NEW YORK -- The Astros' batting order, one of MLB's best all season, is stacked with some of the brightest right-handed bats in baseball: Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa and more. Yet on Monday night at Yankee Stadium, they were stymied by 37-year-old lefty Carsten Sabathia.
In Game 3 of the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World, Sabathia shut out Houston for six innings in the Yankees' 8-1 win. The Astros' starting lineup -- with eight of nine hitters batting right-handed, holding the platoon advantage -- managed just three hits against Sabathia, striking out five times.
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For all of Houston's success this season, its record facing left-handed starters remains a strange quirk. The Astros have a losing record against lefties, 23-25, including the postseason. They are 83-38 against righties, including their wins in Games 1 and 2, started by the Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino.
But the Astros have reason to take solace. For one thing, Sabathia is the only left-hander in the Yankees' rotation, and they won't see him again until a potential Game 7 in Houston. For another, they've already beaten two left-handed starters this postseason, Boston's Chris Sale and Thomas Pomeranz -- and Sale was the AL's best left-hander this season.
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"Yeah, [it's strange]," Astros catcher Evan Gattis said. "It's just kind of been that way. We got on Sale, thank goodness, in the DS. You've got to tip your cap to CC. He threw a great game."
In Games 4, 5 and 6 (if necessary), the Astros will get three right-handers -- Sonny Gray, plus Tanaka and Severino again. They knock around righties. As a team, the Astros hit an MLB-best .283 against right-handers in the regular season, with 179 home runs, which ranked fifth. Their .827 OPS against righties was tops in MLB. The Yankees were a distant second at .795.
It's not like the Astros don't hit left-handers, though, despite the losing record against lefty starters. Their .278 regular-season batting average and 59 home runs against lefties both ranked fourth in the Majors, and their .814 OPS tied for second.
Plus, even if the series gets to Game 7, the Astros' key hitters still have excellent splits against left-handed pitching. Altuve, for example, hit .339/.412/.514 against left-handed starters. Springer hit .298/.416/.646, and Correa's slash line was .384/.451/.632.
Those factors suggest that the record might be an aberration. It's possible that in a smaller sample of games started by left-handers -- Houston has faced 121 righties to 48 lefties -- the Astros have been dealt more than their share of effective outings. In 15 of the losses, including Monday's to Sabathia, the lefty starting against them threw a quality start, going at least six innings while allowing three runs or fewer.
Monday's loss could just be an example of Sabathia at his wily best, rather than a symptom of a mystery disease ailing the Astros' lineup.
"He was moving the ball around. He gets you off balance," Springer said. "When a quality guy like that doesn't make a mistake, it's hard to hit him."
Even Josh Reddick, the one left-handed hitter who did start against Sabathia, said he didn't necessarily look at the Astros' upcoming games against righties as a reprieve.
"Not really," Reddick said. "I'm not really that concerned about it. Sabathia's had some pretty good numbers against me in my career, but I've felt like I wasn't overmatched. No, not really worried."