NEW YORK — Breaking down Game 3 of the AL Championship Series between the Houston Astros and New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium:
Yankees 8, Astros 1: Astros lead the series, 2-1.
The game: After scoring a total of two runs in losing the first two games of the ALCS, the Bronx Bombers lived up to their nickname in their return to Yankee Stadium. A pair of three-run homers from Todd Frazier and Aaron Judge backed another outstanding effort from left-hander CC Sabathia in an 8-1 rout.
Pitching in his 22nd career postseason game, Sabathia came into the game with a record of 4-1 and a 2.03 ERA in seven playoff appearances at Yankee Stadium.
By tossing six shutout innings and limiting the potent Astros attack just three hits, the 37-year-old kept his streak alive of never allowing more than two earned runs in the playoffs at Yankee Stadium. He finished with five strikeouts, and threw 64 of his 99 pitches for strikes.
Man of the moment: Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge did it all in Game 3, starring on both offense and defense. His line-drive three-run homer in the fourth inning off Astros reliever Will Harris broke the game open, but he also made several sparkling plays in the field that kept Houston from being able to mount a rally of its own.
In the top of the fourth, Judge made an outstanding running catch on Yuliesky Gurriel’s long fly ball an instant before crashing into the right field wall and tumbling to the ground.
In the fifth, he sprinted in on Josh Reddick’s sizzling line drive for a diving grab in shallow right field.
The rookie came into the game hitting just .129 in the postseason with 19 strikeouts in 37 plate appearances. However, a walk in addition to his home run may be an indication that the slump could soon be behind him.
Game 1 pivot point: After Frazier’s three-run homer staked the Yankees to an early lead in the bottom of the second, the Astros had an opportunity to get right back in the game in the top of the third.
Sabathia retired the first two batters, but Houston mounted a rally when George Springer walked, Alex Bregman roped a single to left and Jose Altuve drew a five-pitch walk to load the bases. That brought Game 2 hero Carlos Correa to the plate with the tying runs aboard.
Sabathia got ahead in the count with a 91 mph fastball or a called strike, then coaxed Correa into a harmless popup to short to end the threat.
Needing a mulligan: Astros manager A.J. Hinch might want to alter his choice of relievers when he took out starter Charlie Morton in the bottom of the fourth.
Morton had already given up a run in the inning to make the score 4-0, but left in favor of right-hander Will Harris with the bases loaded and Judge at the plate.
Harris allowed a run to score on a wild pitch and then with the count 2-2, he tried to get a high fastball past Judge on the inside of the plate, and the AL’s home run leader ripped it just over the outfield wall in left.
Harris got the final out of the inning, but the damage had been done. To make matters worse, Hinch brought Collin McHugh in for the fifth – and he retired all nine batters he faced.
State of the Series: With the Yankees effectively holding serve in their first game at home, they’ll look to pull even in the series in Game 4.
Trade deadline acquisition Sonny Gray will take the mound for New York, pitching for the first time in 12 days. Gray started the opener of the AL Division Series against the Cleveland Indians, allowing three earned runs in 3 1/3 innings and taking the loss.
Gray says the time off has been beneficial. “I’ve thrown a handful of bullpens and got to throw a sim game the other day. The positive thing is I feel really good. I feel fresh and should be ready to go.”
The Astros haven’t yet named a Game 4 starter, with manager A.J. Hinch preferring to “see how the game plays out” before deciding between Brad Peacock and Lance McCullers on Tuesday afternoon (5:08 p.m. ET).
What you missed on TV: As is the tradition in the opener of each playoff series, the entire rosters for both teams were introduced before the game began. The Yankee Stadium crowd was predictably indifferent when most every Astros player ran on the field – with a couple of exceptions.
Game 1 starter and winner Dallas Keuchel was booed when he was introduced, as was Houston’s MVP candidate Jose Altuve, whose greatest challenge for the award figures to come from hometown favorite Judge. But the loudest boos were reserved for reliever Tyler Clippard.
The former Yankee did not have a storied career in pinstripes. He was traded this season to the Chicago White Sox (in the deal for Todd Frazier) after posting a 4.95 ERA in 36 1/3 innings.
Gallery: Best of the 2017 LCS