Astros avoid sweep as Jose Altuve homers off Chad Green to spark Houston past Yankees
Jose Altuve had one last shot to shut the fans up. The Astros’ diminutive shortstop had been heckled and harassed for three straight days by angry Yankees fans. Altuve, the face of the franchise exposed as cheaters, spent most of Thursday afternoon, his 31st birthday, hearing obscenities shouted at him.
His eighth-inning, three-run home run off Chad Green didn’t quiet his critics in Yankee Stadium, but he had reason to celebrate. That shot was the go-ahead hit that beat the Bombers 7-4 in the matinee finale in the Bronx.
The Yankees (16-15) snapped a season-high five-game winning streak, but have gone 7-2 in their last nine games and 11-5 in their last 16. They already clinched the series with the Astros Wednesday night for their second straight series win and just their fourth series win overall this season.
That home run also snapped a streak of nine straight scoreless innings for a bullpen that came into the game the best in the majors. Justin Wilson gave up a two-run shot to Martin Maldonado (who had gone 79 straight plate appearances without an RBI) in the ninth.
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Green took his third loss and allowed a season-high three earned runs, the most he allowed since giving up three against the Blue Jays on Sept. 7, 2020 in Buffalo.
“Greenie just seems a little bit maybe out of sync, obviously uncharacteristic for him to walk the leadoff guy there,” Aaron Boone said. “I don’t think he was getting pitches, where he normally does and obviously a 3-2 count and Altuve got him.”
Altuve was singled out by the crowds here over the last three days for having edged out Aaron Judge for the MVP in 2017, the year that MLB’s investigators confirmed the Astros were electronically stealing opposing teams’ signs and relaying them audibly in real time to hitters in the batter’s box. There have also been accusations that Altuve may have been wearing a buzzer or some kind of device to alert him to the coming pitch in the 2019 American League Championship, when he hit a walk-off home run off Bombers’ closer Aroldis Chapman.
Altuve proved to be a thorn in the Yankees’ side yet again, despite the shaming the rest of baseball feels he and the Astros deserve.
“I’m just a guy that wants to go out there and help his team win,” Altuve said. “It doesn’t matter where we’re playing or against what team, it’s going to mean the same as always.”
Altuve also had a single off Gerrit Cole, his former teammate, to lead off the game.
Now the Yankees’ ace, Cole helped hold off his former team allowing just two massive home runs to Yordan Alvarez in seven innings in his first time facing the Astros since leaving via free agency for New York. He struck out four and did not walk a batter. Alvarez’s fourth-inning shot to the second-deck in right field was just the second home run Cole allowed this season. Alvarez’s second, in the seventh, made it the first time this season and since last August that Cole had given up multiple homers in a game.
“The fourth was obviously, just a mistake,” Cole said of the Alvarez turning on his pitch. “I mean, I tried it once and tried to double up on it. It was a pretty good pitch, but was not as close to him as the one before, so I gave him a chance. And then, I just pulled the last one. It happens.”
Giancarlo Stanton extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a solo shot in the third inning. It was his ninth of the season and the third straight game he homered in. Clint Frazier homered in the fourth, a big break for the left fielder who came into the game hitting 5-for-59.
Every run in the game was scored on a home run — except the Yankees’ in the eighth. That was scored on Gleyber Torres’ guile and good observation.
On first base with Aaron Hicks hitting, the Astros shifted their infield to the right, leaving third baseman Alex Bregman to cover the entire left side. Torres scored on Hicks’ infield single when the Houston shift left no one covering third base or home plate.
“It’s an incredible heads up play by Gleyber,” Boone, who admitted he was a little shocked when Torres took off for third, said. “I saw him racing around second and I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah. OK.’ And then just continue to be heads up.”