As the New York Yankees return to the friendly confines of the Bronx while holding a 1-1 draw in their American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros, they will have to look at the positives of their time in Houston instead of how things ended in Game 2. An 11th inning Carlos Correa home run denied the Yankees the chance to return to New York firmly in control of the series, but with three straight home games ahead, they still have a chance to secure their progression to the 2019 World Series in front of their home fans, as reported by Bleacher Report.
Still, the Astros are fully equipped to take back control of the series with Gerrit Cole taking the mound. Cole, whose 20 wins rank only second to his teammate Justin Verlander, has a strong argument as the best pitcher in baseball after leading the American League in strikeouts and ERA. Cole’s form has continued into the postseason, allowing only a single run over 15 2/3 innings in his two starts against the Tampa Bay Rays. With a win guaranteeing at least a return to Houston that would likely see starts by Verlander and Cole, the Astros are arguably still in control despite their dropped home game.
If the Yankees hope to snatch victory and take advantage of the weaker section of the Astros’ pitching rotation at home, they will have to pull off something that hasn’t happened since July 12. That was the last time Houston lost a game that Cole started, with Cole himself not having picked up a loss since May 22. There is no expectation for a road drop-off, with Cole registering 49 strikeouts while allowing 13 hits in his past four regular-season road games.
While he has yet to pitch at Yankees Stadium this year, he picked up a victory against them in Houston when he struck out six over seven innings. If he gets the added benefit of an Astros’ offense that is coming into form, the Yankees could be in trouble.
The face of that Houston attack is Correa, who while only possessing a 5-of-27 hitting record in the playoffs, picked up two of those in Game 2, including his dramatic winner. Batting behind the consistent Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, Correa will hope to continue his turnaround and pick up some RBIs.
The Yankees would like to see their own offense have a return to form in Game 3, which saw their lineup go quiet in registering only a single hit over the last five innings of Game 2. It was even more disappointing for the Yankees after putting up seven runs with 13 hits in Game 1 and navigating Verlander’s innings in Game 2 admirably. In their last appearance against Cole, Gary Sanchez picked up two hits while Aaron Judge had one. A minor run that nets them a run or two may be the most they can hope for as the Yankees primary aim will be to burn out Cole and get a second chance against the Astros bullpen with the result still up for grabs.
As for the Yankees’ starter, Luis Severino will take the mound without the reputation or expectations that his counterpart possesses. Severino pitched four scoreless innings in his previous last postseason appearance in Game 3 of the American League Divisional Series, but he will need to go a lot farther if the Yankees expect to grab a victory. The Astros feasted on the Yankees’ bullpen in Game 2, scoring two runs on three hits and four walks. While he isn’t going to match Cole, Severino will have to play up to his potential.