It was almost 24 hours later than expected, but on Tuesday afternoon, as Aaron Judge traded forearm bashes and smiles with teammates after a home run that put the New York Yankees up 4-0, relief had invaded the faces of teammates in the Yankees' dugout. They have seemingly lived at the precipice for weeks now, briefly flirting with the worst collapse in the division era, sliding one game away from elimination in the American League Division Series against the Guardians in Cleveland. With the help of Monday's rainout, the Yankees have survived -- and they have advanced.
But like in a video game, the next level -- the AL Championship Series, against a Houston Astros team that has long been a nemesis -- presents a higher degree of difficulty.
The rested and relaxed Astros vs. weary opponents
During the regular season, the Astros led the AL in ERA by nearly half a run. Their relievers posted the highest rate of strikeouts per nine innings in the big leagues. This postseason, Yordan Alvarez has apparently become some sort of baseball reincarnation of Babe Ruth, Kirk Gibson and David Ortiz. Houston already is a tough out, and the challenge is complicated by how the early playoff schedule has played out.