Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
In the seventh, Gary Sanchez struggled to receive two consecutive pitches, costing the Yankees a run -- though it was questionable whether he should have been able to handle the second one.
The first, a sinker from Zack Britton with a runner on third, hit umpire Kerwin Danley, preventing the runner from scoring. The second, another sinker was ruled a wild pitch, but it was one that Sanchez might have stopped. This time, the run scored.
"Sanchez needs a good catching coach," tweeted former Yankees pitcher David Wells. "Wow."
Another former pitcher texted to disagree.
"I don't [think he should have caught it]," the pitcher said. "It was a nasty sinker in the dirt."
Perhaps Sanchez could have at least moved more quickly in an attempt to stop a tough pitch.
Ottavino continues to struggle
The two walks to Nelson Cruz that Adam Ottavino issued in the division series were justifiable. In those cases, he was called on to get Cruz to chase sliders, and was not going to give in by throwing a fastball.
His performance in the ALCS has been more concerning. After hanging a slider to George Springer for a key home run in Game 2, he walked a batter on Tuesday, allowed a hit and was charged with two runs.
An essential component of the Yanks' bullpenning plan, Ottavino's postseason struggle is making it much harder for the team to succeed in this series.
With two on and two out in the fifth, Didi Gregorius drove a Cole fastball to the right field wall for what looked like a go-ahead home run.
To the naked eye, it looked like a ball that would have sailed into the seats in 2019, when manufacturing changes to the baseball created an increased drag and a "juiced" effect.
But this one died on the track, caught by right fielder Josh Reddick. For those who suspect that the postseason baseball is suddenly deader than the regular-season version, this moment appeared to bolster the case.
Gregorius, by the way, saw six pitches in four at-bats in Game 3.
Torres works Cole, but few others do
The Yankees' offense has gone suddenly weak since Game 1, but Gleyber Torres continues to offer prodigiously calm at-bats -- even against an elite starter like Gerrit Cole.
In three at-bats against Cole, Torres saw 21 pitches, walking twice and striking out once. This might not seem especially productive, but he spoiled sliders, fouled off fastballs and made Cole work. It would have been an essential part of the offense's attack, but the rest of the offense didn't show.
Torres later added a solo homer against reliever Joe Smith, his third of the postseason and second of the ALCS.
Cole was at 89 pitches though five innings, and seemed a lock to be out of the game shortly. But the Yankees allowed him to cruise to seven scoreless. Cole, hardly at his best for most of the start, threw 99 mph on his 112th and final pitch of the night.
Severino earned more length
Twice in the early innings, Aaron Boone appeared poised to replace starter Luis Severino.
In the first, lefty Tyler Lyons was warming up to face Josh Reddick. If Severino had failed to retire Carlos Correa with the bases loaded and two outs, his outing would have been over just minutes after it began.
"Yeah, 36 pitches there in the first inning, he's a hitter away," Aaron Boone said. "Obviously we're not going to let him go much more than that. And then there was another time that he was probably a hitter away. Yeah, just kept making some pitches when he needed to."
But Correa popped up, keeping the Yankees' starter in the game and game 1-0.
In the third, Chad Green was up in the bullpen and appeared ready to come in. But Severino appeared suddenly to find a rhythm, and Boone allowed him to continue.
His final line of 4 ⅓ , two runs and 97 pitches was hardly spectacular, but Severino went from a near-early hook to keeping his team fully in the game. He also managed to stave off Boone's hook for far longer than his rotation-mate James Paxton in Game 2.
A better opponent punished Severino's hangers
Ever since Severino made his season debut in September against the Angels, scouts noted that his slider, while solid, did not have its typical sharp break.
This was understandable, given Severino's lack of reps -- spring training is six weeks long in large part because pitchers need that time to sharpen their command. Against lesser opponents, a group that includes even the powerful but fastball-loving Minnesota Twins, Severino could get away with more mistakes.
The Astros hitters are not nearly as forgiving. Two hanging sliders, one to Jose Altuve in the first inning and one to Reddick in the second, resulted in home runs and gave Houston a 2-0 lead.
Aggressive approach giveth and taketh
Gerrit Cole was struggling in the bottom of the first inning, loading the bases in a rally that included Aaron Judge utilizing knowledge that he hinted at before the series.
On Friday, Judge noted that Cole throws a lot of first-pitch strikes. Four days later, he jumped a first-pitched fastball and hit a single.
Four batters later, following a surprising four-pitch walk to Gleyber Torres that loaded the bases, Didi Gregorius followed the same plan. Swinging at the first pitch, he grounded out, ending a rare opportunity against Cole.
The Yankees' aggressive approach was clearly based on a scouting report, and it both helped and hurt them in the first. It was also a marked difference from their plan against Astros co-ace Justin Verlander in Game 2, when they tried to grind out at-bats and get him out of the game.