ALCS Game 3: Offense falters against imperfect Cole

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First of all, thanks for your patience waiting for this recap to go up. The 4 o’clock start was pretty inconvenient for us. Anyway, not a great one to recap! The Yankees dropped Game 3 to the Astros, 4-1, and now train the best-of-seven series 2-1.

Houston jumped on Luis Severino early before he could settle down, and even though Gerrit Cole had to battle through the first five innings, the Yankees could never capitalize against him. Let’s get to the takeaways:

Luis Severino bends, but doesn’t break

From the get go, it was apparent that Luis Severino didn’t have his A-game. The first inning was a battle from start to finish; he threw 36 pitches before escaping. Fortunately for him, Sevy only allowed one run. José Altuve clobbered a first pitch hanging slider into the left field seats to make it 1-0.

After Altuve’s homer, Severino loaded the bases. Up came Game 2 hero, Carlos Correa. The star shortstop popped up to end the frame. Crisis averted, but Severino’s struggles weren’t over just yet.

In the top of the second, Severino hung a slider again. This time, to Josh Reddick, one of the two weak links in Houston’s lineup. But even a below average major league hitter can crush a cement mixer into the right field seats at Yankee Stadium. That made it 2-0.

At that point, it sure seemed like Severino’s night should been nearing an end. Instead, he surprisingly pitched into the fifth inning. He had an easy six pitch third inning and worked around a two out double in the fourth frame.

Things got weird in the fifth, though no damage was done. There was a lengthy delay to start the top of the inning because home plate umpire Jeff Nelson needed to be removed with a concussion. It took a long time for Kerwin Danley to replace him. So, with Sevy through four mostly shaky innings with 90 pitches and a long delay between the fourth and fifth, it looked dangerous to try to steal one more inning. Severino retired Altuve to open the frame, but a single and a walk ended Sevy’s night before Chad Green bailed him out of the fifth.

Tonight marked Severino’s seventh postseason start in which he couldn’t finish the fifth inning. He’s made eight total starts, the one good one being Game 4 of the 2017 ALDS against Cleveland. It may be asking a lot of a guy who missed nearly all of 2019 to pitch better in the playoffs, but it’s been frustrating for a couple of years now. He’s capable of dominating, but just has not come through. At least in this ballgame, he didn’t blow up and kept things close.

Too many missed opportunities vs. Gerrit Cole

Cole may have thrown seven shutout innings today, but it was evident that he didn’t have his best stuff either. He escaped trouble on multiple occasions and stranded nine Yankees in this one. It’s one thing to get beat by Cole because he’s dominant, but it’s very frustrating to blow multiple opportunities against him when he’s not at his best.

The first blown chance was in the first frame. DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge led off the game with back-to-back singles. Brett Gardner, unexpectedly hitting third, flew out. Then, the cleanup hitter, Edwin Encarnación popped up for the second out. Gleyber Torres followed with a walk on four pitches to load the bases. And then, inexplicably, Didi Gregorius grounded out on a first pitch changeup. You have to take a pitch in that situation after Cole’s thrown four straight out of the zone.

The Yankees put a couple of runners aboard again in the second inning, but to no avail. With two outs, Aaron Hicks walked and LeMahieu singled. Cole rebounded to strike out Judge to get out of it.

Cole threw a 1-2-3 third inning, but ran into danger again in the fourth. The Yankees staged a mini two out rally: Gio Urshela and Hicks drew back-to-back walks. However, LeMahieu flew out to center to end the frame.

The fifth was the closest the Yankees got to getting on the board. In another two out rally, Encarnación doubled an Torres walked. That brought up Gregorius, who again swung at a first pitch, but this time seemingly had a three-run dinger off the bat. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Did the de-juiced baseball strike again? Sure looked that way.

Cole may have seemed to be on the ropes, but he finished strong. He retired all six batters he faced in the sixth and seventh frames to end his night. In all though, the Yankees stranded nine runners. I get that Cole is elite and is capable of escaping those sort of jams more often than not, but at some point, a good offense has to make him pay.

The seventh inning mess

At the end of the day, the ugly top of the seventh inning didn’t matter since the Yankees only plated one run. That said, it sort of epitomized an ugly night of baseball for the home team.

Adam Ottavino started the inning against his Game 2 nemesis, George Springer. No homer allowed this time, but Ottavino wound up walking Houston’s leadoff hitter. From there, it was off to the races. Ottavino is notoriously slow to the plate, and everyone knew Springer was gonna run at some point. To make it worse though, Springer and Altuve executed a perfect hit and run on the first pitch to the second baseman.

That was it for Ottavino, who ceded to Zack Britton. Yet another bad outing for Ottavino who has really struggled lately.

