Minnesota didn’t know what to expect from Justin Morneau to begin the season, playing him at designated hitter instead of first base to avoid aggravating concussion symptoms and watching as he hit just .206 with a .623 OPS through nine games.
However, on Monday he felt good enough to play first base for the first time and Morneau also homered in that game. And then last night he homered again … and again.
Morneau went 3-for-4 with two homers versus the Yankees, which was his first multi-homer game since May 31, 2011. And in his fifth plate appearance manager Joe Girardi issued an intentional walk to Morneau, which was his first since June 1, 2011.
He’s hardly out of the woods yet, but for a guy who’s missed most of the past two seasons with concussions and multiple other injuries Morneau’s last 48 hours have been extremely encouraging. Overall for the season he’s now hitting .279 with four homers, two doubles, and a .945 OPS in 11 games.
The Yankees’ offense finally woke up, scoring eight runs in Game 3 of the ALCS on Monday night while the pitching kept the Astros’ offense at bay. That came after scoring a total of two runs against Astros pitching in the first two games. For a recap of the Yankees’ scoring in Game 3, click here.
CC Sabathia wasn’t dominant, but he executed pitches when he needed to most, preventing the Astros from capitalizing on their opportunities. Overall, he gave up three hits and four walks while striking out five on 99 pitches. He’s the first pitcher, age 37 or older, to throw six shutout innings in the postseason since Pedro Martinez for the Phillies against the Dodgers in Game 2 of the 2009 NLCS. Monday’s start also marked Sabathia’s first career scoreless outing in the postseason — it was his 22nd postseason appearance.
Astros starter Charlie Morton couldn’t escape the fourth inning, when he allowed a run and loaded the bases before departing. Will Harris allowed all three inherited runners to score on Aaron Judge‘s three-run home run to left field. Morton was ultimately charged with seven runs on six hits, two walks, and a hit batsman with three strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings.
The Yankees’ bullpen held the fort after the sixth. Adam Warren worked a scoreless seventh. Warren returned in the eighth and retired the side in order, despite yielding a pair of well-struck balls to deep center field.
In the ninth, Dellin Betances walked both hitters he faced to start the frame. Unsurprisingly, manager Joe Girardi had a short leash and brought in Tommy Kahnle. Kahnle gave up a single to Cameron Maybin then struck out George Springer, but walked Alex Bregman to force in a run. Kahnle got Jose Altuve to ground into a 4-3 double play to end the game in an 8-1 victory, giving the Yankees their first win of the series.
The ALCS continues on Tuesday at 5 PM ET. The Astros will start Lance McCullers and the Yankees will send Sonny Gray to the hill.