MLB Postseason

Gerrit Cole, Jose Altuve swing all ALCS momentum in Astros’ favor

A solid pitching performance from Gerrit Cole and a first-inning homer off Jose Altuve’s bat has completely swung the ALCS in the Houston Astros’ favor.

Late inning heroics by shortstop Carlos Correa lifted the Houston Astros past the New York Yankees in Game 2 of the 2019 ALCS at Minute Maid Park. The homer gave Houston a much-needed 3-2 victory to even the series at one game apiece before it went to The Bronx for three games.

Game 3 was billed to be a battle of aces, as Gerrit Cole would clash with Luis Severino for the right to take a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven series. From the top of the first frame, it was pretty clear that it was the Astros’ night for glory in the Big Apple and the Yankees would be the ones left to pick up the pieces. Houston won Game 3 by the score of 4-1 on Tuesday to take a 2-1 series lead.

Diminutive superstar second baseman Jose Altuve crushed a Severino offering over the left-centerfield fence to make it 1-0 Astros. He continues to be on a tear offensively, as arguably the best offensive second baseman the game has seen in decades. It was a tone-setting home run for the Astros. Cole and the rest of his team fed off that dinger’s energy for the rest of the ball game.

Rightfielder Josh Reddick would hit a moonshot in the top of the second to make it 2-0 Astros. Houston added two more in the top of the seventh to make it 4-0 over the hometown Yankees. But it wasn’t just early offense that lifted Houston in Game 3, it was a strong pitching performance by the soon-to-be free-agent Cole, who thrived without his best stuff.

Cole pitched seven shutout innings against a Yankees lineup that was missing the powerful bat of Giancarlo Stanton. While he did walk five batters, none of them crossed the plate, as he allowed four hits and struck out seven men in pinstripes. He did this without having a great command of his fastball throughout seven frames.

To pitch that well in a hostile environment against the Bronx Bombers was certainly commendable for the Astros right-hander. The visiting team needed him to pitch well and pitch well deep into the ball game for a chance to steal one back from the Yankees. Houston got just that out of Cole to take Game 3 and swing all momentum in Houston’s favor in this best-of-seven series.

While there are two more games left in this series at Yankee Stadium, Houston would only need to win its two remaining games at Minute Maid Park to reach the World Series for the second time in three years. If the Astros take another one in The Bronx from the Yankees, then we’re likely looking at this series ending in five or six games. This one doesn’t feel like it’s going seven anymore.

Dropping Game 1 at home wasn’t ideal, but to win Game 2 at home in walk-off fashion and then dominate Game 3 in its entirety from the first pitch to the final out sends the Yankees a firm and crisp message: The Astros are the best team in the Junior Circuit in 2019. It will take a concerted Herculean effort from the Yankees to win three of the next four to advance to the Fall Classic.

Momentum is a very real thing and it is completely on the side of the Astros in this best-of-seven series. Houston does not have a problem. The Yankees may not have 99, but the Astros are certainly one of them. Houston’s roster has the pedigree of a champion, while the Yankees are only attempting to work themselves into being just that. This may be Houston’s year after all.

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