Despite a 2-1 ALCS lead, the Astros have scored just five runs against the Yankees

NEW YORK -- The American League Championship Series suddenly feels a lot less lopsided.

After getting shut down in Games 1 and 2 by Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, the Yankees broke out offensively in Game 3 on Monday night (NYY 8, HOU 1) thanks to Aaron Judge's monster two-way game. The Astros still lead the series 2-1, though the Yankees have started to make things interesting.

The story of Game 3 will be Judge's big game -- he hit a three-run home run and also made about a month's worth of great defensive plays in right field -- and Todd Frazier's three-run poke into the right field short porch. The Yankees couldn't do anything against Keuchel and Verlander. They were able to get to Charlie Morton and Will Harris in Game 3, however.

On the other side of the coin, once again New York's pitching staff shut down the Astros, holding them to one run in Game 3 on four hits, all singles. The Astros, despite leading the series, have scored five runs on 15 hits in three games so far. Keuchel and Verlander held the Yankees in check and made it work in Games 1-2. That was not the case in Game 3.

"CC [Sabathia] was really good because he didn't make a lot of mistakes," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said following Game 3. "We swung a little bit to the margins on the outside of the strike zone a little bit ... We were swing happy tonight against him and he took advantage of being able to pitch to the outer parts of the strike zone."

Sabathia, in a way, was the worst possible matchup for the Astros, the team with baseball's lowest strikeout rate during the regular season. At this point of his career Sabathia allows plenty of contact, but it's mostly weak contact. Among the 90 pitchers to throw at least 140 innings during the regular season, Sabathia had fifth highest soft contact rate and sixth lowest hard contact rate.

In Game 3, Sabathia struck out five in his six scoreless innings, and just about all of his other outs came on balls that missed the barrel of the bat. The only real exception was Judge's leading catch on Yuli Gurriel's would-be extra-base hit to right field.

"He's pitched really well all playoffs," Yankees skipper Joe Girardi said after the game. "I'm not surprised what he did tonight. We talked about it, we wanted him on the mound tonight. We thoughts we had the right guy on the mound tonight. Again, six innings, just an outstanding effort. Couldn't ask for anything more."

"CC's been around for a long time. He's pitched in a lot of big games," added Brett Gardner. "Obviously this was a big game for us. It was a must win if you ask me. He really stepped up. He's done a great job for us all season and in the postseason."

Through three ALCS games, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa are a combined 9 for 23 (.391) while all the other Astros have gone 6 for 66 (.091). The Yankees have kept George Springer and Marwin Gonzalez in check, and have limited the traffic on the bases. Houston has only three extra base hits in the series -- doubles by Gurriel and Correa, and a solo homer by Correa.

On one hand, the Astros are still up 2-1 in the series. Timely hits in Games 1 and 2 gave them the series lead. On the other hand, the Astros really need their bats to get going, because these have been three underwhelming games at the plate. And as the Yankees showed in Game 3, they are very capable of putting runs on the board in a hurry, especially at Yankee Stadium. Houston has to be able to keep pace.

Fortunately for the Astros, they have the kind of deep and powerful -- and contact heavy -- offense that can snap out of it at basically any time. They can put up three or four or five runs in the next half-inning at any moment. For now though, the offense has been stagnant, and with the Yankees starting to wake up at the plate, the Astros need to do the same before that 2-1 ALCS lead shrinks even further.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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