Bronx, NY: The American League Championship Series is defined as epic with the Yankees and Astros but the winner moving on to the World Series could come down to Gerrit Cole. The Astros have Cole and he provided them seven shutout innings in Game 3 Tuesday at Yankee Stadium.
And when Cole throws shutout ball, as he did, the Astros are expected to win. This was a gem by the expected AL Cy Young Award winner even though he did not have his best command of the fastball.
But Cole had enough run support. Two home runs were enough to provide the Astros with a 4-0 win that gives them a 2-1 lead in the series.
Game 4 is pending because of rain forecast for Wednesday night in the Bronx. But this one saw the Yankees get nine base runners off Cole and their four hits and five walks failed to generate the needed runs.
And this was not a dominant Gerrit Cole who made two starts against Tampa Bay in the ALDS and won both games with a 0.57 ERA, and it was primarily the fastball command.
It was just the first time this season Cole has walked more than three batters in a game. It marked the fourth time in 36 starts this year, including the postseason, the right-hander allowed nine or more base runners.
“We had to make some pitches in tough spots,” Cole said. “We kept the lead. Fastball command was a bit of a struggle. I know it will be better next time.”
It helped that Cole got an early first inning lead to work with. Jose Altuve hit his 12th postseason career home run off Yankees starter Luis Severino, The home run tied Altuve with George Springer atop the Astros’ all-time list.
Altuve, with two of the Astros’ four runs scored, has 30 in the postseason also extending his lead on the clubs all-time list.
“I don’t know, I think I get ready and I prepare myself the same way I do for a normal game,”Altuve said about his postseason success. “We know in this case the games are more important and more intense. People, the fans, they get into the game maybe more. And maybe that’s why, I’m not trying to do anything different.
But, Altuve, a previous Latino Sports AL MVP Award recipient, set the tone for the Astros. The first pitch off Luis Severino , a 87 slider, went deep and over the fence in center.
“I’m just trying to be the player I am,put the ball in play and get on base,” he said. “And steal bases and in the end score some runs to help my team.”
Third game of the ALCS, the Astros on the road, and let’s say this is a win they needed to have. Having Cole on the mound was an advantage and there is every chance the Yankees will see him again if the series, as expected, goes to what could be deciding games 6 and 7 in Houston.
“Think there’s a lot of baseball to play before that factors in,” Astros manager AJ Hich said.
Gleyber Torres’ eighth inning home run extended his postseason hitting streak to 10 games. That was the lone Yankees run that could not get runners home. The Yankees stranded nine and were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
“It’s obviously a little frustrating we weren’t able to break through with him,” manager Aaaron Boone said about his team and failure to hit Cole in key spots.
“But I think up and down we gave ourselves a chance. And anytime you’re facing a guy like that, you want that kind of traffic. And we had that in several innings. He made big pitches when he had to.”
Cole threw 102 pitches and that has become the custom for him. The Astros bullpen took over and overall kept the Yankees off the bases, exception was that Torres home run.
“We weren’t able to break through,” Boone said. “We weren’t able to get that hit tonight to really allow us to be in that game or even grab a lead at some point.”
Altuve said about this series, “Anything can happen. This is baseball.” And with the Yankees, that good come from behind team all season, this series is expected to go the distance,
So a Yankees loss Tuesday is no reason to panic. But the Astros are also a good come from behind team, so if they take this to deciding games in Houston then take into account they finished with the best home record in baseball.
Rain could put a temporary halt to this epic series. Perhaps that would give the Yankees an advantage Thursday night as Masahiro Tanaka, the winner of Game 1 in Houston would get his second start of the series. If Game 4 is played as scheduled, the Yankees may go with an opener on the mound,
“”We’ll go talk through how we want to go with it tomorrow in the case that we do play.” Boone said.
Regardless, the Yankees are aware again that Jose Altuve can ignite the Astros. And they also know that they will see Gerrit Cole again in this series.
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