Houston took a 2-1 lead in the ALCS with a 4-1 win at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday. Gerrit Cole pitched seven shutout innings as the Yankees left nine runners on base, all in the first five innings.
“It’s obviously a little frustrating we weren’t able to break through with him,” Aaron Boone said.” But I think up and down we gave ourselves a chance. And anytime you’re facing a guy like that, you want that kind of traffic. And we had that in several innings. He made big pitches when he had to.”
Gleyber Torres, Aaron Judge and DJ LeMahieu have delivered in the series. Virtually the rest of the offense has been silenced, which is a common occurrence for teams that face Justin Verlander and Cole, who will finish first and second in the AL Cy Young voting, in some order.
Of course noting any issues at the plate because of a two-game stretch is unfair but such is life in the postseason. The problem isn’t as much as some struggles — Encarnacion and Gregorius batting .083, Sanchez hitting .077 — as much as there being limited options in case Boone wanted to make a change.
The Yankees had three bats available on the bench on Tuesday. One was Giancarlo Stanton, who is day-to-day with a strained right quadriceps. Another is backup catcher Austin Romine. Cameron Maybin was the third. Basically, Boone only had Maybin to play with barring extra innings or an emergency situation.
One difference on Tuesday was that Brett Gardner was batting third and Torres was dropped down to fifth in the order.
“That was just we had a few more lefties, so spacing our lefties out,” Boone said. “Lineup-wise, we switch a lot based on who we have in there. With Hicks being in there and having a third lefty, just kind of getting some spacing within our lineup is all.”
The lineup change reared its head early as Gardner came to the plate with two on and nobody out in the first. He flied out to shallow center. With two outs Torres drew a walk but Gregorius left the bases loaded. Torres homered in the eighth inning for the only New York run.
Austin Romine started behind the plate in Game 4 of the 2017 though Sanchez was still in the lineup as designated hitter and delivered a memorable go-ahead double in the bottom of the eighth. When asked if he would consider starting Romine given Sanchez’s struggles, Boone said no.
“I’m seeing Gary miss some pitches,” he said. “I felt like he got another good one to hit today and put it on the net again. He’s got to take advantage of — especially when you’re facing a team like this with pitching like they have, when you do get a ball that you can handle, you’ve got to make sure it gets in play with authority and not on the net.”
The Yankees still have time to turn things around. But as Yogi Berra (the former Astros bench coach) said, “It gets late early out there.”