Morton, who will square off against C. C. Sabathia, does have a history with the Yankees, but it is more a personal one. Born in Flemington, N.J., and raised in Redding, Conn., Morton went to Tampa, Fla., to see the Yankees in spring training and on occasional trips to Yankee Stadium with his parents. He once garnered an autograph from a catcher who was polite enough to stop for him. It happened to be Joe Girardi, now the Yankees’ manager.
Morton has transformed himself from a sinker-throwing ground-ball pitcher — his nickname was Ground Chuck — to one who relies on a heavy dose of curveballs, a four-seam fastball and a cut fastball.
In his one start against the Yankees this season, Morton struck out seven consecutive batters in a 10-7 loss, part of a split doubleheader in May during which Derek Jeter’s uniform number was retired.
he Yankees have struggled to hit — and make much contact at all — in the first two games of the A.L.C.S. Half of their 54 outs have come via strikeouts. And the struggles have been most acute at the top of the order.
Leadoff hitter Brett Gardner and catcher Gary Sanchez each struck out five times in Games 1 and 2. Aaron Judge, who struck out 16 times in the first-round series against Cleveland, has fanned three times. Against the Astros, they are a combined 3 for 21 with one extra-base hit — a double by Gardner, who was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple.
The Yankees have struck out plenty throughout this postseason, but they also hit 10 home runs over all in the wild-card and division series games. They have managed only one homer against the Astros — the two-out, ninth-inning homer by Greg Bird off Astros closer Ken Giles in Game 1.
But Girardi, who benched Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson the last time the Yankees went this far in the playoffs in 2012, said on Sunday that he did not plan to make any lineup changes for Game 3.
“You know, one or two hits away from being 2-0, so I don’t see many changes,” he said in reference to how close the first two games against Houston have been.
Girardi said that his young sluggers — Sanchez and Judge — have been pitched tough by pitchers with whom they are not familiar and that their struggles were highlighted because it is the postseason.
“I feel good about them,” Girardi said. “We’ve counted on them all year. We believe in them and I think they’re going to come out of it.”
If not, the Yankees’ stay in the A.L.C.S. may not be long.
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