The excellence of Gerrit Cole dominated much of the narrative coming into Tuesday afternoon. This game was a pretty good exhibit of why.
Cole didn’t exactly mow down the Yankees. As team, they picked up four hits and five walks. They even had several innings where they put runners in scoring position. It’s just that they could never get the one big hit to break through, and Cole managed to keep the Yankees off the board for seven innings without his best command, striking out seven along the way.
The Yankees pitchers weren’t bad, with one notable exception, they just weren’t flawless. This was a game where they needed to be at least mostly flawless. The Astros took a lead early, and the Yankees didn’t answer until it was too little too late. The Yankees dropped the game 4-1, and now find themselves in a 2-1 hole in the series.
On the third pitch of the game, Jose Altuve took a Luis Severino pitch into the bullpen in left, giving the Astros a very early lead. The following inning, Josh Reddick hit another solo shot.
Severino settled down after that and would get through 4.1 innings. After he allowed a single and a walk in the fifth, Aaron Boone went to the bullpen and brought in Chad Green, who got out of jam with with no runs allowed. Severino’s final line would two runs allowed on five hits and three walks, with six strikeouts.
The Yankees’ problem in this game was not a Severino issue, it was a Cole issue. They put runners on in several early innings, but could not push any of them across. The closest they came was in the fifth when a Didi Gregorius died on the warning track.
The failure to finish off one of those chances especially came back to haunt them in the seventh. Adam Ottavino came in to start the inning but was pulled after allowing a walk and a single. Zack Britton came in and got Michael Brantley to ground into a fielder’s choice. The Yankees got the lead out, but the insuring rundown moved both of the other runners into scoring position. A wild pitch and a sac fly would then plate both of those runs.
Cole threw one more scoreless inning before the Astros’ bullpen took over in the eighth. With one out in the inning, Gleyber Torres finally got the Yankees on the board with a solo home run.
After Britton, Luis Cessa threw a pair of scoreless inning in his first appearance of the postseason. Torres’ home run ended up being the only hit the Yankees recorded against the Astros’ bullpen, as Roberto Osuna closed things out in the ninth.
With two games left in this series in New York, the Yankees don’t have a lot of wiggle room over the next couple days. It’s not an elimination game, but tomorrow’s about as close to must win as you can get.