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.

"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

- William Shakespeare

You might wonder why there is a puppy picture on a story about the Astros scandal. This little beauty is my Dalmatian, Dynamo. Why is she here? To distract you. To dazzle you. Who doesn't love a puppy picture? Who cares if it has anything to do with the story? She made you look.

And the point is...

Sadly, that is the role of the media these days. Please listen to my rant. Please click on my story. Who cares if the headline isn't accurate? None of that matters. Look at me! I need likes and retweets!

The Astros cheating scandal is the latest story to be overblown, overanalyzed and overexposed. Why? Page views. Ratings. A failing media.

Exploring every angle

None of that is meant to excuse the team. Let's be honest; the Astros cheated. They will be punished, and they should. Draft picks, fines, suspensions. All are possible, and whatever they get is probably warranted.

And that is where the story should end. But that is not what the world is about anymore. It has to be endlessly debated. Pictures of a laptop on a table become the Zapruder film. There HAS to be a conspiracy. Every detail has to be debated. Which side you come down on depends on your biases.

Stupid takes

Some have even said the Astros should be stripped of their World Series title. This isn't college. It's a dumb, look at me take. It will never happen. This is not Avengers: Endgame where you can enter the quantum realm and change the past. It is real life, where events can't be changed. Did the cheating help them win? Who knows? You still have to hit the ball, even if you know what is coming. And it did not make a difference for the Astros pitchers. And harkening back to the steroid era, how do you know the other teams did not do it too and just did not get caught?

The big argument about PEDs was "oh, look at the big numbers the hitters put up." But how do you know the pitchers weren't doing it, too? The same goes here.

Truth is, you don't know. Which is why results can't and shouldn't be changed. Period. To suggest it is just dumb.

More stupid takes

On the Astros fan side, the defenses are just as silly. "They did nothing wrong. Where is your proof? Why aren't there other players coming forward?"

As an aside, let's not leave out the great misleading phrases. "Due diligence." (In other words, we know this is a bad idea, but we want to sound like we know what we are doing). "Witch hunt." (Yes, I am guilty, but this is how I deflect it).

As another aside, if you find an actual witch on your hunt, let me know. I always wanted to meet one.

They cheated. Period. And they will be punished. But the point is not that at all. It's to find every possible angle to get people to read and react. To care more about something than we should, when there are far more important things we should be riled up about. But you are being told to care, so you will keep clicking. It's the new normal, where reporters make themselves the stories and insert themselves into it. And that's why they turn stories like this into major issues. For their own benefit.

Nothing new

This is just the latest media distraction. The Patriots deflated balls saga was the most overplayed, overanalyzed scandal in sports history. Why was it so important? Because hot takes, web sites and analysts told us so. Many hinted at even bigger conspiracies. Why? Because we are a society dazzled by puppies.

Just this past weekend, the entire Colin Kaepernick story was over reported from all sides. The NFL was just doing a PR move. He just wants to be a martyr.

The NFL's waiver was broken down word by word.

Over a guy who hasn't played in three years.

The reason? He gets page views and clicks. And ratings. We keep getting told how important every aspect of the story is to our lives. In truth, it's just another distraction, a false narrative created to keep us dazzled and up in arms. Do we really care about these things? And if we do, what the hell is wrong with us?

Just like the Astros scandal. Is it a bad look? Of course. Are they guilty? Sure looks like it. But punish them and let's move on. We get it. They banged trashed cans. But punishment is never enough. People have to post pictures that might be something. Videos that might be something. Emails that might be something. Add it all up and it doesn't make things any worse. It just creates talking points. And people wonder why so many people consider the media - and social media, as the lines are completely blurred - "fake news."

In the end...

It's not fake news. It's misguided attempts to to keep us coming back for more. And too many of us fall into the trap. We are too distracted by everyone telling us these things are so important that we keep clicking. It takes on a life of its own, and then any theory is possible. Any conspiracy is possible. So we keep reading and digging and we are immersed in it. Look at this! Click on me! In a few weeks the Astros will be the most evil organization that ever lived and should be disbanded. And some of you will believe it and buy in, because that's how distractions work. And once we are distracted? We can believe anything.

Hence the picture of Dynamo. To distract you. By the way, did you notice one of her spots looks like Mickey Mouse? Let the Disney conspiracy begin. We shall start our own tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury.

And we all know what that signifies.

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