Astros shut out Yankees to take 3-0 ALCS lead

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NEW YORK — Chas McCormick got just enough of a Gerrit Cole fastball over the plate to send it just off the top of the wall and into the right field seats.

As he rounded the bases, his teammates were waiting for him with their arms spread wide and intense clapping, a routine known as the “Chas chomp.”

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Now the Houston Astros are on the verge of celebrating another trip to the World Series.

McCormick’s two-run homer off Cole in the second inning were all the runs the Astros needed, and they took a three-games-to-none lead in the American League Championship Series with a 5-0 victory over the scuffling New York Yankees on Saturday.

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Game 4 is Sunday night. The Astros are one win away from reaching their second straight World Series and fourth in six seasons.

The only team to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a postseason series was the Boston Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees.

With several family members in the stands, McCormick hit his second homer of the series following an outfield miscue by New York. After right fielder Aaron Judge cut in front of center fielder Harrison Bader on Christian Vazquez’s fly ball, leading to an error charged to Bader, McCormick sent a 1-1 fastball down the right field line.

After hitting a home run in the first game of the series, McCormick said he “came out a little slow” in Game 2 and “wasn’t ready to hit the fastball. I was getting beat by it. So, I just wanted to make sure I was actually ready today. I know Gerrit throws a lot of strikes. I just didn’t want to miss his fastball, and he threw a good one on the outer half, my strength, and I put a good swing on it.”

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The 335-foot drive was the second-shortest postseason homer since 2015.

“It was a couple of inches over the plate (more than) we wanted to, and obviously the bounce went his way,” Cole said. “That’s a pitch I’d rather do over.”

“That was a huge part of the ball game, especially because Cole was kind of knifing through us at that time, and we know he’s a tough pitcher, one of the best in this game,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said.

As McCormick rounded the bases, his enthusiastic teammates began clapping and chanting his name similar to Houston fan Scott Agruso, who sports an alligator suit at home games and started the chant.

“I like how my teammates are into it now,” McCormick said. “Around the bases I see them always chomping. … I said before in case I hit a home run, I’m going to round third base, hit the chomp a couple of times to my teammates, and I got to do that today, and it was fun.”

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“It’s kind of like his thing now, and we like it,” said Houston second baseman Jose Altuve, who snapped an 0-for-25 skid with a double. “It gives him a little emotion to go out there and play the way he’s been playing. He’s been really good. He’s been one of the best players in this playoff, and he deserves that.”

Also fun for the Astros were their latest dominant pitching performance; Cristian Javier and five relievers combined on a three-hitter.

Javier allowed a double to Giancarlo Stanton in the fourth and went the first 5 1/3 innings, giving him 12 1/3 innings of one-hit ball at Yankee Stadium this season.

“They’re really good,” New York manager Aaron Boone said. “Obviously, I think it starts with their pitching. The starters, they’re able to run out there, coupled with a lot of really good arms out of the bullpen. But we got to find a way, and it starts by trying to grab one tomorrow.”

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Javier (1-0), who combined with Hector Neris and Ryan Pressly on a no-hitter in New York on June 25, struck out five and walked three in 5 1/3 innings.

After Javier was lifted with a runner on first and one out, Neris struck out Judge on three pitches and retired Giancarlo Stanton on a groundout, prompting boos from the crowd.

Ryne Stanek struck out the side in the seventh as the boos intensified.

Hunter Brown walked the first two batters he faced in the eighth and retired the next two hitters, and Rafael Montero retired Judge on a soft grounder to end the inning.

Bryan Abreu allowed consecutive two-out singles to Matt Carpenter and Bader before striking out Josh Donaldson to end it.

The Astros’ Trey Mancini and Vazquez contributed in their first starts of the series. Mancini hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the sixth, and Vazquez followed with a two-run single off Lou Trivino.

The Yankees fell to 2-8 against Houston this season and are hitting .128 through the first three games after batting .182 in the ALDS against Cleveland.

Cole allowed five runs (three earned) on five hits in five-plus innings. He struck out seven and walked two and exited with the bases loaded following a single by Yuli Gurriel.

–Larry Fleisher, Field Level Media

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