The New York Yankees Encounter An Unsolved Mystery In Houston Astros Pitching

During a replay challenge to see if Jose Altuve was safe on a routine groundout, those in charge of playing music at Yankee Stadium whipped out the theme song from “Unsolved Mysteries”

The haunting tune preceded the hit NBC show that ran for nine seasons while being hosted by Robert Stack, whose voice led into the show by saying “Perhaps You Can Help Solve a Mystery.”

Through three games of the ALCS, the Yankees are enduring their own version of “Unsolved Mysteries” against the Astros about why despite holding the AL’s second-best record, they are getting dominated by Houston’s standout pitching staff, the one who has shirts reading “No, No, No, No-Hitter and “Framber Valdez’s 2022 Quality Start Tour.”

Through the first three games, the Yankees are putrid 12-for-94 (.128) with 41 strikeouts. They are one game away from being swept out of the ALCS for the first time since hitting .157 and striking out 36 times against Detroit in 2012.

By comparison when the Yankees were competitive against the Astros in 2017 and 2019, their averages were better. In the six-game loss in 2019, the Yankees batted .214 and in the seven-game loss two years earlier, the Yankees batted .205.

In this series, New York has seen 449 pitches from seven pitchers. Perhaps the most astounding stat involves Cristian Javier’s success against the Yankees.

On June 25, Javier threw 115 pitches in seven hitless innings to combine with Hector Neris and Ryan Pressly on the first no-hitter for some people’s baseball attending life. On Saturday, he threw 52 pitches before Giancarlo Stanton doubled, making it 168 pitches in 10 1/3 innings against Javier at Yankee Stadium this year.

As you would expect, the mood inside the silent Yankee clubhouse was somber with the theme of trying to get everyone going or enough players rolling. It was most certainly a contrast to the environment of Tuesday when the Yankees celebrated modestly before boarding the plane to Houston.

“We’ve got a lot of talented individuals in this room and just haven’t been able to get everybody clicking,” Aaron Judge said.

“Our backs are against the wall now,” Anthony Rizzo said. “As a competitor and as a baseball player, it sucks, but tomorrow we have another game. Obviously, this isn’t ideal, but we just have to win tomorrow. It sucks tonight, it’s going to suck, it’s going to sting, but tomorrow we have to figure out a way to win.”

“I think they’ve attacked the zone,” third baseman Josh Donaldson said before the YES Network postgame panel opined, he was guessing at pitches. “They have good stuff. They have good arms over there. Can’t take anything away from those guys, but we just need to be better.”

Rizzo was the fourth leadoff hitter of the postseason which seems like the sign of a team struggling to find it at the plate. Judge batted leadoff for the first two games of the ALDS and coincidentally after Alex Rodriguez said on FOX the slugger should not bat leadoff, Gleyber Torres moved there for four games before Harrison Bader did it in Game 2 of the ALCS and Rizzo led off for Game 3.

When a team is going as poorly as the Yankees are these days, it hardly takes much to quiet a loud environment.

The moment occurred about 30 minutes into Game 3.

First Judge ran in front of Bader in right-center resulting in an error for the center fielder when Gerrit Cole was one out away from getting through the second.

Three pitches after the error, ninth-place hitter Chas McCormick got enough of a 1-1 fastball.

At first McCormick thought the ball went foul but then he saw Rizzo give a look of “here we go again” and realized the 335-foot poke bounced into the right field seats. And when McCormick experienced that realization, the Astros did their celebration known as the “Chas Chomp”, a new celebration featuring enthusiastic and exaggerated clapping that was started by Houston fan Scott Agruso who attends game wearing an alligator suit.

“It’s cool. I like how my teammates are into it now. Around the bases I see them always chomping,” McCormick said. “It fires me up, and I said before in case I hit a home run, I’m going to round third base, hit the chomp a couple of times to my teammates.”

The chomp was enough to create a feeling of doom for the Yankee fans. Nearly 90 minutes later, Game 3 seemed to be officially over when Cole loaded the bases, exited and Lou Trivino allowed a sacrifice fly by Trey Mancini and a two-run single by Christian Vazquez, whose fourth-inning homer off Zack Britton was the series-clinching run for Boston over the Yankees in Game 4 of the 2018 ALDS.

As virtually anyone who follows the postseason knows, only one team ever rallied from a three games to none deficit. The struggling offense gets its first attempt at solving the mystery of Houston pitching and joining the 2004 Red Sox as the second team to do so 18 years and three days after Boston made history at Yankee Stadium.

“You always want to be your best,” Judge said. “I wouldn’t say as I go, we go. We’ve got a lot of individuals on this team that can carry the club. I’ve got to step up and do my job. I haven’t come up with the big hit. Missed a couple the other night. But we’ve still got a lot of ballgame in us, and just got to take care of business.”

In less than 24 hours, the Yankees will either take care of business to live to see another day or lament everything that went wrong towards the end of a season where they held the best record in the AL until Aug. 11.