In Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday in the Bronx, the Astros prevailed over the Yankees by a score of 4-1 (box score). In doing so, Houston took a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven series to determined who wins the pennant. Now here are eight takeaways from the Astros’ big road win.
1. The Astros are probably going to the World Series
Calm down, I said probably. The Astros are now up 2-1 in the best-of-seven ALCS. To point out the obvious, that means they need to win two more games before the Yankees win three more. Teams in the Astros’ position — i.e., up 2-1 in a best-of-seven and having opened the series at home — have gone on to win the series in question 75 percent of the time. That’s about what you’d expect. So, yes, the Astros at the moment are probably going to win the pennant. Subject to change, of course.
2. Altuve remains a postseason monster
With one out in the top of the first, Astros star second baseman Jose Altuve ambushed a first-pitch slider from Luis Severino and sent it over the wall in left center. That put Houston up early, and it was the 12th postseason home run of Altuve’s career, which ties him with teammate George Springer for the franchise lead. Altuve has hit those 12 playoff bombs in just 40 games. A look, in pleasing technicolor:
That one left the bat at 107 mph and traveled 420 feet. There’s also this notable nugget:
Altuve came into this one with a career postseason line of .285/.347/.532 in 173 plate appearances and a line of .370/.414/.778 during the current playoffs. Then in Game 3 against the Yanks he homered and later stole a base and singled.
3. The Yankees had their chances against Cole, but the playoff baseball didn’t help
Gerrit Cole came into his Game 3 start as perhaps the most dominant pitcher in all of baseball. Going back to regular season, he’d struck out 10 or more batters in 11 straight starts, and not since late August had he allowed more than two runs in a start. In the 2019 postseason, he boasted an ERA of 0.57 through two starts with 25 strikeouts against three walks.
The Yankees, though, had multiple chances to break through against Cole. In the first, the Yankees loaded the bases with two outs but were unable to push a run across. In the second, the Yankees had runners on first and second with two outs, but Cole struck out Aaron Judge to end the threat. In the fourth, the Yankees again had runners on first and second with two outs, but DJ LeMahieu just missed homering to center. Then in the fifth, once again New York had runners on first and second with outs. Didi Gregorius did this:
Yep, that’s a home run with the regular season ball. That was inches from making it a 3-2 Yankee lead and perhaps knocking Cole out of the game. That wasn’t all, of course, as mentioned the LeMahieu drive in the fourth would’ve been a regular season home run. On the other side, Martin Maldonado ripped a Tommy Kahnle fastball with two outs in the sixth, and that one also would’ve been a no-doubter during the regular season. All available evidence suggests the playoff baseball is significantly deader, and that continues to play a role in postseason outcomes.
Otherwise, Cole had uncharacteristic control problems — his five walks in the game tied a career high — but the Yankees were unable to take advantage. The story of Game 3 is that the Yankees went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners as a team. That allowed Cole to wind up working seven scoreless innings despite a paltry-by-his-standards seven strikeouts.
5. Ottavino continues to have a rough postseason
During the regular season, righty Adam Ottavino was a key bullpen piece for the Yankees, as he pitched to a 1.90 ERA across 73 appearances. In the playoffs, though, he’s been disaster. Coming into ALCS Game 3, opponents were batting .417/.500/.750 against Ottavino in these playoffs, and on Tuesday he faced two batters and allowed a walk to George Springer and a single to Altuve. Altuve eventually scored on a wild pitch by Zach Britton. That brings us to this:
The Yankees need that mini-trend to cease and desist in a hurry.
6. Gleyber continues to be the guy for the Yanks
The Yankees finally got on the board in the eighth, when Gleyber Torres‘ power stroke proved too mighty for the playoff baseball:
The 22-year-old future AL MVP came in with a robust career postseason line of .342/.390/.605 with two home runs in 10 games. Now make it three home runs in 11 games. Torres now has seven extra-base hits in the current postseason.
7. The Yankees are hoping for rain on Wednesday
Right now, it’s looking like Game 4 in the Bronx will be postponed, as the Wednesday forecast calls for lots of rain. Theoretically, that benefits the Yankees. The Yanks had been planning on a bullpen game in the event that Game 4 goes off as planned. Complicating those plans is the fact that Yankee starters through the first three games of this series have averaged just more than four innings per start. That’s necessitated a lot of high-leverage, high-stress pitches going to the bullpen. A rainout on Wednesday means that the Yankees can reset and start a full-rest Masahiro Tanaka in Game 4 on Thursday. Tanaka of course dominated the Astros in Game 1.
8. The stakes are high for the Yankees in Game 4
Let’s not call Game 4 a must-win for the Yankees, but it’s something close to that. If the Yankees lose Game 4, then they’ll be down 3-1. Historically, the team down 3-1 in a best-of-seven and playing without home field advantage has gone on to win that series just 14.3 percent of the time. If the Yankees win Game 4, however, they’ll be tied 2-2. At that point, it in essence becomes a best-of-three with the Astros holding home field advantage. Obviously, the Yankees’ chances would be much greater in that latter scenario. So less than a 15 percent of winning the pennant or something close to coin-flip? That’s what’s on the line for the Yankees and by extension the Astros in Game 4– whenever that may be.