NEW YORK – A gritty Gerrit Cole held the New York Yankees scoreless without his sharpest stuff, Jose Altuve sparked Houston at the plate and the Astros locked down a 4-1 victory Tuesday to take a 2-1 lead in the AL Championship Series.
Altuve and Josh Reddick homered early off Luis Severino, who labored into the fifth while keeping the Yankees close. But they never broke through against Cole, who went seven innings to win his 19th straight decision despite walking five batters for the second time in his career.
Cole pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the first and stranded nine runners through five, improving to 3-0 with a 0.40 ERA in three outings this postseason. Poised to become a prized free agent this fall who could command more than $200 million, he’s putting together a dominant run that’s beginning to rival some of baseball’s greatest October pitching performances.
The 29-year-old right-hander, unbeaten in 25 starts since his last loss on May 22, allowed four hits and struck out seven. That ended a streak of 11 consecutive games with double-digit strikeouts — the previous big league record was eight. Cole led the majors in strikeouts this season.
Game 4 in the best-of-seven playoff is scheduled for Wednesday night — but that could change. The gloomy weather forecast calls for a substantial storm with steady-to-heavy rain and wind all night in New York, potentially forcing a postponement that would likely alter pitching plans for both teams.
Gleyber Torres homered in the eighth off Houston reliever Joe Smith, one batter after replay umpires reversed a call and ruled Edwin Encarnación out at first base. That led to a little trash and a ball being thrown onto the field before public address announcer Paul Olden reminded fans not to toss any objects out of the stands.
Roberto Osuna got three quick outs in the ninth for a save.
Cole got away with several pitches in key situations and at other times, flashed the nasty breaking balls and 98-100 mph heat that have made him so unhittable in these playoffs — and unbeatable since May.
With two on in the fifth and the Yankees trailing 2-0, Didi Gregorius flied out to Reddick at the right field fence.
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Houston got a rally going in the seventh against scuffling reliever Adam Ottavino. George Springer walked and went to third on Altuve’s perfectly executed hit-and-run single through the right side.
After some savvy baserunning by Springer to stay in a rundown long enough to get runners to second and third, one run scored on a wild pitch by Zack Britton.
Yuli Gurriel made it 4-0 with a sacrifice fly.