Yankees vs. Astros score, takeaways: Houston pushes New York to brink of elimination in ALCS Game 3

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NEW YORK -- The Houston Astros are one win away from the another trip to the World Series. Saturday evening the Astros took a commanding 3-0 lead in the ALCS with a Game 3 win over the New York Yankees and ace Gerrit Cole at Yankee Stadium (HOU 5, NYY 0). The Astros now have four chances to clinch their fourth American League pennant in the last six years.

Right-hander Cristian Javier, who started Houston's three-pitcher combined no-hitter at Yankee Stadium in June, outdueled Cole and limited the Yankees to one hit in 5 1/3 shutout innings Saturday while the bullpen took care of the rest. New York has scored four runs and struck out 41 times in three ALCS games. Chas McCormick provided the big hit for the Astros with a second inning two-run homer.

Only one team in baseball history -- the Boston Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS -- has overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series, something the Yankees will now try to accomplish. Here are four takeaways from Game 3, plus a look ahead to what's next.

1. McCormick made the Yankees pay for an error

You have to play nearly flawless baseball to beat the Astros and the Yankees have simply not done that this series. Cole was on his way to a quick seven-pitch second inning when Harrison Bader and Aaron Judge had a miscommunication in the outfield, and Christian Vázquez's routine fly ball was dropped for an error. It was so routine Vázquez started to jog back to the dugout.

Bader got the error but Judge should get the blame. It was the center fielder's ball and Judge ran directly in front of Bader. The TBS broadcast showed Judge in the dugout after the inning and his body language made it clear he knew he screwed up. The error extended the inning and Chas McCormick made the Yankees pay with a two-run homer into the short porch.

In Game 2, Luis Severino plunked Martín Maldonado, the light-hitting No. 9 hitter, with an 0-2 pitch to set up what proved to be a game-winning three-run homer by Alex Bregman. In Game 3, Bader and Judge had their miscommunication on a fly ball that would have ended the inning in Game 3. You can't make unforced errors like that and beat the Astros. They are way too good.

Cole, by the way, has allowed a home run in each of his last 11 starts dating back to the regular season, and he's also allowed a homer in each of his last nine postseason starts. That dates back to 2019 and is tied with Yu Darvish for the longest such streak in baseball history. (Darvish's streak is active as well.)

2. Javier shut the Yankees down again

Cristian Javier
HOU • SP • #53
ALCS Game 3 vs. Yankee
IP5 1/3
H1
R0
BB3
K5
Pitches84
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On June 25, Javier threw the first seven innings of what became a combined three-pitcher no-hitter at Yankee Stadium. He struck out 13 and walked one that afternoon. It was the highlight of a breakout season that saw the 25-year-old throw 148 2/3 innings with 2.54 ERA and 194 strikeouts. Javier was marvelous this year.

"Just maturity and confidence, and learning what he's capable of doing," Astros manager Dusty Baker said before Game 3 when asked about Javier's breakout season. "You would hope that a young player gets better. As long as they stay healthy, as long as they have the mental capacity and strength, they should get better."

Javier started the combined no-hitter the last time he pitched at Yankee Stadium and he picked up right where he left off in Game 3. He held the Yankees hitless through three innings and did not allow a ball to be hit out of the infield until Giancarlo Stanton found the gap with a one-out double in the fourth.

The third-year righty struck out five in 5 1/3 shutout innings, allowing just the Stanton double and three walks. In 17 1/3 innings against the Yankees this year, Javier allowed one run on three hits and struck out 21. Can't do much better than that.

Game 3 was Javier's first start since Oct. 1 -- he made a 21-pitch relief appearance in the ALDS -- and there was no rust at all. The young man was dominant throughout the regular season and dominant again in the ALDS. The Yankees have had no answer for him all year. Javier was on the mound for New York's lowest regular season moment and he was on the mound again when their season was pushed to the brink of elimination.

3. Altuve finally got a hit

Jose Altuve is finally into the hit column. Altuve entered Game 3 in a 0 for 23 rut -- it was the longest hitless streak to begin a postseason in baseball history -- and extended it to 0 for 25 before dunking a one-out double to right field with one out in the fifth inning. That was Altuve's longest hitless streak of 2022, regular season included. Here's the slumpbuster:

It should be noted Altuve very nearly snapped the hitless streak in his second at-bat, when he almost beat out an infield single. It was a bang-bang play and the Astros challenged the out call at first base, but it was upheld upon review. 

