Yanks unable to 'control the zone' in Game 3

Severino surrenders two homers; Ottavino struggles in seventh

October 17th, 2019

NEW YORK -- The Yankees continue to believe that they can slug their way to a parade through the Canyon of Heroes, even against elite pitching. That has not been the case in two of three games during this American League Championship Series, and it must change quickly if they are to extend their season.

Though the Yankees battled as well as any of his recent opponents, placing multiple runners on base in four of the AL Cy Young Award contender's seven scoreless innings, the Bombers were unable to capitalize as the Astros celebrated a 4-1 victory in Tuesday's Game 3 of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium.

"We did a good job of getting some guys on base early in the game, making him throw pitches," said Yankees outfielder . "He was on the ropes a couple of times and he was able to get out of it. That's what the best pitchers do. Unfortunately, we weren't able to come through with that big hit tonight."

broke up the shutout with an eighth-inning homer off reliever , representing the Yanks' first run since homered in the fourth inning of ALCS Game 2. The Yankees are now presented with the challenge of having to beat either Cole or at least once in order to advance to the World Series.

"Anytime you get a chance to see these pitchers over and over again, I always think it's an advantage for the hitter," Judge said. "You can change your game plan, but you've already seen what they what they're going to try to come after you with. It just takes that one swing to get us rolling and break through."

The Astros lead the best-of-seven ALCS two games to one, with Game 4 now scheduled for 8:08 p.m. ET on Thursday.

Making his fifth start of an injury-shortened season and his second in this year's playoffs, permitted two runs on five hits over 4 1/3 innings. The right-hander struggled in a 36-pitch first inning that prompted early activity in the bullpen, but he held Houston to a pair of solo homers off the bats of and in a 97-pitch effort.

"Two bad pitches -- two sliders right in the middle, to Reddick and Altuve right there," Severino said. "You can't miss with those pitches in the middle. … Overall, I felt pretty good. Taking out those two pitches, those sliders, I feel pretty good. I wanted to stay out there longer."

A sellout crowd of 48,998 was momentarily hushed when Altuve cleared the wall two batters into the game, but it came alive as and Judge singled to open the bottom half of the frame.

In a theme that would continue throughout the day, Cole bent but refused to break against the free-swinging Bombers, needing three pitches to retire Gardner and Edwin Encarnacion. Cole then recovered from a walk to the hot-hitting Torres by inducing a groundout.

"It's obviously a little frustrating we weren't able to break through with [Cole]," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "But I think up and down we gave ourselves a chance. Anytime you're facing a guy like that, you want that kind of traffic, and we had that in several innings. He made big pitches when he had to."

The Yanks' plan appeared to be to "ambush" Cole's first pitch, as the hurler permitted a .356 batting average and a 1.051 OPS on the first pitches of at-bats during the regular season.

"The guy is throwing heaters and we're a fastball-hitting team," explained. "That's what you've got to do. You've got to get ready for it and be ready to put the barrel on it."

Cole stranded two more men in the second and fourth innings, then received a scare in the fifth when Gregorius lifted a deep fly ball to right field. It died on the warning track in Reddick's glove, representing the last gasp of the Yanks' efforts against Cole, who scattered four hits and walked five in a seven-strikeout, 112-pitch performance.

"I knew it hit the barrel, but I missed it," Gregorius said. "I was checking to see if something was going to happen, but I knew I didn't have all of it. … I think most of the game was on me. I didn't come through."

Houston padded its advantage in the seventh inning as struggling reliever permitted both batters he faced to reach base. Zack Britton uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Altuve to trot home with the Astros' third run, and Yuli Gurriel lifted a sacrifice fly that made it a four-run game at the time.

"It's not over yet," Ottavino said. "To win the whole thing, I think I will get another opportunity, hopefully. I am not going to let it define me."

In all best-of-seven postseason series, teams taking a 2-1 lead have gone on to win 98 of 139 times (71%). When series with the current 2-3-2 format have been tied 1-1, those winning Game 3 on the road have gone on to take the series 28 of 38 times (74%).

The Yankees cracked 306 home runs during the regular season and continued to mash in their AL Division Series sweep of the Twins, outscoring the AL Central champs 23-7 across the three games. A 7-0 rout in ALCS Game 1 at Houston suggested that this series could feature more of the same, but the Astros have returned serve by holding Boone's "Savages in the Box" to three runs over their last 20 innings.

"We'll stick to our strengths and continue to control the zone," Judge said. "I felt like tonight, me especially, I chased a lot of stuff out of the zone. When you chase with the caliber of pitching that they've got, especially what Gerrit Cole has been doing, you're going to be in trouble. I think it's just us regrouping and getting back to stay in our zone. That's all we need to do."