Gerrit Cole will face his toughest challenge yet

Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: ALCS Game 3 Preview

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Astros made a big statement in Game 2 by eliminating the 7-0 shutout loss in Game 1 from their memory and by battling the Yankees into extra innings for an eventual 3-2 walk-off win off the bat of Carlos Correa. However, the Yankees still accomplished a challenging road split in Houston, setting themselves up to take advantage in a big way if they can perform well in their home stadium for the next three games.

Houston will have the advantage on the mound for Tuesday's Game 3, as they hand the ball to the electric Gerrit Cole who has been nearly unstoppable this season including two dominant starts in the ALDS. They will need their bats to back him up and build on their success of Game 2 to come out with a 2-1 advantage in the series. Here is a quick look at Tuesday's Game 3:

Game Facts

When: Tuesday, 3:08 p.m Central.

Where: Yankee Stadium - The Bronx, New York.

TV: FS1.

Streaming: Fox Sports App.

Pitching matchup: Gerrit Cole vs. Luis Severino.

Series: tied 1-1.

Series schedule

Date & Time (Central)LocationPitching matchup
Game 1Yankees 7, Astros 0Minute Maid Park, Houston TXGreinke (L) vs Tanaka (W)
Game 2Astros 3, Yankees 2 (11 innings)Minute Maid Park, Houston TXVerlander (ND) vs Paxton (ND)
Game 3Tuesday 10/15, 3:08 PMYankee Stadium, Bronx NYCole vs Severino
Game 4Wednesday 10/16, 7:08 PMYankee Stadium, Bronx NYTBD vs TBD
Game 5Thursday 10/17, 7:08 PMYankee Stadium, Bronx NYTBD vs TBD
Game 6*Saturday 10/19, 3:08 PMMinute Maid Park, Houston TXTBD vs TBD
Game 7*Sunday 10/20, 6:38 PMMinute Maid Park, Houston TXTBD vs TBD

* If necessary
+ Projected Starters

Game Storylines

Can the Cole Train keep rolling along?

After his ALDS Game 5 victory, Gerrit Cole improved to 2-0 this postseason with 25 strikeouts and a 0.57 ERA and matching WHIP. He's been dominant and overpowered opponents for most of the year, but he has turned it up a notch since August where he has gone on his run of eleven straight starts with double-digit strikeouts, while allowing more than two runs just once over that span while allowing one or less in eight of those eleven. Also, during that stretch, he has reliably gone deep into games, reaching at least the seventh inning seven times.

Cole faced these Yankees, albeit a much different version of their lineup, back on April 9th when he allowed three runs over seven innings as the Astros would eventually mount a comeback win to give him a no-decision. The Yankees will be one of his toughest opponents he's faced this year and in one of the most hostile environments. If he can set the tone early and quiet the rowdy New York crowd, he can continue his fantastic stretch of games and help push the Astros ahead in this series.

Houston's offense needs to take another step

After the disappointing shutout loss in Game 1, the Astros responded with some timely offense to tie and eventually get the walk-off win in Game 2. While a few runs may be enough behind Gerrit Cole if he can continue his dominance, Houston's key bats, including a surging Carlos Correa, need to expand on their improvements in Game 2 to take another step forward and capitalize against New York's pitching.

Be sure to check SportsMap after the final out for an in-depth recap of the game, and follow me on Twitter for updates and reactions throughout each playoff game: @ChrisCampise

The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome