NEW YORK — The New York Yankees clubhouse went silent. During the regular season — win or loss — New York always played music over the speakers after games.
But that pattern died Saturday after the Yankees lost 5-0 in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, putting them in a 3-0 deficit to the Houston Astros, facing a sweep and elimination on Sunday.
As looming disappointment faced them square in the face, the Yankees struggled to come up with words on how they could come back in a series down three games against an Astros team that has not lost in the 2022 playoffs so far.
“This isn’t ideal,” said Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo. “We just got to win tomorrow. It sucks tonight. It’s gonna suck. It’s gonna sting. And we just got to figure out a way to win.”
New York previously faced elimination in the series against the Cleveland Guardians, going down 2-1, before winning Games 4 and 5 to punch a ticket to the ALCS.
But New York faces significantly higher obstacles in trying to defeat the Astros, who looked like the better baseball team in every aspect of Saturday’s contest. Houston received strong starting pitching from Cristian Javier — who went 5⅓ innings, allowing no runs on one hit, three walks and five strikeouts — and the Astros’ offense came through, with its RBIs coming from Trey Mancini, Christian Vazquez and Chas McCormick, the bottom three hitters in Houston’s lineup.
“We faced elimination before earlier this postseason, and guys have faced elimination in their careers,” Yankees outfielder Harrison Bader said. “At times, things might feel like a mountain; but you know, classically speaking, giving a cliché, you can’t get to the top without starting at the bottom. There’s a game tomorrow that’s being played tomorrow, there’s nine innings being played tomorrow. It’s just a matter of taking things pitch by pitch.”
History is on Houston’s side, with just one team in MLB history — the 2004 Boston Red Sox — having come back from a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series. Still, the Astros aren’t booking their World Series tickets just yet.
“All the guys, especially guys who have been here, are just preaching to keep our foot on the gas,” said Astros pitcher Justin Verlander. “You never know what can happen. Playoffs is a funny thing. Right now, we obviously have some momentum, we’ve been playing good baseball, but zero complacency. That’s kind of the theme. Just to come here tomorrow and try to win a game like we’re down 3-0.”
Astros second baseman Jose Altuve said he will ignore the series lead heading into Game 4.
“The mentality is to go out there and not think about anything else but win,” Altuve said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re [up] 3-0 right now, nothing is done yet. We gotta go out there and play our best game because we know we are playing a good team. A series is not done until one team wins it all. We are going to try to play tomorrow like the series is 0-0 and try to win.”
Yankees fans expressed their disappointment throughout the course of Saturday’s game, with players up and down the roster booed at various times. When Houston scored three runs in the sixth inning to make the score 5-0, groups of Yankees fans could be seen leaving the stadium.
“I definitely understand their frustration,” New York slugger Aaron Judge said. “There’s a big Game 4 coming up. Even if we get down, stick with us and we’ll do our thing. I understand why there are boos and why they’re yelling at times, but we got to pick it up as a team and it’s going to take their support. That’s for sure.”
The Yankees will need more performance from their offense to have a chance at winning Game 4 and making this a series. New York has not scored an earned run in 19 innings, the last one coming in the eighth inning of Game 1 in Houston. The Yanks will try to break that streak against Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., who went six innings and allowed no runs on two hits against the Seattle Mariners in the AL Division Series.
New York is hoping a positive mindset heading into Sunday can help extend their season one more day.
“You gotta go out there and have fun,” Judge said. “We can’t beat ourselves up about one play, one pitch. We got to stay inside that laser focus throughout the whole game. Even if they go up on us tomorrow or we go up, we got to stay laser focused, one through nine.”