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Yankees offense flopping at worst possible time

HOUSTON — The Bronx Bombers didn’t live up to their name, and that includes the newly christened Bronxville Bomber, Harrison Bader himself. For the first time in 24 postseason games, the Yankees didn’t hit a home run, which is a likely recipe for defeat in Houston’s house of horrors.

They don’t love Minute Maid Park under normal conditions — and they missed their main weapon in Game 2 of the ALCS. Their mojo is in their muscles.

The Yankees without a home run are Christmas without Santa Claus.

Like the Patriots without Tom Brady.

Like nails without a hammer.

They are incomplete, at best. And very likely lost.

The Yankees haven’t won here all season, and it’s hard to imagine them doing it without hitting even one measly home run. They came close when certain AL MVP Aaron Judge hit one to the wall in the eighth inning. But close is all they ever seem to do against these annoying Astros, who went up two games to none in this ALCS with the 3-2 victory Thursday night.

Let’s face it. While the Yankees posted the second-highest run total in the majors this season, they are heavily dependent on the long ball. If they don’t have it, they may not have much. The Yankees were a rare major league team to score more than half their runs on homers — it was 50.8 percent of their runs to be exact — and if they don’t go deep, they may be in deep.

Aaron Judge's long drive was caught by Kyle Tucker at the wall in the eighth inning of the Yankees' 3-2 ALCS Game 2 loss to the Astros.
Aaron Judge’s long drive was caught by Kyle Tucker at the wall in the eighth inning of the Yankees’ 3-2 ALCS Game 2 loss to the Astros.
Getty Images; USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps things will get better when they get back to Yankee Stadium, where they are a different team. They also won’t have to face all-time great Justin Verlander or All-Star Framber Valdez in either of the next two games.

To be fair, this was as tough a draw as possible. Houston had its pitching set up the way it wanted. Verlander is one of the greatest pitchers ever and he was having one of his better games in the ALCS opener. The Astros have about a 2.00 ERA for these playoffs, they are the only team yet to lose and they look like prohibitive favorites to run the table.

In an effort to jump-start things, manager Aaron Boone is making changes almost daily. Part of it is about the injuries, the locale and left versus right considerations. But there are enough alterations that it smacks partly of desperation.

Josh Donaldson walks to the dugout after striking out in the fourth inning of the Yankees' Game 2 loss.
Josh Donaldson walks to the dugout after striking out in the fourth inning of the Yankees’ Game 2 loss.
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

Boone promoted Bronxville’s own Bader, the sudden slugging star, into the leadoff spot for Game 2, and Bader acted surprised about the move on the pregame show when Lauren Shehadi of TBS asked him about the switch. Either he didn’t know, or he’s as fine an actor as he is a hitter.

While Bader contributed one of four Yankees hits and a walk, it didn’t quite do the trick. The Yankees had three singles and a double total against Valdez and a couple Astros relievers. The offensive highlight was a 50-foot grounder by Giancarlo Stanton that Valdez turned into a mess.

Judge had one of the other hits, but it was also a single, which started the two-run fourth inning that accounted for all the offense. Stanton, one of the better postseason performers in recent seasons, then hit the fairly soft grounder back to Valdez that sufficed as the Yankees’ best moment of the night.

Kyle HIgashioka heads back to the dugout after striking out in the seventh inning of the Yankees' loss.
Kyle HIgashioka heads back to the dugout after striking out in the seventh inning of the Yankees’ loss.
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

Although Stanton appears to be playing at about three-quarters speed, presumably the result of one of many foot injuries that have ailed the Yankees, Valdez panicked, turning a certain out (and maybe two) into a second-and-third situation. Anthony Rizzo followed with a run-scoring groundout and Gleyber Torres with a run-scoring ground single through the left side.

Unfortunately, that rally was all there was to write home about from an offensive standpoint. The good thing is they get to go home now, where they actually won a couple games against the Astros this season. They are now 0-5 here.

To win this series, of course, not only will the Yankees have to turn things around at home, they will eventually have to win at Minute Maid Park, where homers are indeed possible, especially into the Crawford Boxes in left field. Astros star Alex Bregman deposited the three-run shot there that became the defining moment of the game.

In the middle of the Yankees offensive ineptitude, Astros fans began chanting, “Yankees s—,” as if they were impersonating the Fenway faithful. There seems to be some surprising anger here at the team that keeps losing to their boys. If anything, you’d think they’d show some gratitude.

The Yankees continue to strike out a lot, too. After whiffing 17 times in Game 1, they fanned 13 more times. The team that eliminated the Yankees in 2015, 2017 and 2019 is threatening to do it again. The Yankees better start remembering who they are. Saturday back at the Stadium is the place to start.

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