Astros-Yankees: HRs lead New York to 8-1 win; Astros lead series 2-1

Aaron Judge (99) celebrates with Chase Headley after his three-run homer. Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Yankees' bats came to life on Monday night, including big home runs from Todd Frazier and Aaron Judge, and the team also got a great start from C.C. Sabathia to get a win in Game 3 of the ALCS.

The Yankees benefited from big hits and strong pitching to get their first win of the series in a dominating 8-1 win over the Astros in Game 3. Judge and Frazier both hit three-run homers while Sabathia pitched six innings while only allowing three hits to the Astros.

The Astros still lead the series two games to one.

The top of the first inning got underway with George Springer swinging on the first pitch, which resulted in a groundout. Alex Bregman followed and despite an extended at-bat went down swinging, followed by Jose Altuve who also struck out, making it a 1-2-3 inning for Sabathia. Didi Gregorius put down a two-out bunt against Charlie Morton for a single but was caught leaning at first base to end the inning.

Evan Gattis drew a two-out walk in the top of the second but was left stranded as Sabathia was able to strike out Marwin Gonzalez to end the half inning. Starlin Castro reached on a two-out infield single in the bottom of the inning, followed by a bloop single by Aaron Hicks to center. Frazier capitalized on the situation, hitting an opposite-field homer to right field to give the Yankees the early 3-0 lead, their first lead of the series before Morton was able to get out of the inning.

Springer drew a two-out walk in the top of the third and moved to third on a single by Bregman, followed by a walk by Altuve to load the bases. Sabathia was able to strand all three, though, getting Carlos Correa to pop out to end the threat. Altuve made a fantastic diving stop on a ground ball by Gregorius and threw it over to first which was originally ruled not in time, but after a review was reversed for the second out of the inning. Morton got a groundout by Gary Sanchez to send the game to the fourth still 3-0 in the Yankees favor.

In the top of the fourth, Yuli Gurriel hit a ball to right field that carried nearly to the seats but was hauled in by Judge as he crashed into the wall. The Astros grounded and flew out to get Sabathia through the half inning on just seven pitches. Greg Bird led off the bottom of the inning with a ground rule double down the left field line, then moved to third on a fly out by Hicks. Frazier walked, putting runners on first and third with two-outs, followed by a single from Chase Headley to put the Yankees up 4-0. Morton hit Brett Gardner with a pitch to load the bases, prompting A.J. Hinch to go to Will Harris in the bullpen to face Judge. Frazier came across on a wild pitch, making it 5-0 Yankees before Judge hit his second postseason home run to give the Yankees a commanding 8-0 lead before Harris was able to finally get the last out of the inning.

The Astros stranded two more runners in the top of the fifth after a leadoff walk by Josh Reddick and single by George Springer. Collin McHugh came in in relief in the bottom of the inning and was able to get the first 1-2-3 inning of the night for Astros pitching.

Correa led off the sixth with an infield single, then advanced to third on a throwing error by Gregorious allowing Gonzalez to reach first with two outs. They became the seventh and eighth Astros stranded on base, however, as Reddick grounded out to end the top of the inning. McHugh was able to record another scoreless inning in the bottom half, leaving the score 8-0.

With CC Sabathia's excellent night done, Adam Warren took over for the Yankees to start the seventh and was able to work around a leadoff walk to Cameron Maybin to get through the inning. McHugh returned for his third inning of work and put the Yankees down in order.

Adam Warren remained on the mound for the top of the eighth and despite a couple of loud outs to deep center field was able to get the Yankees three outs away from their first win of the series. Collin McHugh, despite issuing a walk, had another hitless inning in the bottom half, making it four straight for him on the night.

Dellin Betances came in to pitch the ninth for the Yankees, but after back-to-back walks was pulled in favor of Tommy Kahnle. Maybin singled to load the bases, then the Astros got their first run of the night on a walk to Bregman. Kahnle was able to end the threat by getting Altuve to ground into a double play to end the game and seal the 8-1 win for the Yankees.

Game 4: First pitch of Game 4 will be a little earlier tomorrow, scheduled for 4:08 PM Central and can be seen on FS1. The Yankees will start Sonny Gray who had a record of 10-12 this year with a 3.55 ERA. Gray's first postseason start was not a great one, he was the starter in the 4-0 loss in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Indians where he went just three and one-third innings and gave up three runs and four walks. The starter for the Astros has not yet been announced but will likely be either Brad Peacock or Lance McCullers.

