Astros starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) delivers
against the New York Yankees during the first inning
of Game 3 of baseball's American League Championship
Series, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in New York.
NEW YORK — Gerrit Cole is
making his pitch to own this October.
A gritty Cole held the New
York Yankees scoreless without his sharpest stuff, Jose
Altuve sparked Houston at the plate and the Astros locked
down a 4-1 victory Tuesday to take a 2-1 lead in the AL
Altuve and Josh Reddick
homered early off Luis Severino, who labored into the
fifth while keeping the Yankees close. But they never
broke through against Cole, who grinded through seven
innings to win his 19th straight decision despite walking
five batters for the second time in his career.
"Just boiled down to
making some good pitches under pressure," he said.
Cole escaped a bases-loaded
jam in the first and stranded nine runners through five,
improving to 3-0 with a 0.40 ERA in three playoff outings
this year. Poised to become a prized free agent who could
command more than $200 million, he's putting together a
dominant run that's beginning to rival some of baseball's
greatest postseason pitching performances.
right-hander, unbeaten in 25 starts since late May,
allowed four hits and struck out seven. That ended a
streak of 11 consecutive games with double-digit
strikeouts — the previous big league record was eight.
Cole led the majors with 326 Ks this season.
"I think he's the best
pitcher in baseball right now," Astros manager AJ
Hinch said. "Gerrit is locked in. And to see him do
it on the big stage in a playoff game with the magnitude
of this game, it was pretty awesome."
Game 4 in the best-of-seven
playoff is scheduled for Wednesday night — but that
could change. The gloomy weather forecast calls for a
substantial rainstorm, potentially forcing a postponement
that would likely alter pitching plans for both teams.
Gleyber Torres homered in
the eighth off Houston reliever Joe Smith, one batter
after replay umpires reversed a call and ruled Edwin
Encarnación out at first base. That led to a little trash
and a ball being thrown onto the field before public
address announcer Paul Olden reminded fans not to toss any
objects out of the stands.
Roberto Osuna got three
quick outs in the ninth for a save.
"Two more to go,"
Osuna said. "I'm excited."
The bushy-haired Cole grew
up in California rooting for the Yankees and was drafted
by them 28th overall in 2008. He didn't sign, choosing
instead to attend UCLA before the Pittsburgh Pirates
selected him with the top pick in 2011.
Making his second career
start at Yankee Stadium, he got away with several pitches
in key situations. Other times, Cole flashed the filthy
breaking balls and 98-100 mph heat that have made him so
unhittable in October — and unbeatable since May.
His winning streak is the
longest by a pitcher in one year since Rube Marquard began
19-0 for the 1912 New York Giants.
"He's exceptional. And
he gets better and better and better," Hinch said.
"Once he found his curveball, it was pretty lights
out. I think he finished his outing as strong as
After rolling to a 7-0
victory in the series opener, the Yankees — the
highest-scoring team in the majors this season — have
totaled three runs on two homers in the last 20 innings.
"It's obviously a
little frustrating we weren't able to break through with
him," manager Aaron Boone said. "But I think up
and down we gave ourselves a chance. And anytime you're
facing a guy like that, you want that kind of traffic. And
we had that in several innings. He made big pitches when
he had to."
With two on in the fifth
and the Astros clinging to a 2-0 lead, Didi Gregorius
lofted a high fly that Reddick caught at the right field
"The emotions kind of
followed the flyball, right?" Cole explained.
"So it was kind of like low, to freaking out, to not
so worried anymore."
The three-time All-Star
finally found his rhythm after that, retiring his last
seven batters with three strikeouts.
He called his early
fastball command "spotty," but his ability to
pitch out of trouble prevented a lively sellout crowd of
48,998 from really ever letting loose.
"I mean, we just had
to work it," Cole said.
Gregorius also grounded out
with the bases loaded to end the first.
"Most of the game was
on me," he said. "I didn't come through, so I
was the one that failed, not the whole team."
Houston got a rally going
in the seventh against scuffling reliever Adam Ottavino.
George Springer walked and went to third when Altuve
executed a perfect run-and-hit single through the right
After savvy baserunning by
Springer to stay in a rundown long enough to get runners
to second and third, Altuve scored on Zack Britton's wild
pitch. Yuli Gurriel made it 4-0 with a sacrifice fly.
LET'S GET IT STARTED
The 5-foot-6 Altuve
connected on Severino's third pitch for his fourth homer
of these playoffs, extending his postseason hitting streak
to 12 games dating to last year.
"I think everybody
knows I like swinging the bat," he said. "I
don't like wasting too much time on home plate."
Cole has 32 strikeouts in
the playoffs while allowing just one run. He joined Astros
teammate Justin Verlander (2013 with Detroit) and Kevin
Brown (1998 for San Diego) as the only pitchers to whiff
at least 30 and permit no more than one run in a
three-game postseason span, according to STATS.
Yankees LF Giancarlo
Stanton sat out for the second consecutive game because of
a strained right quadriceps. He was replaced in the lineup
by CF Aaron Hicks, who batted ninth in his first start
since Aug. 3 due to a strained flexor near his right
elbow. Brett Gardner shifted from center to left. Hicks
went 0 for 2 with two walks.
OUT AT HOME
Plate umpire Jeff Nelson
exited with a concussion after taking two foul balls off
his mask, causing a 16-minute delay before the fifth
inning. Kerwin Danley, who was at second base, went inside
and changed into gear to work the plate. Mark Carlson
switched from third to second and Marvin Hudson from left
field to third. Severino was given additional time to warm
up again, and the game proceeded with a five-man crew and
no left field ump.
Both teams were planning
bullpen games Wednesday night, but a rainout would allow
them to bring back the Game 1 starters on full rest in
Game 4 if it gets pushed to Thursday.
Masahiro Tanaka beat Zack Greinke in the opener last
Saturday at Houston, improving to 5-2 with a 1.32 ERA in
seven career postseason outings. Tanaka has permitted only
one run and four hits over 11 innings in winning both his
playoff games this year, while Greinke is 0-2 with an 8.38
ERA in two starts.