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Yankees’ Matt Carpenter strikes out again in key at bat

HOUSTON — Matt Carpenter provided a huge boost to the offense when he signed with the Yankees in May. 

After fracturing his left foot in August, the Yankees hoped to get him back for the postseason. 

They did, but he has yet to do anything for the lineup. 

Carpenter whiffed in two pinch-hit appearances in the ALDS before fanning four times in his first start since the injury in Game 1

Aaron Boone turned to the lefty-swinging Carpenter again Thursday with two outs in the top of the ninth and the tying run on first after Josh Donaldson walked and was replaced by pinch-runner Tim Locastro. 

Matt Carpenter reacts after striking out in the ninth inning.
Matt Carpenter reacts after striking out in the ninth inning.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

The result was all too familiar, as Houston closer Ryan Pressly struck him out on a check swing to end the 3-2 loss

Carpenter was asked after the game if he was at a disadvantage having not played in a game since Aug. 8, with the Yankees opting to have him face pitchers at their alternate site in Somerset, N.J. in the final days of the regular season instead of a few pinch-hit appearances in Texas. 

“I’m not going to make excuses,’’ Carpenter said of the situation. “I’ve got to find a way to get it done.” 

He initially believed he checked his swing on the pitch that ended the game, but said afterward he saw that he had swung. 

Matt Carpenter tries unsuccessfully to check his swing, resulting in a strike out.
Matt Carpenter tries unsuccessfully to check his swing, resulting in a strike out.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Harrison Bader went from an offensive question mark to the leadoff spot in record time

After hitting four homers in the Yankees’ first six postseason games, the center fielder acquired from the Cardinals primarily for his defense found himself at the top of the Yankees’ lineup in Game 2. 

Bader singled in the fifth and was hit by a pitch in the eighth of the loss. 

He used his speed to advance to second on Aaron Judge’s fly out to deep right in the eighth, but was stranded when Giancarlo Stanton struck out. 

Boone said he’s liked Bader’s at-bats throughout the postseason — as well as his approach. 

“We talk about it all the time in the playoffs, the next play, the next pitch is the most important,’’ Boone said before the game. “And he’s done a good job of compartmentalizing and not letting something that just happened, good, bad, or indifferent affect the next thing. He’s had a really good focus on that point.” 

Harrison Bader singles in the fifth inning.
Harrison Bader singles in the fifth inning.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Bader has stressed not having one at-bat impact his next one. 

“Each new at-bat is a new opportunity [to] really lock in and try and win pitches and focus on the next pitch,’’ Boone said of Bader’s approach in October. 

Bader hit leadoff just once this past season, while still with the Cardinals and had hit ninth and then seventh through the first six games of the playoffs. 

Judge nearly gave the Yankees the lead in the top of the eighth and had a single in the fourth, but he has just five hits in 28 at-bats this postseason, to go along with a dozen strikeouts. 

Gleyber Torres, who provided considerable production down the stretch, has been quiet this postseason, as well. 

Gleyber Torres strikes out in the ninth inning.
Gleyber Torres strikes out in the ninth inning.
Getty Images

The second baseman had an RBI single for his first run batted in of the playoffs. He’s 4-for-27. 

And newcomer Oswaldo Cabrera went 0-for-3 and is 2-for-22 with two extra-base hits and 12 strikeouts. 

The Yankees’ battered bullpen has gotten a much-needed lift from Jonathan Loaisiga, who tossed two more scoreless innings Thursday and hasn’t allowed a run in any of his five playoff appearances this season. 

On Thursday, he gave up just a hit and a walk and has allowed eight hits and a walk in seven shutout innings, striking out three. 

Jonathan Loaisiga pitches on Thursday during the Yankees' Game 2 loss to the Astros.
Jonathan Loaisiga pitches on Thursday during the Yankees’ Game 2 loss to the Astros.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Gold Glove finalists were announced Thursday with Anthony Rizzo among the finalists at first base, Jose Trevino at catcher, Andrew Benintendi in left field, Jameson Taillon among the pitchers and DJ LeMahieu at the new utility position. 

The awards have become virtually meaningless over the years, but Boone was still irritated that Josh Donaldson wasn’t a finalist at third base, calling it “a joke.” 

And the manager said Aaron Judge likely lost out on being a finalist because he split time between center field and right. 

Boone also mentioned Kiner-Falefa being left off, despite the fact Kiner-Falefa lost his starting spot in the postseason due to his shoddy fielding. 

Despite shaky results, Boone said Clarke Schmidt hasn’t had it get to his mentality. 

“Schmidt’s confidence is always good,’’ Boone said. “He’s gonna be in that mix in the middle innings.” 

After Friday’s off day, the Yankees could have five games in five days, which would tax the bullpen and perhaps force Schmidt back into a high-leverage situation.

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