John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The Yankees fell to the Astros 4-1 at Yankee Stadium, and now trail 2-1 in the ALCS. >> Box Score
Five things to know from Tuesday's game
1) The Yankees' task just got a whole lot tougher, and not just because of the math.
Yes, by losing Game 3 they know they'll have to return to Houston if they're going to win this ALCS, as they now trail 2-1. But even more to the point, after the way Gerrit Cole dominated them on Tuesday, throwing seven shutout innings, their best chance might well be to win the next three games, thereby avoiding Cole in Game 7.
Justin Verlander would be no picnic in Game 6, obviously, but Cole is on a historic roll these days. He hasn't lost a decision since May 22, and in this postseason he has allowed only one run over 22 2/3 innings, while racking up 32 strikeouts, including 7 on Tuesday.
In truth, Cole is likely to be sharper next time, pitching in the comfort of his home ballpark. He was somewhat vulnerable in Game 3, mostly because of five walks, which led to four opportunities for the Yankees with two runners on base, but he pitched out of trouble every time.
D.J. LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, and Didi Gregorius (twice) all came up with two runners on base, trailing either 1-0 or 2-0, and all made routine outs, including a Judge strikeout in the second.
So while the Yankees made Cole work, pushing his pitch count to 112 over seven innings, he was at his best when it counted most.
2) Was Luis Severino tipping his pitches? Alex Rodriguez, for one, was convinced the Astros knew exactly what pitch Severino was throwing, at least in the first couple of innings.
On Twitter A-Rod noted that Severino threw 36 pitches in the first inning, and the Astros didn't swing-and-miss at any of his off-speed pitches or chase any out of the strike zone.
"Astros' hitters are swinging almost exclusively at fastballs," A-Rod tweeted. "Their body language screams tipping."
Yet the two swings that did the damage, solo home runs by Jose Altuve and Josh Reddick, were against hanging sliders, mistakes that Severino got away with in his ALDS start against the Twins.
Nevertheless, Severino showed some toughness, pocketing the slider for the most part and relying on his fastball and change-up to get through 4 1/3 innings without giving up any more runs.
3) Has the baseball been de-juiced for the post-season?
A lot of people in the game seem to think so, and there were at least a few balls hit at the Stadium in Game 3 that this season has trained you to think they were gone, yet fell harmlessly for outs in front of the fence.
Most notably, Gregorius hit what looked like a typical Yankee Stadium-cheapie, if you will, in a crucial spot, with two outs and two runners on the fifth inning. The shortstop stood and watched it off the bat, seemingly thinking the ball was gone, but Reddick made the catch without so much as a jump at the wall.
4) The Yankees officially have a problem with Adam Ottavino.
After giving up a crucial home run to George Springer in Game 2, Ottavino walked Springer leading off the top of the seventh on Tuesday, and that led to the Astros breaking open the game with two runs to make it 4-0.
In fairness, Ottavino followed the walk by giving up a routine ground ball to second to Altuve but because Springer was running on the pitch, the ball sent through for a hit as Gleyber Torres was moving to cover second on the play.
Nevertheless, Ottavino, who was reliable through the season, pitching to a 1.90 ERA, has been largely ineffective in this postseason: He's faced 16 hitters and nine have reached base, three by walks, six by hits, including Springer's HR.
5) The key out in the game was almost certainly in the fourth inning, when LeMahieu came to the plate with two runners on and two outs. Cole had seemingly lost his feel briefly, walking Gio Urshela and Aaron Hicks with two outs, and LeMahieu had already squared up two Cole fastballs for hard singles in the first and second innings.
Yet in this spot Cole raised his game. He made two great pitches to get ahead 0-2, a 98-mph fastball at the knees on the outside corner that LeMahieu took, and then a 91-mph slider at about the same spot for a swinging strike. At 0-2 Cole threw only a so-so slider that caught way too much plate, but in that count, with LeMahieu geared up for 98, the pitch fooled him enough to produce a harmless fly to center.