ALCS Game 4 between Astros and Yankees underway after delay

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NEW YORK — With the Houston Astros winning after reaching the World Series again, Game 4 of the AL Championship Series against the New York Yankees began after an 84-minute delay Sunday night due to the threat of rain.

The first pitch was thrown at 8:31 p.m.

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 be postponed to Monday.

It was dry during the delay, but radar had shown that rain was approaching.

Just after 7:30 p.m., Yankee Stadium fans cheered an announcement alerting them that the teams were planning to start at 8:30 p.m., and another cheer went up as the field crew began removing the infield tarp.

Lance McCullers Jr. started for the Astros, looking for a four-game sweep. Houston is 6-0 in the playoffs and is closing in on its second straight American League pennant and fourth in six years.

“It’s a very exciting time for me and for the organization,” said 73-year-old manager Dusty Baker, still chasing his first World Series title. “These guys expect to win. The winning races win.

All-Star left-hander Nestor Cortes started for the plummeting Yankees, who had just four runs and hit .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 to win — the Boston Red Sox have done so against the rival Yankees in the 2004 ALCS on their way to their first World Series Championship in 86 years.

With that in mind, New York turned to a strange source of inspiration.

“We watched this video today, oh yeah,” manager Aaron Boone said. “We sent it to all our coaches and (have) sent it to our players.”

Thirty clubs that led 3-0 in the playoffs completed the sweeps.

With the tarp covering the Yankee Stadium infield all afternoon, neither team took batting practice outside on a wet and windy evening. Light rain fell intermittently and several Astros played catch and jogged in the outfield.

The big center field video screen showed Game 5 of the NL Championship Series in Philadelphia, where the Phillies and San Diego Padres played in the rain about 90 miles away.

Bryce Harper and the Phillies won 4-3 to win the series 4-1. With the playoffs expanded to 12 teams this year, they became the first third-place team 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 altered the Yankees’ schedule throughout the playoffs. Two home games against Cleveland in the Division Series were postponed by one day due to inclement weather, including the deciding Game 5 last week.

McCullers has a history of injury issues, including Tommy John surgery, and Baker was asked if that could be particularly detrimental in the event of a mid-game delay.

“Well, we’ll be a little worried about that when we get there because we can’t do a whole bunch of weather stuff,” he said. “If that happens, it just depends on how long the rain delay is and all the circumstances.”

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