Gerrit Cole and Jose Altuve lifted Houston to big road win

Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: Astros take ALCS Game 3 for 2-1 series lead

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Astros come out on top in ALCS Game 3 with a 4-1 win in New York against the Yankees. Houston received seven shutout innings from Gerrit Cole and a big offensive day from Jose Altuve, who was 2-for-5 with a solo home run. They now lead the series 2-1 and need two more wins to advance to the World Series.

After falling behind 0-1 in the ALCS, Houston worked a home split against New York with a walk-off win in ALCS Game 2. The series shifted to New York for the next three games, giving the Yankees a chance to benefit from playing in front of their home crowd. Here is a recap of Game 3 from Yankee Stadium:

Final Score: Astros 4, Yankees 1.

Series: Astros lead 2-1.

Winning Pitcher: Gerrit Cole.

Losing Pitcher: Luis Severino.

Altuve and Reddick give Astros an early lead

In the top of the first inning against Luis Severino, the Astros received a big hit to try and keep the crowd out of the game. It came off the bat of Jose Altuve, who launched a one-out solo home run to left-center field to give Houston the quick 1-0 lead. They would continue to pester Luis Severino in the first, loading the bases before all three runners would be stranded to end the half-inning.

In the top of the second, Josh Reddick doubled Houston's lead with a solo home run to right field to make it 2-0. While after the first inning, it looked as though the Astros would be able to push Severino to an early exit, New York's pitcher would settle in well and make it through four and one-third innings before the Yankees went to their bullpen.

Cole goes seven scoreless innings

Meanwhile, Gerrit Cole was not able to put together his typically dominant pitching against the powerful Yankees lineup. New York, like the Astros, would load the bases in the first inning, but Cole would end the threat to strand all three. That would be one of several frames that Cole would have to deal with traffic, as he would allow five walks and four hits over the first five innings.

He would follow those five stressful innings with two terrific ones, though, retiring the last seven batters he faced in order including 1-2-3 innings in the sixth and seventh. While he didn't reach double-digit strikeouts as he had over his last eleven starts, it was still as, if not more, impressive of a start when it hit the scoreboard: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 5 BB, 7 K, 0 HR.

Houston extends their lead and pulls out Game 3 win 

Houston was able to add on to their lead by playing "small ball" in the top of the seventh. George Springer started the inning with a leadoff walk, then moved to third on a well-executed hit and run with Jose Altuve. Michael Brantley would hit a groundball next to cause a force out of Springer at home, but not before Springer could stall long enough to let Altuve advance to third and Brantley to second. An intentional walk to Alex Bregman loaded the bases, then a wild pitch scored one run before a sacrifice fly by Yuli Gurriel scored another, doubling Houston's advantage to 4-0.

After Cole's seven innings, Joe Smith would be the first reliever on the mound for Houston at the bottom of the eighth. He would allow a one-out solo home run to Gleyber Torres, resulting in another call to the bullpen to bring in Will Harris, who would finish the inning. The Astros then turned to their closer, Roberto Osuna, to preserve the three-run lead and get a save. He would come through, getting a scoreless inning to finish off the win.

Up Next: Currently, ALCS Game 4 is slated for Wednesday at 7:08 PM Central. However, rain threatens that time with a possible postponement in the works to move the game to Thursday and move Game 5 to Friday. With the game day and time up in the air, so is the expected pitching matchup. Should the game be played tomorrow, both teams are expected to have a bullpen day, with the Astros looking to Jose Urquidy for at least part of that. If the MLB postpones the game until Thursday, that opens the opportunity for a rematch of Game 1 between Zack Greinke and Masahiro Tanaka, should the two managers go that route.

The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.

Houston accused of more wrongdoing

New report of illegal sign-stealing puts Astros back under scrutiny

Jason Behnken / Getty Images

Back in 2017, the Houston Astros could be considered the darlings of the MLB. They helped pull a Harvey-ravaged city out of despair and into a celebration in a matter of months with the acquisition of Justin Verlander and subsequent World Series victory. The young team full of potential suddenly had the attention of not only fans but other MLB clubs and the league's front office.

On Tuesday, that attention reared itself yet again in a severely negative way, with the Athletic reporting (subscription required) that former-Astro Mike Fiers was alleging and confirming that his former team used illegal means to steal signs in their 2017 championship season. Fiers, along with three other anonymous sources with the team in 2017, claims that the team used cameras and other technology to monitor opposing catchers to relay signs to batters in real-time. The Astros have released the following statement:

"Regarding the story posted by The Athletic earlier today, the Houston Astros organization has begun an investigation in cooperation with Major League Baseball. It would not be appropriate to comment further on this matter at this time."

While GM Jeff Luhnow had this to say:

Another negative blow to the team's reputation

This is not the first time the Astros have been under a microscope in recent years, the most recent being less than a month ago when assistant general manager Brandon Taubman taunted reporters in the Astros clubhouse following their ALCS series-clinching win. The Astros fumbled that event, coming out with a rebuttal against the reporter, which would eventually be retracted, and Taubman terminated from his employment.

Neither is this the first time the Astros have dealt with accusations of sign-stealing and other forms of cheating. In this year's ALCS, the Yankees complained about a "whistling" noise from Houston's dugout they believed to be a method of relaying pitches to batters at the plate. Also, in the 2018 postseason, the Astros found themselves under fire for having an employee taking photos of the opposing team's dugout.

It's just part of the game until it's not

Both pitch tipping and stealing signs are things that are nearly unavoidable in baseball. With the catcher having to relay a sign to the pitcher 60.5 feet away using his hands, the opposing team will inevitably try to decipher what's coming. The same is true of tipping, where if a pitcher has a tell before a specific pitch, that information will quickly spread through the dugout.

However, there is a line teams should not cross, and that comes by way of utilizing technology to aid further the ability to steal signs, and using that to give an immediate advantage to a batter amid an at-bat. The Astros are not the first team to be alleged of this type of grievance, as the Red Sox received a fine after utilizing a smartwatch to try and steal signs.

It's a widely known and accepted fact that teams will try anything within reason to get a leg up on their opponent. However, with technology ever improving both for organizations to use and be caught by, it's no surprise that this is becoming an issue that the MLB will have to deal with, and soon.

Ramifications could loom large

Will the Astros be found guilty and made an example of to deter other teams for trying similar tactics? It appears we will have to wait for the conclusion of this investigation to find out. While it may not be an indictment of the entire team, it will bring into question the integrity and character of many of the team.

Still, no matter the outcome, the report alone and continued negativity surrounding the Astros organization has made them villains of many, a role that many would not have expected this team to play if asked just two years ago.

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