Britton wasn’t able to put out the fire. Later in the frame, he uncorked a wild pitch and allowed a sacrifice fly to make the score 4-0 at the time.

The lineup needs to be optimized

When the lineups came out early this afternoon, I was very surprised to see Brett Gardner slotted third. I didn’t love EE hitting cleanup either, especially after what I wrote yesterday, but I get hit because of his reputation. Those two went 1-for-8 with 4 runners left on base. Now, hitters six through nine went hitless (but did draw three walks and Didi nearly homered), so it’s not just the three and four hitters’ faults.

Boone tried to explain his batting order after the game:

Frankly, that just makes no sense. Houston didn’t roster one southpaw, so splitting up the left handed hitters shouldn’t matter. Bradford William Davis of the Daily News followed up about this, but Boone danced around it again with not much of a response.

The Yankees only run came in the eighth inning, when Gleyber Torres hit an opposite field homer off Astros’ reliever Joe Smith. That made it 4-1 at the time. For whatever reason, Torres hit fifth tonight after batting third in the first two games. Really just doesn’t make sense to move him down.

Leftovers

  • With today’s loss, the Yankees will have to win at least one more game in Houston in order to advance to the World Series.
  • After Severino exited, Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle delivered 1 2/3 clean innings before Boone went to Ottavino in the seventh.
  • The weather tomorrow looks miserable. Nothing’s been announced yet, but don’t count on Game 4 being played until Thursday. That would push Game 5 to Friday and eliminate the day off between Games 5 and 6.

Hopefully the Yankees can even the series tomorrow, weather permitting. First pitch is scheduled for 8:08pm, but we’ll see about that. Have a good night everyone.

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5 Comments

  1. CountryClub

    Neither Cole or Verlander we’re near the top of their game and the yanks didn’t take advantage. Doesn’t bode well for the rest of the series. But, get it to 2-2 and we’ll worry about the rest later.

    Obviously, certain guys have to start hitting. Hopefully the double by Encarnación is the start of something for him.

    Ottavino hasn’t been right for weeks. They really need to move him way down the pecking order. At the very least, stop bringing him in to get their best hitters out.

  2. Not defending Boone, but no way is it his decision to bat Gardner 3rd. I didn’t like it, but I’m sure the algorithm/quants had their reasons and they got us here.

    That said, Gleyber needs to bat 3rd from here on out. Problem is, there isn’t much behind him now…at least when facing JV and Cole.

    As for Sevy being still less than 100%, maybe. I kind of think this is just who he is, a good not great pitcher with spotty command. First half of 2018 seems a lifetime ago.

  3. Dani

    This series once again shows why the Yanks should’ve acquired top end starters. Verlander vs Paxton, Cole vs Severino (who clearly isn’t at 100%) … a lot has to go right to win these match ups. Cole and Verlander are two of the best pitchers of this decade who are at or very near their peak performance. The Yanks on the other hand sent out a guy that missed almost the entire season and a guy barely made it into the top 30 in WAR and FIP while averaging 5 IP per start. It’s not what you want.

    Just two numbers about Paxton and Severino in this series: combined innings pitched: 6.2; baserunners allowed: 14. Yikes.

    Yes, the bats didn’t do much in games 2 and 3. Then again, they faced Cole and Verlander, hard to blame them. You won’t score a lot of runs against these guys.

  4. Wire Fan

    The difference between the lineups in games 1/2 and game 3? Hicks!

    With Hicks in the lineup they had two lefties, and the switch hitting Hicks spaced 3 batters apart so there was never more than 2 righties in a row. In games 1 and 2 there were only 2 lefties so they had to have stretches of 3 and 4 consecutive righties (which allowed Torres to hit 3rd). Why bother optimizing your lineup based on performance when you can get perfectly spaced platoon match-ups? The Yankees have been doing this crap for years even before the “Judge and Stanton can’t hit back to back” rule.

    You bat your best hitters together (DJ, Judge, Gleyber), anything different at this stage of the season should be a fireable offense. The anonymous analytics guy pushing this crap should be fired. I don’t think for a second this is Boone’s call as it started happening at the end of Girardi’s regime too.

    If the Yankees had Betts, Judge, Stanton and Trout in the same lineup the analytics team would be looking for a reason to get Tyler Wade or the corpse of Greg Bird to hit between them.

  5. Mikenyc2007

    Boom moved Torres down to get some protection for EE who, in the first inning, again showed the patience of a 5 year old when he swung at the first pitch after Gardys AB. I expect more from a vet, batting cleanup, who realizes the moment and that he can go down a strike with runners on base in order to make Cole sweat a little
    More- instead, first pitch swinging on a pitchers pitch… who knows if he works the count, gets cole to throw 3-5 more pitches.. crowd into it etc.
    I feel the same about Didi with the bases loaded, but by then the inning was different.

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