By HAL McCOY
“New York, we have a problem.”
That slightly altered quote is attributed to the astronauts on Apollo 13 talking to NASA mission control in Houston.
The Houston/Apollo quote is erroneous, but “New York, we have a problem,” is about as accurate as it can get in The Bronx.
The New York Yankees are one loss from elimination in the American League Championship and it was the Houston Astros creating the problem Thursday night in Yankee Stadium
The Astros used a pair of three-run home runs to construct an 8-3 victory over the Yankees to take a three games to one lead in the ALCS.
Houston’s George Springer emerged from a post-season cocoon in the third inning. After Robinson Chirinos walked on four pitches to start the third, Josh Reddick singles.
Springer was 4 for 33 in the post-season this year and 1 for 13 in the ALCS. He rectified that by clearing the left center field fence. It turned a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 lead.
It stayed that way until the sixth. Houston’s Alex Bregman reached on first baseman D.J. LeMahieu’s error.
At this point, Yankees manager Aaron Boone lifted starter Masahiro Tanaka and inserted Chad Green.
He retired the first batter he face, then gave up a singled to designated hitter Yordan Alvarez. Carlos Correa cleared the left field wall, almost in the same spot as Springer’s, another three-run home run.
Then, effectively, put the exclamation point on the night. New York’s Gary Sanchez hit a two-run home run in the sixth, drawing the Yanks to within 6-3.
But the Astros scored one in the eighth and one in the ninth to put a lid on any ideas the Yankees had of coming back.
The Yankees had two excellent opportunities to break the game open, especially in the first inning against starter Zack Greinke.
Edwin Encarnacion drew a two-out 3-and-2 walk to fill the bases. Greinke also walked Brett Gardner to force in a run.
That gave the Yankees and a 1-0 lead and Greinke was close to being taken to his knees. He issued three walks in the first. But after walking Gardner and still facing a bases loaded dilemma, he struck out Sanchez to end it.
At that point, before his late-game two-run home run, Sanchez was 2 for 22 with 11 strikeouts in the post-season.
After Springer’s home run gave the Astros a 3-1 lead, the Yankees filled the bases again in the fifth with one out. In the process they rid themselves of Greinke.
Ryan Pressly came in with two on and one out and walked Aaron Hicks on a 3-and-2 pitch. Then he silenced the high-decibel cauldron that was Yankee Stadium by striking out Gleyber Torres on a checked swing and striking out Encarnacion.
That put Encarnacion at 1 for 20 in the post-season as the Yankees continue to misfire with runners on base.
The Yankees were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 and struck out 13 times.
Greinke went 4 1/3 innings and gave up one run, four hits, walked five and struck out five. Pressly received the win.
The Astros’ bullpen, five strong on this night, shut down the Yankees, other than Sanchez’s two-run home run off Josh James.
Wright State University product Joe Smith face two batters in the eighth inning and struck out both.
New York’s James Paxton gets the unenviable assignment of saving the Yankees season Friday when he faces Houston’s Justin Verlander.