By HAL McCOY
Those who watched Todd Frazier collect his paychecks from the Cincinnati Reds know that when The Toddfather hit a home run it wasn’t with a classic, baseball card swing like Ken Griffey Jr.
So many time when Frazier hit one out of the park it came with a lunging, one-handed swing with his body bent in half and his posterior protruding toward the third base dugout.
That’s the way it was Monday night in Yankee Stadium when Frazier hit a three-run home run in the second inning off Houston pitcher Charlie Morton.
That three-run poke and a three-run home run in the fourth by Aaron Judge ignited the Yankees toward an 8-0 win, their first after two losses to the Astros in this best-of-seven American League Championship Series.
After an infield hit and a bloop single, both with two outs, Frazier performed his pretzel swing and watched it fly into the short-porch right field seats, Frazier’s first opposite-field home run in Yankee Stadium.
It was no huge shock, although it sent shock waves through Yankee Stadium. Frazier faced Morton many times when Frazier played third base for the Reds and Morton pitched for Pittsburgh and Atlanta. Frazier was 7 for 18 with a pair of homers for his career against Morton, a 14-game winner for the Astros this season.
The Yankees made it 8-0 in the fourth and Frazier was in the middle of that, too. Greg Bird led the inning with a ground rule double to left field.
Morton retired the next two, with Bird moving to third on a fly ball from Aaron Hicks. That brought up Frazier. Knowing their history, Morton pitched around Frazier, also knowing he next hitter was Chase Headley, 0 for 16 in the postseason.
But Headley bounced one up the middle for a run-scoring infield hit and when Morton hit Brett Gardner with a pitch to load the bases his night was over.
He was replaced by Will Harris and he threw a wild pitch to let in another run. Then it was time, finally, for Aaron Judge, who had struck out 20 times in the post-season after hitting 52 home runs during the season.
Judge uncoiled on a hanging slider and propelled it into the left field seats, a three-run home run that made the rest of the game inconsequential.
In the fourth inning, when it was only 3-0, the 6-foot-7 Judge ran to the wall, ran hard into the wall, and reached up to snap a home run bid hit by Yuli Gurriel. Judge jumped up unharmed while the while wailed in agony.
Blessed with the plethora of runs, 37-year-old Yankees starter CC Sabathia bolted down the high-powered Astros offense. In six innings, the big lefthander held Houston scoreless on three hits with four walks and five strikeouts.
He was the right man at the right time for the Yankees. Sabathia was 9-0 this season when he pitched a game after a New York loss. For the season he was 14-5 with a 3.69 earned run average.
His only danger zone was in the third when it was 3-0 and he loaded the bases with two walks and a hit. But with two outs he retired the side on a pop-up to shortstop by ever-dangerous Carlos Correa.
It wasn’t long ago that many baseball purists thought Sabathia was finished. From 2013 through 2015 he had three straight losing seasons and was 18-26.
Now he is New York’s money in the back pocket. He pitched the deciding Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Cleveland Indians and Yankee manager Joe Girardi has him poised to pitch Game 7, if it gets that far.