NEW YORK (AP) — With the Houston Astros one win from reaching the World Series again, Game 4 of the AL Championship Series against the New York Yankees was delayed Sunday night because of the threat of rain.
Major League Baseball said it was targeting an 8:30 p.m. first pitch.
Earlier, the commissioner’s office announced the impending delay on Twitter an hour before the scheduled 7:07 p.m. start and said it was possible the game could get postponed until Monday.
It was dry during the first 30 minutes of the delay, but radar showed rain approaching.
Just after 7:30 p.m., fans at Yankee Stadium cheered an announcement alerting them the teams planned to start at 8:30 p.m., and another cheer went up when the grounds crew began removing the tarp from the infield.
Lance McCullers Jr. was set to pitch for the Astros, looking for a four-game sweep. Houston is 6-0 this postseason and closing in on its second consecutive American League pennant and fourth in six years.
“It’s a very exciting time for me and the organization,” said 73-year-old manager Dusty Baker, still seeking his first World Series title. “These guys have come to expect winning. Winning breeds winning.”
All-Star lefty Nestor Cortes was slated to start for the slumping Yankees, who mustered only four runs and batted .128 with 41 strikeouts in the first three games of the series.
In major league history, only one of 39 teams facing a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series has stormed back to win — the Boston Red Sox did it against the rival Yankees in the 2004 ALCS on the way to their first World Series championship in 86 years.
With that in mind, New York turned to a strange source for inspiration.
“We watched that video today, oh yeah,” manager Aaron Boone said. “We sent it out to all our coaches and (got) it out to our players.”
Thirty clubs that were up 3-0 in the postseason completed sweeps.
With the tarp covering the Yankee Stadium infield all afternoon, neither team took batting practice outdoors on a damp, windy evening. Light rain fell intermittently, and several Astros played catch and jogged in the outfield.
The large video screen in center field showed Game 5 of the NL Championship Series in Philadelphia, where the Phillies and San Diego Padres played through rain about 90 miles away.
Bryce Harper and the Phillies won 4-3 to take the series 4-1. With the playoffs expanded to 12 teams this year, they became the first third-place squad in baseball history to reach the World Series.
Philadelphia went 87-75 during the regular season — Alex Bregman and the Astros finished 106-56, seven games better than any other American League team.
Rain has altered the Yankees’ schedule throughout the postseason. Two home games against Cleveland during the Division Series were postponed a day because of inclement weather, including the decisive Game 5 last week.
McCullers has a history of injury issues, including Tommy John surgery, and Baker was asked whether that could be particularly detrimental in the event of a mid-game delay.
“Well, we’ll kind of worry about that when we get there because we can’t do a whole bunch about the weather,” he said. “If that happens, it just depends on how long the rain delay is and all the circumstances.”
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