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Cole Train roars through New York in Astros 4-1 win

Homers by Altuve and Reddick carry Astros to 2-1 lead in ALCS

League Championship Series - Houston Astros v New York Yankees - Game Three Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Start spreading the news: Gerrit Cole is the best pitcher in baseball.

Cole went seven scoreless innings for the Astros to win his 19th straight decision and help the Astros take a 2-1 lead over the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.

Cole is now 3-0 this postseason with a 0.40 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 22 23 innings.

He hasn’t lost in over 25 starts and entered tonight with a 1.66 ERA and 251 strikeouts since May 27, the date of his last defeat.

The FS1 broadcast had some great tidbits about how long ago Cole’s last loss really was. On May 27, the Washington Nationals were 19-30. They’re now one game away from capturing their first pennant. On May 27, Kevin Durant was a Golden State Warrior and Russell Westbrook was still with the Oklahoma City Thunder. They’re both with new clubs, and one now resides with the hometown team. On May 27, Yordan Alvarez was at Double-A Round Rock. He’s now the frontrunner for AL Rookie of the Year.

My how times have changed.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the constant that is Gerrit Cole every five days. The Astros have won 16 in a row when Cole toes the rubber, and they had the lead before he even set foot on the mound tonight.

After George Springer grounded out to start the game, Jose Altuve ambushed a first-pitch slider from Luis Severino into the Astros’ bullpen in leftfield to put Houston up 1-0 two batters into the game.

The longball extended Altuve’s Major League record for home runs by a second baseman in postseason history and placed with him some good company.

It also tied with him Springer for the Astros’ postseason mark.

That was the first homer Severino allowed all season, albeit he’s only thrown 17 innings.

The Astros worked a couple walks around an infield hit from Yuli Gurriel to load the bases with two outs, but Carlos Correa popped out to second base end the inning. Severino needed 36 pitches, however, to record the game’s first three outs.

The Yankees responded with a scoring threat of their own in the bottom half. DJ LeMahieu hit a leadoff single that caromed off second base and Aaron Judge pushed a base-hit against the shift to put runners at first and second with no outs. Cole retired the next two batters before walking Gleyber Torres to load the bases. Cole was able to induce a groundout from Didi Gregorius to force both teams to leave the bases loaded in the first inning.

Josh Reddick clubbed a no-doubter to the second deck in rightfield to start the second inning and give the Astros a 2-0 lead.

It was the first RBI of the 2019 postseason for Reddick and his second postseason home run in seven playoff series with the Astros.

Cole retired the first two batters in the bottom of the second inning before a walk and single brought Judge to the plate with runners on first and second. Cole uncorked a nasty sequence to get Judge swinging and strand the Yankees’ fourth and fifth baserunners through the first two innings.

Although the Astros didn’t put up any more runs on Severino, they pushed his pitch count to 90 through four innings with a patient approach. After consecutive walks to the bottom of the Yankees’ order, Cole worked out of another two-out jam by retiring LeMahieu to keep New York off the board.

The game came to a nearly 20-minute stop at the end of the fourth due to an umpire change. Original home-plate umpire Jeff Nelson left after taking a foul tip off his mask and replaced by Kerwin Danley, who needed extra time to put on his gear.

Soon after played resumed, a base-hit by Michael Brantley and four-pitch walk to Alex Bregman forced Severino from the game. He finished his ledger with 4 13 innings and allowed two runs on five hits with three walks and six strikeouts.

Chad Green came on in relief and retired Yuli Gurriel on a well-hit ball right at a Yankee outfielder (again). Green then struck out Yordan Alvarez and it began to feel like the Astros—who were 1-14 with runners in scoring position in the series at that point—just could not come up with a big hit.

Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-out double down the leftfield line with two strikes in the fifth for his first hit of the series. A two-out walk to Torres—Cole’s fifth of the game, which tied a career high—brought about another frightening scoring opportunity for the Yankees.

And it looked like they would cash in when Gregorius skied a monster flyball to leftfield. Somehow, the ball stayed in the park and fell into Reddick’s waiting glove at the wall for the third out.

It was shades of Cody Bellinger circa 2017, World Series Game 2. Fortunately, the outcome was the same. And it produced this gem.

The Astros promptly took advantage of the Yankees’ missed opportunity.

Springer worked a leadoff walk against Adam Ottavino to reach base for the first time Tuesday night and only the third time in three ALCS games. The Astros put on the hit-and-run on the next pitch, which enabled Springer to advance to third on a single by Altuve through the vacated right side.

The Yankees brought in lefty and slider deluxe Zach Britton to try to escape the jam, and they nearly did. Brantley grounded a ball to first base and Springer was caught in a pickle. He alertly forced the Yankees into a rundown while motioning Altuve to take third and Brantley second before he was tagged for the first out of the inning.

League Championship Series - Houston Astros v New York Yankees - Game Three Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

After an intentional walk to Bregman loaded the bases, Britton throw one of his patented sliders in the dirt and it got past Sanchez. Begrudgingly, the ball hit Danley square in the chest and prevented Altuve from scampering home. But then Britton threw another one in the dirt on the next pitch, this time eluding both Sanchez and Danley, and Altuve scored to make it 3-0.

League Championship Series - Houston Astros v New York Yankees - Game Three Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Gurriel ended his at-bat with a sacrifice fly to left—his first RBI of the series—that scored Brantley and pushed the Astros’ lead to 4-0.

The insurance runs came just as Cole was beginning to reassert his dominance. After striking out two in the sixth, he had a perfect shutdown seventh inning and retired seven straight batters to culminate his night. Cole allowed four hits, struck out seven, and walked five in his latest postseason gem, a 112-pitch outing.

Joe Smith entered in relief of Cole in the bottom of the eighth and had an eventful outing even though he faced just two batters.

Encarnacion, the first batter, hit a slow grounder to third and Bregman’s throw pulled Gurriel off the bag as the runner was initially ruled safe. Replay clearly showed Gurriel applied the tag on Encarnacion’s helmet before his foot hit the bag.

MLB: ALCS-Houston Astros at New York Yankees Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

What a play by Gurriel, and boy was that a big first out because Torres went yard two pitches later. The blast was his second homer of the series for Torres and third in just six playoff games so far this postseason.

Astros’ skipper AJ Hinch called upon Will Harris, who has quickly become the club’s most trusted reliever, to shut down things. Harris needed only three pitches to get two outs and move things onto the ninth.

Following a scoreless top half of the ninth, Roberto Osuna got the call in search of his first save this postseason. And he got it, retiring the Yankees in order to preserve the win. Since his Game 2 mini-meltdown against the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS, Osuna has retired 11 straight batters.

And the Astros are up 2-1 in the League Championship, a place in which they’ve previously experienced great success.

Box score and videos here.

Neither side has announced a starter for Game 4, which surely figures to be a bullpen day for both clubs. When the game will happen is also in doubt, with rain forecast for the New York City area all day tomorrow. First pitch for Game 4 is scheduled for Wednesday at 7:08 CT and will air on FS1, though there’s a distinct possibility of a postponement until Thursday evening.