If Gerrit Cole is pitching, the Houston Astros are winning.
That was the story going into Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, and that’s still the story after the overpowering right-hander subdued the New York Yankees bats in a 4-1 victory.
The Astros now lead the series 2-1 and will have a chance to take firm control with another victory Wednesday.
It wasn’t quite the dominant effort we saw from Cole in the ALDS, where he struck out 25 Tampa Bay Rays in his two outings. New York actually seemed close to solving him on several occasions. The Yankees loaded the bases with two outs in the first inning, but failed to capitalize. The Yankees then put two runners on base in each of the second, fourth and fifth innings, but never got a breakthrough hit.
Cole walked a season-high five batters, allowed four hits and struck out seven over his seven innings. He survived by getting outs when he needed them most. The Yankees went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position against Cole and stranded nine baserunners.
Yankees starter Luis Severino lasted 4 1/3 innings, which was a mild surprise given the Astros’ fast start. Jose Altuve hit a first-inning homer on the third pitch of the game. The Astros kept trying to get more runs across in the first, getting the bases loaded against Severino before he was able to escape. In the second inning, Josh Reddick hit a massive second-deck homer off Severino to lead off the inning.
The Yankees right-hander has pitched beyond five innings only one time in eight postseason starts.
Houston tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the seventh inning against Adam Ottavino and Zack Britton. Jose Altuve scored on a wild pitch before Yuli Gurriel’s sac fly. New York got on the board on Gleyber Torres’ home run in the eighth inning, but Will Harris and Roberto Osuna were able to close the door and secure the victory.
WHO MADE THE DIFFERENCE
• Gerrit Cole: It was a grind for Cole, but the end results are every bit as impressive as his previous postseason outings. The Yankees were aggressive at times, but were also capable of extending at-bats. Aaron Hicks notably worked a 10-pitch walk to set up a scoring opportunity in the second inning. Cole answered every challenge and then finished strong by retiring the final seven batters he faced.
• Jose Altuve: With his first-inning home run, Altuve put his name in the same category as some of MLB’s greatest postseason players.
Today is Jose Altuve's 40th career postseason game. He just hit his 12th career postseason HR.— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) October 15, 2019
Here are the only players with MORE HR in their 1st 40 career postseason games:
Nelson Cruz -- 16
Carlos Beltran -- 16
Babe Ruth -- 15
Mickey Mantle -- 13
When you’re mentioned in the same breath as Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle, you’re doing something right. The former AL MVP added a beautifully executed hit-and-run single to spark Houston’s seventh-inning rally.
• Gleyber Torres: Even in a losing effort, Torres remained red hot. The 22-year-old launched his third home run of the postseason to provide New York’s only run. He’s on the same postseason home run pace as Altuve, who’s already the all-time leader among second basemen.
How close were the Yankees to turning this game around against Gerrit Cole in the fifth inning? This close.
WHAT THEY'LL BE TALKING ABOUT
Can the Yankees bats get back on track now that they’ve passed the Justin Verlander-Gerrit Cole portion of Houston’s rotation? After scoring seven runs in their Game 1 victory against Zack Greinke and company, the Yankees have been limited to three total runs in Game 2 and 3. We don’t know yet who will pitch Game 4 for either team, but it feels like New York’s offense needs a big bounce-back performance to keep this series from slipping away.
The series continues with Game 4 on Wednesday night. First pitch is scheduled for 7:08 p.m. ET. Neither team has announced an official starter for Wednesday and with rain in the forecast, the whole thing could be moot. If they play, the Yankees are expected to use an opener and ride the bullpen.
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