Houston Astros third baseman Yuli Gurriel (10) and Carlos Correa (1) celebrate Correa's home run during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke) Photo Credit: AP/Michael Wyke
Perhaps the most frustrating part of the New York Yankees finding themselves on the wrong end of a three-game sweep at the hands of the Houston Astros was the way they lost. Yes, the Yankees have their fair share of injuries and they were facing the Astros’ top starting pitchers but the fact that they couldn’t execute defensively or shut it down with what’s supposed to be a shutdown bullpen, was baffling. Certainly, you tip your cap to Houston for cashing in and taking advantage of opportunities but the Yankees should’ve come away with more than a donut in H-Town.
One really couldn’t have drawn up a better scenario for the Yankees. Wear out, Justin Verlander. Have Masahiro Tanaka give you an economical outing. Get a decent cushion from the offense. Hand it off to the bullpen. The formula worked exceptionally until about the seventh when the wheels fell off Zack Britton in a 4-3 defeat to the Astros.
ON THE BOARD BUT NEEDED MORE
With Verlander on the ropes in the third inning, Luke Voit notched a one-out, bases-loaded RBI-single to right. Yet, Gary Sanchez popped out to second base and Gleyber Torres grounded into a force out at shortstop to end the threat.
Yankees strike first in Houston!
Luke Voit muscles an RBI single the other way off of Justin Verlander 💪
Tanaka was spot on most of the evening and set the tone on the bump. Aside from a solo blast to left by Jose Altuve, off a 2-1 splitter in the fourth frame, Tanaka was zeroed in. Although his sixth inning was somewhat laborious, with 78 pitches and the lead, one could argue Tanaka should’ve been given another inning. On his line, it was six frames, three hits, one run, two walks, and three strikeouts.
Clint Frazier carried his swinging authority to Houston and it was on full display in the sixth. Following a two-out double to center by DJ LeMahieu, Frazier nearly crushed a homer to left, a ball hit so hard off the wall it held him to an RBI-single.
Unfortunately, the game began to take a turn for the worse in the seventh with Britton on in relief. Perhaps one could’ve argued for Tanaka staying in or Chad Green or Adam Ottavino being used in this spot but to be fair Britton hadn’t yielded a run to that point in the young season either.
Carlos Correa set the table with a single to center but was erased on a force out by Yuli Gurriel. After Aledmys Diaz grounded out, Tyler White coaxed a walk to keep the rally alive. The ensuing batter Robinson Chirinos wrapped a two-run double for the equalizer.
After Ottavino came on and cleaned up the mess by whiffing George Springer to finish off the seventh, he’d get some bad luck in the eighth. Following a one-out walk to Alex Bregman, a one-out single to center by Michael Bradley placed runners at the corners for the Astros. Then in what can only be described as a “swinging bunt,” Correa hit an infield blooper which rolled 22 feet and registered at 28.9 mph. Houston would take the lead on the play and that was all they would need as the Yankees went down in order in the ninth with Judge ending the game on a 109.1 mph line out to right. Go figure.
Carlos Correa's 22-foot, 28.9 mph infield blooper turned out to be the difference-maker for the Astros. pic.twitter.com/CWnzQr5cUn
So, tell me if you’ve heard this one before? The Yankees battle and get on the board with an early lead via a hit from Voit and place an Astros ace on the ropes late with the chance to hand the game over to their elite bullpen. Yet it was another brutal late loss and a sloppy one at that as the Yankees lost 6-3. To paraphrase the late football coach Dennis Green, the Astros are who we thought they were and we let them off the hook, again.
Voit struck it big in the first frame against Gerrit Cole, hammering a first-pitch fastball to dead center, posting the Bronx Bombers to a 1-0 edge.
Boone also might as well have borrowed a quote from Casey Stengel during his managing days with the New York Mets. The lack of concentration and execution was abysmal.
During the second inning, following a Michael Brantley double, Jonathan Loaisiga was charged with a wild pitch, which easily could’ve been ruled a passed ball on Austin Romine and Brantley advanced to third base. After Correa walked, a Yuli Gurriel sacrifice fly to right field plated Brantley to knot the contest at one.
In the third inning with two on and zero outs, Brett Gardner, who also made a rare error during the sixth inning, inexplicably decides to bunt and subsequently not run out on what he thought was a foul ball. As a result of the inexcusable play, the Astros turned a double play and would retire the ensuing batter Judge on a flyout.
Brett Gardner's uncharacteristic base running blunder marked a turning point in Tuesday's loss vs. Houston. pic.twitter.com/XJEeXm3Yiq
There was plenty more debauchery in the home portion of the inning. Altuve clocked his second homer to left in as many days, giving the Astros a 2-1 advantage, no shame in that. What came after though was puzzling but luckily not costly.
