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August 26, 2019

Harper: Yankees’ latest clutch win against Astros makes you wonder if this really is their year

May 30, 2018

The music was extra-loud in the Yankee clubhouse, as was Paul O’Neill’s voice as he jumped into the elevator after the game.

“We stole one tonight, brother,” O’Neill crowed to no one in particular, seemingly as pumped as if he were still playing.

And why not? It was that type of night, that type of win against the defending world champs, the team the Yankees know they’ll have to beat to play in a World Series come October.

Not just because they were down two in the ninth, either, before Brett Gardner’s game-tying home run, and then still another clutch hit from the phenom known as Gleyber Torres to win the game 6-5 in the 10th.

No, O’Neill had it right: this was practically the definition of stealing a win, as the Yankees made five — count ’em, five — errors, kicking the ball all over the Bronx, it seemed, left 10 runners on base, and somehow survived to win for the fourth time in six games against the team with the best starting rotation in the majors.

As CC Sabathia said, after the comeback got him off the hook for the loss:

“Teams don’t win games when they make five errors. But the way we bounced back, it just shows you a lot about this team.”

Hey, maybe it’s the Yankees’ year. They got the bounce of the year, that’s for sure, when Aroldis Chapman’s 101-mph fastball over Gary Sanchez’s head came rebounding off the backstop so hard that the catcher was able to throw out a stunned Tony Kemp trying to advance from second to third.

Scenes like this have been all too common in the Bronx. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

“We drew that up,” Aaron Boone said wryly before a reporter could finish a question about the play.

Yes, even the manager was a bit giddy after this one, and understandably so. He made a point that even beyond the five errors, there were plays he felt the Yankees should have made but didn’t, all of which contributed to a sense of doom for much of the night.

But then, by now the Yankees have to feel that anytime they get into the Astros’ bullpen, the game can change in a hurry. Charlie Morton wasn’t as dominant as he has been for much of this season, coming into the game with the second best ERA in the league to teammate Justin Verlander, but you can bet the home dugout was glad to see him go after he allowed three runs over six innings.

Funny, too, because the numbers say the Astros have the best bullpen in the American League this season. Or the best ERA, anyway. To which the Yankees say:

Yeah, right.

Going back to the ALCS last October, they’ve repeatedly found ways to rough up the Stros’ bullpen, to the point where closer Ken Giles was seen famously punching himself in the face after giving up a decisive home run to Gary Sanchez earlier this season in Houston.

It might be just the formula the Yankees will need if they meet again in October, considering the brilliance of the Astros’ rotation.

Rookie phenom Gleyber Torres continues to come through in the clutch for the Bronx Bombers.
Rookie phenom Gleyber Torres continues to come through in the clutch for the Bronx Bombers. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

The Yankees’ bullpen hasn’t been nearly as lights-out as expected this season, but suffice it to say they’ll take their chances with anyone in the late innings.

All the more so now that Torres continues to be some sort of wunderkind who has done nothing it seems but get big hits since he showed up from the minors about a month ago.

Nothing fazes the kid, either. As talented as he is defensively, lately Torres has gotten a little careless at second base, particularly on Tuesday night when he made two errors.

“I don’t focus enough,” he said after the game when asked about the errors. “But I change the pace and do my job.”

That was the point Boone made after the game, in fact, about Torres and fellow rookie Miguel Andujar as well. He too made a costly error but then set up the game-winner with a two-out double to left with two outs in the 10th.

So up came Torres, and after showing frustration with a called strike, gesturing to home plate umpire Tripp Gibson that the ball was low, he lined a two strike, 95-mph fastball from Brad Peacock to the oppositie field, as Andujar raced home for the win.

“I love that he kept on playing,” Boone said. “He had a tough night, and then he gets a call he didn’t agree with, but you can feel him really just kind of slow it down and control the moment. That’s something that’s stood out to me about him since he’s gotten here, really.”

In the end, then, there was nothing fluky about the way the Yankees put the game in the books. How they got there, however, with a win that made one of their TV announcers feel like he was back in pinstripes, might just be a sign of where they’re headed.

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