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The Astros have 12 games left in the regular season. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

A five-year anniversary Astros-Dodgers World Series matchup would be a doozy on several levels. It’s the most likely matchup, but that doesn’t make it probable much less inevitable. Still, my goodness are they towering over their respective leagues as the regular season is into its final two weeks. With an 8-4 finish over their remaining games the Astros equal the franchise record 107 regular wins amassed in 2019. If the Astros don’t lose again and total an awesome 111 victories, they still probably don’t catch the Dodgers for homefield advantage should they meet in the Series. The Astros are heading to their seventh postseason in the last eight years, the Dodgers to their 10th in a row. That is insane sustained excellence for both. However, each has won only one World Series during these runs. Eight different franchises have won the last eight World Series. From 1982 through 1990 nine different franchises won the World Series.

And then, there were twelve

With the Astros down to a dozen games left as they arrived in Baltimore, a dozen Astros thoughts:

Justin Verlander's start in the series opener vs. the Orioles is his antepenultimate (hoity-toity word for third from last) regular season start. Verlander needs the win in all of them to finish 20-3.

Jose Urquidy starts Friday. In his three remaining starts Urquidy must show better than he has in his last couple or there would be no good reason to go with him over Cristian Javier as the Astros fourth starter in the postseason.

Framber Valdez goes Saturday trying to add on to his single season Major League record of 25 consecutive quality starts. It’s not an official statistic, and “quality” is a stretch when three earned runs allowed in six innings qualifies, but it is remarkable that Framber has had zero bad outings 25 straight times out. The evidence can’t be clearer than NO OTHER PITCHER IN THE HISTORY OF THE GAME has done it. In 18 of the 25 Valdez has yielded no more than two earned runs. Verlander has been magnificent all season. His longest “quality start” streak is 10. Verlander has made 25 starts, meeting the “quality” definition in 20 of them.

Decisive game five of their American League Division Series matchup, the Astros lead 3-2 after seven innings with the opposition top of the order due up in the eighth. Since the robot managerial handbook dictates Ryan Pressly be saved for the ninth, which Astro reliever do you most trust in the eighth?

Yordan Alvarez is batting .302 with 37 home runs and 94 runs batted in. The only Astros ever to hit .300 with 40 homers and 100 RBI in a season are Jeff Bagwell (twice), Lance Berkman, and Richard Hidalgo. As frame of reference, Albert Pujols did .300/40/100 six times. Mike Trout has never done it.

Yordan is obviously the better hitter but Kyle Tucker is the better all-around player. The Astros signed Alvarez for six years 115 million buying out three years of potential free agency. Tucker is on the same service time schedule as Alvarez was, not free agent eligible until after the 2025 season.

Free agent-to-be Aledmys Diaz looms large in the Astros’ postseason lineup. He largely stunk through July 4th but has been firecracker hot since, giving better production per game played than a healthy Michael Brantley would have given. Doubting me? Don’t. From July 5 forward Diaz has a higher slugging percentage than Yordan.

Yuli Gurriel’s defense at first base remains excellent, but if he looked any more washed up at the plate than he has most of this season he might wake up in front of the Galveston Seawall.

It’s just 41 games but other than an early power surge following his acquisition, Trey Mancini has not impressed. Gurriel needs to be replaced, but Mancini hasn’t made much of a case that he’s the man for the job next year.

Jose Altuve’s spirits seemed fine in the dugout Wednesday night after he was removed from the game an inning after taking a pitch off of his left elbow. The elbow needs to be fine. Like Yordan, an injured or ineffective Altuve renders the Astros’ lineup no better than mediocre.

Chas McCormick is fine as part of a platoon in center field. James Click should be in the market for a left-handed hitting CF complement for next season, or a right-handed hitter who handles right-handed pitching adequately. If Click is back as General Manager. What gives there, Jim Crane?

The Astros have played one game all season with Minute Maid Park’s roof open. That should change on the final home stand. It likely won’t, but it should. Most evenings are comfortable now once the sun is down, and it’s not like the air conditioning has to be turned off as the roof opens. The optimal ballpark experience has the roof open. And…if the Astros make it back to the World Series and MLB then dictates the roof be open if rain is not a factor, it is sensible to get a few games under their belts with roof open conditions.

Finessing the game

Whatever one thinks of the LIV golf tour, it absolutely is hurting interest in the PGA Tour. Too many big name players grabbing LIV megabucks is crushing the marketability of PGA tournament fields. Like the upcoming Houston Open November 10-13 for instance. Want a “free” ticket to any remaining Astros home game this year? Just buy a golf ticket through this Sunday.

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