If you'll notice, the Astros have not fared well in the third game of series for the past month. The Astros are 1-5 in the third game of a series since mid-September, including a 10-3 mashing at the hands of the Red Sox in the A.L.D.S. So perhaps it should not have been a shock that the New York Yankees clobbered Houston Monday in the third game of the A.L.C.S. The score was 8-1 in favor of the Bombers but the Astros still hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven sweepstakes to reach the World Series.
Fans celebrate Frazier's HR
(c) Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle
C.C. Sabathia, the 37-year-old lefty who makes just slightly less than Justin Verlander, showed why in the October chill as he handcuffed Houston on three hits over six innings, although he walked four. Adam Warren followed with two shutout frames before the combo of Dellin Betances and Tommy Kahnle went wild in the ninth with three walks which allowed Alex Bregman to chase home Marwin Gonzalez to avoid the shutout.
The outcome was not in doubt by that time. Charlie Morton allowed a three-run homer to Todd Frazier in the second on a ball that just flew over the right field fence. Morton was responsible for four of New York's five runs in the fourth but the fifth was a home run by Aaron Judge into the left field seats off Will Harris to cap New York's run production for the night.
Judge was also a defensive star with a leaping (sort of) stab of Yuli Gurriel's drive in the third that was headed to the fence as well as a diving grab in the fifth which tested the 6-7 slugger's nimbleness.
Houston had some scoring chances but were not able to cash in until it was almost over. The overwhelmingly pro-Yankee crowd of 49,373 gave their team the "thumb's down" signal, a reaction of a disgruntled Mets fan that went viral and became the Bombers' adopted rallying gesture.
If Astros fans would like some good news, it's that Collin McHugh tossed four innings of no-hit ball in relief of Harris. McHugh was not even on the postseason roster for the Boston series. At worst, he saved the rest of the Houston bullpen, especially closer Ken Giles, from further wear and tear in the series. At best, maybe he will emerge as the Game 7 starter if one is needed since one would expect Dallas Keuchel and the rubber-armed Verlander will go in Games 5 and 6 respectively if the series goes that far.
Manager A.J. Hinch is rolling the dice Tuesday on the hot-and-cold Lance McCullers to start Game 4. The first-half All-Star has recently fit a pattern of sailing along in his first time through the batting order but coming undone the second time. Hopefully, Hinch won't leave him in once trouble starts since he has Brad Peacock, Joe Musgrove and Chris Devenski all on speed dial if he needs a multi-inning relief effort.
As with Game 2, the two clubs will need to come back on short rest Tuesday. The first pitch will be just after 4 p.m. Central so that the Cubs-Dodgers series can take the prime time spotlight. Sonny Gray, the former Oakland star whom the Astros pursued as a mid-season trade target, will pitch for the Yankees. Gray is 4-7 since New York picked him up and was the losing pitcher in one of the Cleveland series contests.
- Bob Hulsey