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About two hours before first pitch, the fans started gathering outside the ballpark. Most dressed in Yankees jersey, a few brave souls wore Astros gear and another came dressed as a trash can. A pandemic may have shaken our worlds over the last year, but the Astros cheating scandal would not be just forgotten. Not in the Bronx, where the Yankees fans felt cheated out of their postseasons in 2017 and ’19.
Tuesday night, Yankee Stadium may have had it’s crowd limited by COVID-19 protocols, but the fans anger, fanned by a year of waiting, magnified the 10,850 who were there to harass the Astros and cheer the Yankees in their 7-3 win at the Stadium.
“It did seem like they’re standing up most of the game and into every pitch and definitely expressing some bottled up emotions there, it felt like most of the game,” Giancarlo Stanton said.
Stanton homered in the first, a two-run shot, doubled and had two singles. The Yankees rallied in the sixth, scoring three on a DJ LeMahieu single, an Alex Bregman throwing error and a Rougned Odor-Martin Maldonado collision. Domingo German allowed three runs on four hits and a walk over five innings. The bullpen of Lucas Luetge, Jonathan Loaisiga, Wandy Peralta and Chad Green threw five scoreless innings to lock down the win.
It was the Yankees (15-14) season-high fourth win in a row and brought them to above .500 for the first time since April 6, when they were 3-2.
It seems like this game was destined to draw some blood — and the fans were calling for it.
Though limited in size to 20% capacity by New York State’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, the crowd at Yankee Stadium was loud and intense. The anger and frustration they felt after the Astros’ cheating scandal was revealed by the commissioner’s report in January 2020 was stored up through a pandemic and a year without fans in the ballpark. Tuesday night, they were going to let it out whenever they got the chance.
“When I walked out you know, you know 15 minutes before the game, it got your attention. Certainly,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of the crowd energy.
Jose Altuve, who edged out Aaron Judge for the MVP honors in 2017 — largely because he had a higher batting average ― was the primary target of the crowd’s ire, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa were also targeted with boos, chants and signs. There were at least two blow-up garbage cans, referring obviously to how the Astros’ would relay pitches called in real time to their hitters.
“Oh, no, no, no, that was intense,” Stanton said when asked if it had ever heard anything like Tuesday night’s crowd. “I wouldn’t want to be on the other side of that. So. they brought some heavy tonight.”
It was the most intense and real crowd feel since the ballpark was reopened to fans this season. Fueled by their anger, the fans stood and jeered every Astros at-bat for the first four innings. They cheered furiously when Altuve swung and missed.
The Yankees, who lost to the Astros in the 2017 and 2019 American League Championship Series, were furious in spring 2020 that the Astros players went unpunished — for cooperation with the investigation — and that they had a tainted World Series title.
“This series is kind of circled by a lot of people for a while now,” LeMahieu said. “It was a wild atmosphere but at the end of the day, we got to take care of business and get wins.We’re not in a position to be , getting caught up in the moment. We need to take care of business.”
But LeMahieu said he too had circled this series and was looking forward to playing the Astros. The Yankees’ infielder said he was looking forward to facing a good team, but admitted that the Astros cheating scandal is still a sore spot for the Yankees ― and many others in baseball.
Dusty Baker, who took over after A.J. Hinch was fired for the scandal, had said earlier this year that it’s time for the rest of baseball to move on. He pointed out there are only five players from the 2017 team, which is the one MLB documented as cheating.
Tuesday night, the fans spoke for the Yankees. Just in case, LeMahieu confirmed what the rest of baseball is thinking.
“I don’t think people are going to turn the page on this anytime soon,” LeMahieu said.