Yankees look to Cole, Cortes as saviors in the Bronx

Cole and Cortes with Yankees slugger Aaron Judge

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HOUSTON — The game between the Yankees and the Astros was close. Houston had more runs in the end. Despite Aaron Boone making a change in the lineup, the Yankees failed to hit longballs and lose the game on their own.

With Houston taking an all-important 2-0 lead in the ALCS at Minute Maid Park, New York fans have started pondering what is going to happen. Now all their hopes and the Yankees’ season have come down to look at Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes as potential saviors. On complete rest and at The Bronx, they could do that.

“Regardless, if it’s 2-0 or if it’s 1-1 or it’s 0-2, it just, it can’t affect the way I go about my business,” Cole said. “We all have a job to do. We play each and every game in and of itself, play each and every pitch within each and every game until there’s no more pitches to play, win or lose.”

Offense remains a concern for the Yankees

If the Yankees win Games 3 and 4, they might have a chance to avoid another elimination by Houston. In the 2022 season, the Yankees are running out of pitches, mostly because they are running out of batters. The Yankee lineup is weak because Andrew Benintendi and DJ LeMahieu never came back and Matt Carpenter did, but he was in such bad shape that he had been struck out in all seven postseason at-bats.

In seven post-season games, the Yankees have only hit .169. They got over this bad mood and beat the Guardians in the ALDS. But the Guardians are from the AL Central, which is the Yankees’ favorite place to pick on. When they play Houston, the Yankees are the ones who get hit. They lose both games against them with nine hits and four runs. Game 2 was a 3-2 loss.

When asked about the faltering offense, Cole said, “I feel like I should probably dedicate all my focus to the Houston hitters, really. That’s probably the best way to combat that.”

Being at home might help. The Yankees have lost all eight of their playoff games at Minute Maid Park since 2017, with a total of 13 runs. So, Game 2 was just like Game 1.

On Thursday, Houston starter Framber Valdez made two mistakes that helped the Astros score two unearned runs in the fourth inning. That made it 3–2 for the Yankees. The thing stayed there. From Gleyber Torres’ RBI infield single that got the Yankees within one run to Carpenter’s pinch-hit whiff that ended the game.

Throughout the playoffs, 18 of New York’s 24 runs have come from home runs. Eleven home runs have been responsible for 18 of those 24 runs. It’s the same as last season, when the Yankees drove in a league-high 50.8% of their runs with home runs, compared to the average of 39.8% for the big leagues.

All year, when the Yankees were ahead of the Astros, they only threw 13 pitches, all of them in the second inning of Game 2. During the regular season, the Astros went 5-2 against the Yankees, and the only time the Yankees were ahead was when Aaron Judge hit a walk-off home run.

Pretty close contest

Each of the nine games this year has been decided by three runs or less. Both teams are pretty close. But these teams have played 82 innings together this year, and the only two times the Yankees have been ahead after an inning was over was when Aaron Judge hit a walk-off home run in games on June 23 and 25.

In the eighth inning on Thursday, Judge almost hit a home run that would have put his team ahead by two runs. But his dart that was going 106.3 mph broke on the warning track. The Yankees thought it fell because of the wind. This was only the second game at Minute Maid Park this year where the roof was open. MLB decides whether to open or close based on the weather. The Astros would rather it be closed so it’s louder inside for the people who are there to watch. So, the Yankees wanted it to be open.

Alex Bregman’s 91.8 mph fly ball to left might have been helped by the wind to become a three-run homer in the third, which was Houston’s only run. But the way this series has gone for years now makes it impossible for anyone to think that these games are coming down to air currents.

The Astros are doing better

The Astros are doing a better job than the Yankees. So now, only Cole on Saturday and Cortes on Sunday stand between Houston and beating the Yankees for the fourth time in the playoffs since 2015. The Yankees have won three and lost four of their playoff games so far. Cole has won his first two races. Cortes won the ALDS’s most important Game 5 after getting three days off.

Cole and Cortes, who are both All-Stars, are the Yankees’ best starting pitchers. They are also their best chance to get rid of the reruns of Close games. Houston has won. They are going home.

On Saturday, the $324 million man for the New York Yankees will take the mound at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees are down 2-0 to the Houston Astros in the AL Championship Series.

So now the Yanks have to win four out of five games against a team that is 7-2 against them this year. Against a team that plays as if it knows it is better with every pitch and every inning. That it knows how to pass any Yankee test.

Can Cole and Cortes bring the Yankees back to contention in the ALCS?

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