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The Yankees fell 3-2 to the Astros on Saturday in Game 2 of the ALCS, evening the series at 1-1. >> Box Score
Five things to know from Sunday's game
1.) For all the talk about the bullpen edge the Yankees have in this series, Game 2 proved that too much of a good thing can have its consequences.
Because Aaron Boone used five relievers in nine innings, he was forced to dig deep into the pen in extra innings, using CC Sabathia, Jonathan Loaisiga and J.A. Happ in the 10th. Two walks by Loaisiga set the stage and then Happ gave up the game-winning hit, an 11th-inning home run by Carlos Correa.
To that point the game played out pretty much as the Yankees had hoped, as they were able to hang with Justin Verlander long enough to turn it into a battle of the bullpens.
However, they couldn't push a run across against the Houston 'pen, as Will Harris, Robert Osuna and one-time Met Joe Smith pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings. The Yankees, meanwhile, wound up using eight relievers because Boone pulled James Paxton in the third inning.
2.) Why did Boone pull Chad Green? It was easy enough to understand the Yankee manager going to the pen early to replace a shaky Paxton, but Green was mowing down the Astros, getting six straight outs, two of them on strikeouts, while throwing only 26 pitches.
Yet after he struck out Kyle Tucker for the first out in the fifth, Green got pulled for Ottavino, who promptly surrendered a game-tying home run to George Springer on a hanging slider.
Ottavino had good numbers against Springer, 0 for 4 with three strikeouts, and the Astros' center fielder had great success off high-velocity fastballs this season, if you were looking for reasons Boone may have made the move. But Green looked so dominant that it was easy to second-guess the move even before Springer went deep.
3.) It's plenty understandable to get carried away with Gleyber Torres, the 22-year old phenom having a sensational postseason, but Aaron Judge reminded everyone that he's still the best player on the Yankees, crashing a two-run home run off Verlander that provided a 2-1 lead.
As it is, Judge had done something in every game this October to help the Yankees win, with some eye-opening defensive plays in right field to go with a .357 batting average and a .500 on-base percentage coming into Game 2.
The only thing he hadn't done was go deep, but he took care of that in the fourth inning, hitting a hanging slider from Verlander to right-center for a two-run home run. For Judge it was his eighth home run in 23 postseason games.
4.) Where was the Big Maple? This wasn't the Paxton the Yankees expected to see in the post-season, as the lefthander struggled with command of his fastball and breaking stuff from the start -- and may have been tipping pitches, as TV cameras caught Alex Bregman indicating to teammates that Paxton was doing something with his glove as a tell.
Whatever the case, he gave up four hits and two walks in 2 1/3 innings before Boone gave him the quick hook.
The Yankees didn't acquire Paxton solely with the Astros in mind, obviously, but his success against them when he was with the Mariners surely weighed in favor of trading for him. Last season Paxton went 4-0 with a 2.05 in four starts against the Astros, and going into Sunday's start he had a career record of 8-4 with a 3.24 ERA against Houston.
And after the way Paxton finished the season, going 4-0 with a 1.05 ERA in September, he seemed poised for a big post-season, but he was just ok in his ALDS start against the Twins and now the Yankees have to wonder how he'll respond as he lines up for a potential Game 6 start in Houston.
5.) So apparently injuries are going to continue to plague the Yankees even in the postseason. Giancarlo Stanton was forced out of Game 2 with a quad strain -- and just when he looked like he might be finding his stroke, going 2 for 4 with a home run in Game 1.
Now the question is how long Stanton will be out. The Yankees say they're hoping he'll be back for Game 3, but the slugger was out longer than expected this season with a variety of injuries, including a knee problem, and he wasn't moving particularly well in left field even before this latest injury.
Cameron Maybin did a solid job in place of Stanton, reaching base with a single and a walk, but the fact that Boone didn't insert Aaron Hicks into center and move Brett Gardner to left probably tells you the Yankees are only going to use Hicks, who missed the last two months of the season because of an elbow injury, as a defensive replacement or even a pinch-runner in this series.