Posted on October 17, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine

Image via usatoday.com

The New York Yankees have done it again. For the second straight series, the Yankees have fallen behind 2-0 on the road, only to come home and look like a completely different team. Monday night, the Yankees found their offensive groove against the Houston Astros, winning 8-1. Of course, the work is far from finished, as the pressure remains on the Yankees to win Game 4 Tuesday night in order to even up the series.

Home-Field Advantage

The Yankees continue to be a completely different team at home as opposed to on the road this postseason. In four games at Yankee Stadium, the Bronx Bombers have scored 24 runs, while managing just 12 runs in five games played on the road. That’s to be expected, as Yankee Stadium is an offense-friendly park, but Yankee pitching has only allowed eight runs in four home games while giving up nearly four runs per game on the road. It seems that New York’s only chance in this series is to continue playing well at home and hope to steal a game on the road at some point, which is exactly what the Yankees did against the Indians.

Pitching Matchup

Game 4 for the Yankees will belong to Sonny Gray, who has had 11 days of rest since his last start. Gray started Game 1 against the Indians but was pulled after 3.1 innings. On the one hand, he should be fresh, but on the other hand, that may be too much time off. Gray’s tried to stay sharp by throwing bullpen sessions and a simulated game, but the Yankees can’t be certain of what they’ll get out of him in Game 4. In his only start against the Astros this season, Gray gave up five runs in five innings, although that was back in May while he was in Oakland and before he got his season on track.

The Astros have decided on Lance McCullers Jr. as their Game 4 starter. McCullers was one of Houston’s best starters during the first half of the season, only to struggle the second half and miss more than a month of action with back discomfort. He was not in the rotation during the division series but did pitch three innings in relief in Game 3 against the Red Sox. He tossed six scoreless innings at Yankee Stadium back in May, but whether he’s capable of pitching the way he did the first half of the season is unclear. The Astros will no doubt have Brad Peacock on call in the bullpen just in case McCullers struggles early in Game 4.

X-Factor

Obviously, both starting pitchers are huge X-factors, as there’s great uncertainty over what each will provide. But aside from Gray and McCullers, look for Didi Gregorius to be an X-factor in Game 4. Much like the division series, Gregorius has been slow to get going offensively. Of course, he came up big against the Indians late in the series, and now may be time for him to get going after starting out 2 for 12 against the Astros. No one on the Yankees has more than 9 at-bats against McCullers, but Gregorius is one of the few with success against him in a small-sample-size, going 5 for 8 with a double. It may be time for Gregorius to once again step up in a big spot for the Yankees.

Prediction

As noted earlier, the Yankees are a different team at home, especially offensively. But New York’s pitching has kept the Astros in check all series, allowing just five runs in three games. Gray will have a short leash, but he’s capable of giving the Yankees a solid outing and letting their offense and bullpen do the rest. New York wins 7-2.

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