After a Bregman walk, Brantley sliced a single to left to beat the shift and the alert Bregman took third by beating Torres to the bag and Loaisiga, who was somewhat crossed up between covering the bag and backing up and Urshela, who was nowhere to be found.
SANCHEZ SILENCES THE CRITICS
Last season it was Sanchez being lambasted for a lack of hustle and lazy defense but not lately and not in this one.
In the sixth inning, following a pair of walks to Gardner and Judge and a ground ball force out by Voit, Sanchez ripped a two-run double off the wall in left, which also played Tony Kemp and helped the Yankees re-take the lead at 3-2.
During the seventh inning, it looked like Jonatan Holder was cruising after recording the first two out. Yet, Frazier, who had an issue on a borderline difficult play, showed why he needs to oil his glove, place a lacrosse ball in the pocket, put rubber bands around it and break that sucker in. A liner from Bregman went off Frazier’s glove, Frazier then proceeded to pound the outfield grass with his fist for no reason and subsequently threw the ball in, to no one in particular and Bregman had himself a two-out double. Brantley would follow with a double of his own to right and tie the game at three apiece.
The eighth inning was also abysmal. Green, who recorded the final out of the seventh, looked more like the 2018 version of himself than 2017 and his defense didn’t do him any favors. With one out, Green issues a pair of consecutive walks to Josh Reddick and Kemp. George Springer notched a go-ahead double to left, plating two but the Yankees had Kemp, who rounded way off of third, dead to rights until Romine botched the relay throw and allowed Kemp to scamper safely back to third. A sacrifice fly to center by Altuve would score Kemp to cap off the Astros scoring. Capping off the horrible fundamentals was a passed ball by Romine on a third-strike to Bregman but luckily nothing would come of the miscue.
Needless to say, it wasn’t the type of game one would place in a time capsule.
It was a case of too little too late in the series finale. The Yankee bats couldn’t connect on Collin McHugh’s junk and James Paxton wasn’t fooling anyone. There was no late lead to blow in the 8-6 loss but it was still a rough defeat.
GARDY GETS UP
Aside from some questionable dives defensively later in the game, Gardner at least bounced back early after a rough previous game. During the first frame, Gardner drilled a 2-0 fastball from McHugh into the right-field stands for a 1-0 edge.
Three pitches in, the #Yankees have a run, courtesy of the Gardner planting one!
Blame it on the wind? Coming into the evening, Paxton boasted some solid numbers against the Astros since 2017 and had the opportunity to play the role of the stopper. Alas, it was not to be.
Houston bounced right back with the white-hot Altuve squaring the game at one in the first off a 2-0 fastball with a bullet to left. A two-out walk to Correa, followed by an RBI-triple to center by Gurriel, gave the Astros a 2-1 advantage.
In the third, a sharp single by Brantley off a shifted Wade set the table with one out. The ensuing batter Correa added to the lead with an RBI-double to right.
Paxton wouldn’t make it out of the fifth after the Yankees crept closer in the top of the fourth on a sacrifice fly by LeMahieu, yielding yet another home run to left by Altuve. A Brantley single against the shift signaled the end of the night for Paxton.
Kahnle would enter and surrender a two-run homer to center to Correa. After cobbling together a few more hits, an RBI-single to center by Jake Marisnick would give the Astros a 7-2 advantage.
Joe Harvey made a nice first impression in his MLB debut and so did his dad in the YES Network interview. The rookie picked up a brand name whiff by fanning Springer to close out the fifth. Harvey worked a scoreless sixth with a double play ball and struck out three on his two-inning ledger.
Finally not facing the junk from McHugh, the Yankee bats broke out in the eighth inning. Facing Josh James, Judge coaxed a free pass, Voit cranked his second home run in as many days off a 1-2 slider to left-center. A Torres single to right and a Bird base on balls would chase James from the game.
After Romine lined out to second, Houston called on Ryan Pressly and New York sent Sanchez up to pinch hit but he struck out to end the inning.
Is it me or is Britton being left handed the only reason that he and not David Robertson was re-signed this past offseason? Pitching in the eighth inning for Stephen Tarpley, Britton yielded a single to Marisnick, who advanced to second on a throwing error by Torres. Springer, the ensuing batter, would single home Marisnick for the insurance run at 8-6.
The first BP Crew event of the season on April 13 will try to help right the ship for the pinstripes as they return to Yankee Stadium to host the Chicago White Sox for a three-game set starting Friday evening.
Pitching probables, Lucas Giolito vs. TBD (probably JA Happ), Ivan Nova vs. CC Sabathia, Carlos Rodon vs. TBD (probably Domingo German).