NEW YORK — Five years ago, Gerrit Cole was still a few months away from being traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Houston Astros.
Back then, the New York Yankees dropped the first two games of the 2017 American League Championship Series in Houston before winning three straight at home.
After two losses in Houston this week, Cole gets the start for the Yankees in Game 3 on Saturday as they attempt to fight their way back in the ALCS.
“If it’s 2-0 or if it’s 1-1 or it’s 0-2, it just, it can’t affect the way I go about my business,” Cole said. “We all have a job to do.”
Cole went 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA in winning Games 1 and 4 against the Cleveland Guardians in the Division Series. He extended New York’s season by allowing two runs in seven innings and throwing 110 pitches Sunday.
In 16 career postseason starts, Cole is 10-5 with a 2.81 ERA. In his two postseasons with Houston, the right-hander was 5-2 with a 2.17 ERA in seven starts.
Since joining the Yankees on a nine-year, $324 million deal, Cole is 1-1 with a 1.17 ERA in three starts against the Astros. He has allowed 12 hits and struck out 24 in 23 innings against Houston.
“It’s tough to narrow it down to one thing,” Cole said of the Astros. “But probably one characteristic that connects all the dots is the way that they play together.”
While Saturday is not an elimination game, it could put the Yankees on the verge of seeing their season end, especially if the offensive woes continue. New York won a five-game Division Series against Cleveland despite hitting .182 and in the first two games of their third ALCS against Houston, the Yankees are batting 9-for-65 (.138) with 30 strikeouts.
“We got to score,” manager Aaron Boone said. “They’re about as tough as there is to score against. But we got to figure out a way.”
On Thursday, New York took a 3-2 loss when its lone runs came in the fourth on Anthony Rizzo’s groundout and Gleyber Torres’ infield single. New York also used its third different leadoff hitter of the postseason as Harrison Bader went 1-for-3 with a walk after hitting four homers out of the seventh spot.
Aaron Judge, who led off the first two games against Cleveland, also got a hit but added a warning track fly ball and is 5-for-28 in the postseason after setting an AL record with 62 homers.
“I think we have to shorten up a little bit, try to put the ball in play,” Giancarlo Stanton said. “You never know what could happen if you put the ball in play.”
The Yankees have never overcome a 2-0 deficit in the ALCS. The closest they came was against Houston in 2017 when they opened the series with a pair of 2-1 losses before scoring 19 runs in the next three games.
The last team to overcome a 2-0 hole in an ALCS were the 2004 Boston Red Sox when they beat the Yankees and became the only team to rally from a 3-0 deficit.
Houston is 5-0 in the postseason, winning their games by a combined seven runs. The Astros’ pitching has allowed just six runs since opening the postseason with an 8-7 win against the Seattle Mariners.
Houston is getting enough timely hitting to compensate for going 4-for-32 with runners in scoring position and Jose Altuve being hitless in 23 at-bats.
On Thursday, Alex Bregman hit a two-strike, three-run homer off Luis Severino in the third inning. In the series opener Jeremy Pena, Yuli Gurriel and Chas McCormick hit solo homers.
“We got a few guys hot. We would like to get everybody hot before it’s over with,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said
Houston announced Friday that Cristian Javier will start Game 3, nearly four months after combining with Hector Neris and Ryan Pressly on a no-hitter in New York. Javier struck out 13 in seven innings on June 25 and is making his first start since pitching six scoreless innings against Tampa Bay on Oct. 1.
Javier is making his first career postseason start after going 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA in 12 relief appearances, including Game 1 of the ALDS against the Mariners.
Javier got the call after the Astros moved right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. back one day. McCullers sustained a celebration-related cut on his pitching elbow after Houston finished off the three-game sweep of Seattle on Saturday.
–Larry Fleisher, Field Level Media