The Houston Astros couldn’t afford to lose Game 2 of the ALCS to the New York Yankees on Sunday. Carlos Correa made sure they didn’t.
Correa’s walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning won the game 3-2 for Houston and tied the best-of-seven series at one game apiece as it moves to Yankee Stadium for Game 3 on Tuesday afternoon.
The Yankees won Game 1 with a convincing 7-0 shutout against Astros starter Zack Greinke. They almost beat Justin Verlander on Sunday, with Aaron Judge’s two-run home run to the opposite field in the fourth inning putting the Yankees up 2-1.
The Astros were suddenly faced with a dilemma. If they don’t get back in this game, they risk going down two games in the series heading to New York with the Yankees having already beaten two of their three best pitchers.
George Springer solved it for them, hitting a long home run to left-center field off Adam Ottavino, the third of nine pitchers the Yankees would use in the game to tie a postseason record.
The bullpens for both teams shut down the offense from there; the Yankees held the Astros hitless for six innings, Astros pitchers for four. Finally, on the 180th pitch from a Yankees hurler in the game, Correa took the first one he saw from J.A. Happ, a slider, to the opposite field to send the 43,359 fans at Minute Maid Park home happy as the clock approached midnight in Houston.
With one swing of the bat, the Astros went from a big hole in the series to retaking their place as the team to beat. That role is helped by who will take the mound at Yankee Stadium in Game 3.
Gerrit Cole is coming off two starts against the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS that were as dominant as any pitcher has ever been in the postseason. He struck out 25 hitters in 15.2 innings, the second-most strikeouts through two games in postseason history, and gave up one run. During the regular season, the Astros right-hander led the American League in ERA, set an Astros franchise record with 326 strikeouts, the most by a right-hander in more than forty years, and had the most strikeouts per nine innings of any starting pitcher in history.
The Yankees are suddenly the team with questions going into Game 3. Luis Severino will start, but the right-hander has only played in four games all season long. He’s yet to go past the fifth inning in any start. The Yankees trotted out nine pitchers on Sunday, so if Severino can’t last deep into the game, fatigue will start to become an issue in their bullpen.
They also don’t have a definite starter ready for Game 4, making it likely they will employ an opener. That will put even more pressure on a bullpen that was worked to the limit on Sunday.
A win on Sunday could’ve made these issues easier for manager Aaron Boone. Correa, who beat the Yankees with a walk-off double in Game 2 of the ALCS back in 2017, took care of that by doing it again. The Astros are not only back in the series – they’re back to being favorites.
Last modified: September 23, 2020 1:09 PM