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Series Recap: Yankees go from boost to letdown in H-Town

HOUSTON, TX — This is the pratfall when you write a series recap. The New York Yankees put together a lot of positives and shut down the Houston Astros for the better part of the weekend. Yes, the Yankees took another series but in the end, the Astros took a huge dump in their Cheerios. Maybe a team that’s in fourth place and 3-9 with a chance to sweep a series, shouldn’t get so cocky and find that killer instinct to finish off a sweep instead of spitting the bit again.

Anyhow, headed into the All-Star break, as Bruce Springsteen once sang, it’s “one step up and two steps back,” with this team. Would someone please allow Willie Randolph and Buck Showalter to finish out the season managing this team?

GAME 1

Double your pleasure, double your fun. The Yankees knocked out four doubles and 12 hits total. On the pitching side, they combined for a three-hit shutout with the top four Astros’ hitters going a combined 0-for-16.

XBH

At first glance, this lineup was not inspiring a lot of confidence. Yet, New York was able to split the difference between home runs and scratching out runs via wild pitches.

With two on and two out in the fourth frame, Brett Gardner worked on Jake Odorizzi. Gardner’s grit paid off with a two-run double to right.

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New York was back for more in the seventh stanza. Facing Bryan Abreu, Gardner coaxed a one-out walk, Tyler Wade ripped a double to left, DJ LeMahieu traded spaces with him on a two-run double, doubling the Yankee advantage to 4-0.

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While it didn’t drive in a run, Aaron Judge’s ninth-inning double off Brandon Bielak was a milestone. It was career hit No. 500 for Judge. Judge became the second-fastest (Joe DiMaggio) in franchise history to reach 500 hits and 100 home runs.

NESTOR FOR MAYOR

Among New York pitchers with a minimum of 25 innings pitched, Nestor Cortes Jr. boasts the best ERA at 1.05. His pitches looked crisp and deceived the Houston hitters. Cortes Jr. dazzled for 4.2 scoreless frames, fanning two, walking two, and allowing two hits.

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Following Cortes Jr., Lucas Luetge tossed 1.2 scoreless frames. Chad Green hurled a pair of scoreless frames. Closer in waiting, Jonathan Loaisiga was hitting triple digits on the radar gun for his flawless frame.

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GAME 2

This was a tough as nails classic throwback game. It was nut up or shut up time and the Yankees’ best put on their big boy pants and responded in a 1-0 victory.

JUDGE’S ROBE

Facing Zack Grienke in the third inning, Judge sounded off with a solo bomb to left center. As he rounded the bases, Judge mocked Jose Altuve by tugging on his jersey. It was all the Yankees offense would receive or need on the evening.

COLE HARD FACTS

Yes, the timing was awful for his slump but maybe some guys are entitled to a bad month? Gerrit Cole assuaged the concerns of Yankee fans and once again lived up to his ace billing.

Facing his former team in Houston for the first time since departing after 2019, Cole hurled a 129-pitch masterpiece. His final ledger read a shutout three-hitter with two walks and a dozen Ks. The Yankee ace no-hit the Astros through the first 4.1 frames as well.

With his pitch count up and having allowed a leadoff single to Altuve in the ninth inning, Cole retired Michael Brantley on a flyout and whiffed Yuli Gurriel. He then vehemently told his manager to get the F back in the dugout before pumping a 99 mph fastball past Yordan Alvarez and locked down the victory.

Cole became the first Yankees’ pitcher to throw a shutout with 12+ Ks since Mike Mussina on Sept. 24, 2002.

GAME 3

Where do I even begin with this debacle? Somehow the Yankees manage to one-up themselves on awful, inexcusable losses this season. The 8-7 loss was frustrating on so many levels. Shoutout to our Rich Kaufman on this astonishing stat: MLB teams are 493-2 (.996) when leading by 4+ runs entering the ninth inning this season. The Yankees are responsible for both losses.

SO MANY OPPORTUNITIES SQUANDERED

Yes, the Bronx Bombers dropped seven runs on the Astros but it should’ve been double that amount. From LeMahieu’s baserunning botch in the first inning to stranding the bases loaded with one out in the eighth inning, they didn’t have the killer instinct to bury the Astros and complete the sweep. How do you walk 14 times and go 3-for-16 with RISP? It’s baffling.

Certainly, they did some positive things, Tim Locastro homering in the fourth frame, Gleyber Torres plating a run in the fifth frame, great baserunning by Torres in the seventh inning, and scoring on a Gio Urshela hit. Topping it off as the Yankees appeared to be coasting was Gary Sanchez blasting a three-run home into those stupid Crawford boxes in left and further mocking Altuve in the dugout by donning a jacket in the “icebox” Minute Maid Field.

DO SOMETHING! LITERALLY ANYTHING!

Perhaps the most unfortunate outcome from all of this was that a solid outing by Jameson Taillon was pissed away. Taillon lowered his ERA under 5.00 and provided New York with six innings, fanning four, walking two, yielding three hits, and two runs, both of which came on solo home runs.

Maybe Aaron Boone was afraid of being cussed out again but it’s mind-boggling how everyone could see that Green simply didn’t have it. Would he have fared better if given a clean inning instead of allowing Domingo German to trot back out there in the ninth inning? Perhaps. Yet, it was pretty evident Green was toast and giving people 2019 ALCS Game 6 flashbacks with his flat pitches. With a looming All-Star break and four days off and virtually everyone available on the pitching staff except for Cole (and Loaisiga on the COVID-19 protocol list), and apparently their $16 million dollar basket case All-Star closer, Boone chose not to budge an inch and failed to react to what was happening on the bump with Green.

Green was whacked for four runs on four hits, recording only one out and getting the last laugh once again was Altuve with a walk-off three-run homer to left. Freaking brutal.

ON DECK

At 46-43, the Yankees head into the All-Star break before hosting the Boston Red Sox for a four-game set on Thursday.