Altuve struck out an un-Altuve-like nine times during the 0 for 25 skid and chased wildly out of the zone at times. He's been much more under control his last few at-bats, and he was rewarded with his first hit of the postseason in Game 3. Now that the proverbial monkey is off his back, don't be surprised if the former AL MVP goes on a tear the rest of October.

4. The Astros broke it open late

Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, and Kyle Tucker are a combined 3 for 34 in the ALCS. If you had told me that would be case through three games, I would have assumed it was the Yankees that held a 3-0 series lead, not the Astros. Instead, Houston is up 3-0 because the bottom of the lineup has been outstanding. Take a gander:

  • Game 1: McCormick (No. 8 hitter) reached base three times and went deep, and Maldonado (No. 9) had a RBI double.
  • Game 2: Maldonado (No. 9 hitter) reached base three times, including in an 0-2 count ahead of Bregman's homer.
  • Game 3: McCormick (No. 9 hitter) poked a two-run homer into the short porch to open the scoring.

Furthermore, the bottom of Houston's lineup helped break the game open in the sixth inning. The Astros loaded the bases with no outs against Cole on a double, a walk, and a single. The Yankees went to Lou Trivino, essentially with their season on the line, and he surrendered a sacrifice fly to Trey Mancini (No. 7 hitter) and a two-run single to Vázquez (No. 8 hitter) to break the game open.

Through three ALCS games Houston's 7-8-9 hitters have a double, two homers, four walks, and only four strikeouts. New York's 7-8-9 hitters are hitting .069 with a home run, two walks, and 14 strikeouts. That's pretty much the difference in the series. Neither team has gotten great work from their heaviest hitters, but the bottom of the Astros' lineup picked up the slack in a way the bottom of the Yankees' lineup has not.

5. Up next

Game 4. There is rain in the forecast throughout the day Sunday and it's unclear whether there will be playable window, or whether the rain will be light enough to play through. First pitch is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. ET. MLB makes all weather-related decisions in the postseason and their priority is playing an uninterrupted nine innings. No decision has been made yet and the league will continue to monitor the weather into Sunday. Whenever the Yankees and Astros play Game 4, it will be lefty Nestor Cortes (12-4, 2.44 ERA) and righty Lance McCullers Jr. (4-2, 2.27 ERA) on the mound.

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Astros win

By a 5-0 final. They're a win away from the World Series.

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@Yankees via Twitter
October 23, 2022, 12:44 AM
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Bader with a hit of his own

The Yankees have three hits tonight. Two with two outs in the ninth.

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Carpenter with his first knock of the series

Yankees still down to their last out.

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Bottom of the ninth

The end is near.

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Astros attempting to pile on

They have two on with nobody out here in the ninth.

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Nope, no runs

Houston is three outs away from a 3-0 lead.

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Rizzo hits it hard

But right at an infielder for the second out. Yankees still trying to cash in their first run of the evening.

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Yankees showing some life late

They'll have runners on the corners with one down in the eighth.

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Heading into the bottom of the eighth

It remains 5-0 Astros.

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We're through seven

The Yankees have one hit. They trail 5-0. Houston is six outs from a 3-0 lead.

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Javier done after a one-out walk

He threw 84 pitches in his first start in 21 days. Phenomenal work.

October 22, 2022, 11:24 PM
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on the other side ...

The Yankees have just one hit. They've barely even threatened. This series is a clinic. 

October 22, 2022, 11:15 PM
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Vázquez drives in two more

It's now 5-0. Given how difficult scoring runs has been for the Yankees, it's hard to foresee them winning this game.

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5-0

Christian Vázquez earlier threw Bader out on an attempted stolen base, now he drives home two runs.  We can now close the book on Gerrit Cole and though two were unearned, he ends up allowing five runs. 

October 22, 2022, 11:14 PM
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Mancini records a sac fly

It's 3-0. All three runners advanced.

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That'll do it for Cole

It's Lou Trivino time. Bases loaded, no outs. 

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Gurriel singles to load the bases

Bases loaded, no outs. Season pretty much on the line here for the Yankees. Astros have 7-8-9 coming up. Still 2-0 Houston (in the game and series).

October 22, 2022, 11:05 PM
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