in Houston.
Back within the friendly confines, the Yankees looked like a completely different team. While the pitching remained stellar, the bats were patient and efficient.
Aaron Judge epitomized this as he broke out of his postseason-long slump with three huge performances at home. After batting .129 in his first eight postseason games, Judge went 4-for-9 in Games 3, 4 and 5 with two doubles, two home runs and 6 RBI.
After scoring just two runs in the first two games of the ALCS, the Yankees seized momentum by putting up 15 runs in the Bronx as they took a 3-games-to-2 series lead and are just one win away from their 41st American League pennant and a trip to the World Series.
Once they took a lead in Game 5 on Wednesday night, the Astros looked despondent at times in the dugout. There was also an overwhelming sense that the Yankees were not going to let their advantage slip away, which Houston did to a 4-0 lead in Game 4.
That’s what momentum can do.
The only question that remains is can that momentum follow them to Houston?
New York managed to hit Astros ace Dallas Keuchel for four runs on Wednesday night. In his previous two postseason starts against the Yankees, Keuchel didn’t allow a single run to the Yankees while striking out 17.
Game 6 provides another big challenge in Justin Verlander, who twirled a complete Game 2 of the ALCS, giving up one run on just five hits in the process.
If New York can exorcise the Keuchel demons, I’m sure the belief in their locker room is high that they can rough up Verlander and get back to the Fall Classic for the first time since 2009.