yankees odds
Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees handed the ball to Gerrit Cole and went for a three-game sweep of the hated Houston Astros.

Josh Benjamin

The New York Yankees entered Thursday in a strong position to sweep the Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium. Not only had the Bronx Bombers taken the first two games of the series with practical ease, but ace Gerrit Cole was on the mound this afternoon.

The story writes itself. Cole reached his ace potential in two years with the Astros before signing with the Yankees as a free agent last year.

Contrastingly, on Houston’s end, Lance McCullers Jr. was the arm who stifled New York’s bats in four scoreless relief innings in Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS. In case anyone forgot, that was the year the Astros cheated and stole signs en route to winning the World Series.

Sadly, the New York Yankees’ bullpen crumbled late, and only partial revenge was had in a 7-4 loss.

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Starting pitching

Most of this game was such a pitcher’s duel that it practically could have been a deleted scene from Tombstone. Cole, ever the New York Yankees ace, pitched seven innings of two-run ball despite not being as dominant as usual. He scattered five hits and didn’t walk anyone, but only struck out four. Mind you, Cole was averaging an AL-best 14.8 K/9 entering this game.

Lance McCullers was solid for the Astros as well. He walked the bases loaded in the first inning, but escaped without allowing a run. He wound up lasting six innings and allowed three runs on six hits, but had more command of the zone than his former teammate. On the afternoon, McCullers had eight strikeouts and made minimal mistakes.

Just the same, between the two, Gerrit Cole easily won the duel and proved exactly why the Yankees signed him to a nine-year, $324 million deal.

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Offense

It was a homer-happy day at Yankee Stadium as both the Yankees and Astros let the longball define their respective offenses. Giancarlo Stanton continued his hot streak with an opposite-field bomb into the bullpen. Later, Clint Frazier took advantage of the short porch in rightfield with a two-run blast of his own.

However, Houston’s homers were the ones that counted. Yordan Alvarez hit two solo blasts which served as Cole’s only mistakes on the day. Jose Altuve had a happy birthday after being booed all weekend when he launched a go-ahead three-run shot in the eighth.

It certainly made fans miss the small-ball the New York Yankees succeeded with earlier in the series.

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Bullpen

Any time the New York Yankees bullpen struggled, there’s clearly a disturbance in the universe. Either Thanos found another Infinity Gauntlet and snapped Chad Green, or someone robbed the Cave of Wonders again.

Green had a 3-2 lead entering the eighth inning and was doomed from the get-go. After a leadoff walk to Kyle Tucker, he allowed an infield single to Aledmys Diaz. Even worse, Tucker moved to third on Gio Urshela’s throwing error.

Enter Altuve, who worked the count full before launching a 96 mph fastball into the left-field seats. At that point, Houston just had to cruise and hold the line while the Yankees dealt with a rare off day.

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Final thoughts

The good news for the New York Yankees is they never gave up despite the loss. Taking two of three from the Houston Astros at home was exactly what this team needed, even though the sweep would have been nice.

Next comes a three-game weekend series with the struggling Washington Nationals. Hopefully, this loss isn’t the start of another cold streak.

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