Revisiting 2017’s Astros-Yankees series

Can the Huston Astros become the first team since the New York Yankees to claim back to back AL Championship wins this year? We take a look…

The New York Yankees’ 3-1 series defeat to the Boston Red Sox may have calmed nerves in Houston just a little bit.

The Astros defeated the Yankees en route to winning the 2017 World Series, but they were made to huff and puff in a tight and dramatic American League Championship Series which could have easily gone the other way.

It didn’t look like going the distance to begin with, as Houston took both of the first two games in finishes which might have been close and dispiriting enough to leave the Yankees feeling like it simply wasn’t going to be their year.

The manner of that second 2-1 game, with José Altuve sealing the deal in the ninth inning, only added to that feeling – this was a guy who had struggled in the 2015 playoffs turning things right around in 2017 – and added to the feeling that the breaks were going the way of the Astros.

However, things turned on their head when the Astros lost homefield advantage, with 2-0 becoming 2-3 just like that.

“Every home game has been special,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi after levelling things up at 2-2.

“I just feel like the fans are back, and I see things that I haven't seen in a while.”

The Astros were suddenly facing two must-win games back on their home field, but with Justin Verlander in form there was nothing to worry about. Verlander pitched seven scoreless innings to help level things up at 3-3.

Still, there was the small matter of needing to make history in the decider: would they cave under the pressure of trying to become the first side to win NL and AL pennants? Not a chance.

There haven’t been too many series with such a remarkable disparity between home and away sides. The Yankees won their three home legs by a margin of 19 to five, but couldn’t muster more than three across their four trips to Texas.

It was only the fifth time in MLB history that every single game in a seven-game series was won by the home team, and this tells its own story.

It wasn’t just Verlander who helped keep them quiet, though: Charlie Morton ended up doing the business in the final game of the series, contributing five shutout innings en route to a 4-0 win which proved enough to send the Astros through to the World Series… which they proceeded to win by the same 4-3 series margin against the LA Dodgers.

The Astros go into this year’s AL Championship series with a comparable regular season record to 2017 – 103-59 as opposed to 101-61 – and have gone one better in the postseason, getting past the Indians in a straightforward three games rounded off by a comprehensive 11-3 scoreline in Cleveland.

They will have to draw on all the experience and grit of that winner-take-all victory, but if they manage it then they will be that bit closer to becoming the first repeat champions since the Yankees back in 2000.