NEW YORK — Cristian Javier and Houston’s bullpen combined on a three-hitter, Chas McCormick followed a dropped flyball with an early two-run homer and the Astros beat Gerrit Cole and the New York Yankees 5-0 Saturday night to take a 3-0 AL Championship Series lead.
“That’s what the game’s about,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said “Even though it may not be, you have to kind of fool yourself that it is a break. And it’s amazing whatever you think can happen usually does happen. That was huge.”
Some Yankees fans, already angry after two losses in Houston, booed star slugger Aaron Judge after a pair of strikeouts and jeered manager Aaron Boone during pregame introductions.
The 106-win Astros, trying for their second straight AL pennant, improved to 6-0 this postseason. On the verge of reaching the World Series for the fourth time in six years, Houston aims to close out the series on Sunday night when Lance McCullers Jr. starts against Nestor Cortes.
Only one of 39 teams has recovered from a 3-0 postseason series deficit to win, Boston against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. Thirty teams completed sweeps.
Javier pitched seven innings during the Astros’ combined no-hitter at Yankee Stadium on June 25 and was nearly as sharp this time. He didn’t allow a ball out of the infield until Giancarlo Stanton’s one-out double in the fourth — the only hit Javier allowed.
Making his first start since Oct. 1, the 25-year-old right-hander pitched 5 1/3 innings, striking out five and walking three.
Héctor Neris, Ryan Stanek, Hunter Brown and Rafael Montero followed with hitless relief, and Bryan Abreu gave up a pair of two-out singles in the ninth.
New York, which last reached the World Series when it won in 2009, is on the precipice of elimination against Houston for the fourth time in eight seasons. After sprinting to a 61-23 record in early July, the Yankees spiraled to a 38-40 mark the rest of the way and have sputtered in the playoffs.
Judge, who set an AL record with 62 home runs during the season, went 0 for 4 and dropped to .156 with 14 strikeouts and three RBIs in the playoffs, including 1 for 12 against the Astros.
“Obviously, he’s the biggest force and key in our lineup, so we need to get something from him,” Boone explained. “But that said, to win these games, you need a little something from everyone. Sometimes that can be something small, sometimes it can be something big, sometimes it can be something unexpected.”
New York is hitting .128 in the ALCS with 41 strikeouts and has lost eight of 10 to Houston this year, throwing just 13 pitches with a lead. Boone shrugged off the boos.
“You can’t get caught up in that,” he said.
Gold Glove center fielder Harrison Bader made a costly error in the second inning and was caught stealing second by Vázquez after a leadoff walk in the fifth.
As Bader was about to catch Vázquez’s two-out fly to right-center in the second, Judge cut in front of Bader and the ball popped out of the center fielder’s green glove. Vázquez, thinking he was out, had already started cutting across the infield grass toward Houston’s dugout on the third-base side, then retreated to first.
McCormick, the No. 9 hitter, hit a fastball 335 feet to the opposite field, and the ball hit the right-field short porch and bounced into the seats for his second home run of the series. The drive would not have been a homer at any other major league ballpark, according to Statcast.
Astros teammates celebrated in the dugout with the Chas chomp — exaggerated clapping with arms spread wide. The gesture appears to have been initiated by Astros fan Scott Agruso, who attends games at Minute Maid Park wearing an alligator suit.
Cole, baseball’s highest paid pitcher with a $324 million, nine-year deal, allowed a home run for the 11th consecutive start. He walked off the mound stone faced when Boone removed him in the sixth.
Alex Bregman doubled leading off, Kyle Tucker walked and Yuli Gurriel blooped a single down the right-field line.
Lou Trivino relieved and Trey Mancini, in his first start of the series, made it 3-0 with a sacrifice fly that advanced all three runners. Vázquez lined the next pitch into left, Trivino’s second straight slider, driving in two more runs.
“I was sitting on it,” Vázquez said.
Jose Altuve hit an opposite-field double to right in the Houston fifth for his first hit after an 0-for-25 postseason start, the longest in postseason history.
Baker got his 46th postseason win as a manager, moving past Dave Roberts for fourth behind Joe Torre (84), Tony La Russa (71) and Bobby Cox (67).
Josh Donaldson was dropped as seventh in the Yankees’ batting order for first time since April 16, 2013. Stanton played the spacious left field at Yankee Stadium for the first time in three years.
Cortes starts after winning Game 5 of the AL Division Series on short rest and McCullers takes the mound for the Astros in his first appearance since Oct. 15 against Seattle in the Division Series. His elbow was bruised by a champagne bottle during the celebration after the 18-inning win.
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