Even when Gerrit Cole isn't at his best, he is the Astros' best shot at winning. On Tuesday night when Cole was just a notch below his usual brilliance, he still held the Yankees scoreless for seven innings, leading the Astros to a 4-1 win and a 2-1 lead in the ALCS.
And even though the bats remained somewhat subdued, the offense used two home runs and some old-school station-to-station baseball to build a cushion the Yankees couldn't overcome.
There were a lot of the things the Astros did right and plenty to discuss after the game three win in New York. Here are four thoughts.
Gerrit Cole is great even when he isn't great.
No pitcher has been as dominant as Cole throughout this postseason. On Tuesday, he wasn't the guy we saw in game five against the Rays, but Cole being less than superhuman is like any other pitcher throwing his best game of the season. And he got better as the game went along, lowering his per-inning pitch count as the innings wore on. He left after the seventh inning with 112 pitches, but it felt like he could have gone the distance. He was in a groove and that has got to scare the crap out of the Yankees for a potential game six or seven rematch.
Catchers aren't the only ones in jeopardy behind the plate.
In the top of the fourth, Martin Maldonado fouled a pitch that smacked home plate umpire Jeff Nelson in the face mask. He made it through the inning but left before the fifth with a concussion. While he was being replaced, the game was delayed nearly 15 minutes. It has been a year that has seen ballparks extend netting down the baselines and discuss fan safety more than ever. They may need to add umpires to the list.
The Yankees are wearing out their bullpen.
After using nine pitchers in game two, the Yankees came back with seven in game three. Starting pitching has been trouble for the Yanks, especially late in the season, thanks to injuries. But they have one of the best bullpens in the game. Still, you have to wonder how much wear and tear they can handle. It appears game four might be postponed until Thursday (more on that below), which would give them time to reset their bullpen, something they definitely need.
All eyes are on...the weather?
Unlike Houston, Yankee Stadium does not have a retractable roof and the forecast looks ominous for Wednesday with a 100 percent chance of rain and gusty winds. Some forecasts are calling for 20 to 30 mph winds with gusts over 40 mph. Don't be surprised if Major League Baseball postpones the game by lunchtime on Wednesday, setting up a compressed four-game-in-four-days schedule (as needed) beginning Thursday. As mentioned, it gives the Yankees a chance to reset their 'pen, but it also allows the Astros to put Zack Greinke back on the mound on regular rest Thursday. Stay tuned.
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