NEW YORK (AP)Cristian Javier and the Houston Astros aren’t just beating the Yankees, they’re chomping them up. And now Dusty Baker’s team is on the verge of an astonishing four-game sweep.
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 Yankees 5-0 on Saturday night to take a 3-0 AL Championship Series lead.
”We’re not going to come out any slower than we did today,” McCormick said after setting off another round of the Chas Chomp celebration in Houston’s dugout. ”We’re going to be ready to play tomorrow and go for the sweep.”
Trying for their second straight AL pennant, the 106-win Astros improved to 6-0 this postseason and need one win for their fourth World Series trip 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.
McCormick, the No. 9 hitter, launched his second home run of the series for a 2-0 second-inning lead after Gold Glove center fielder Harrison Bader let Christian Vazquez’s flyball bounce out of his green glove for an error.
”It’s a loud atmosphere. … Calling it until the very end and we both got a little spooked,” Bader said. ”He’s like 9 feet tall, so you don’t want to get anybody hurt.”
Aaron Judge had sprinted over from right and cut in front of him.
”At the last second I hear him. I’m trying to get out of the way,” Judge said. ”I definitely messed him up on that play.”
McCormick drove a fastball 335 feet to the opposite field, and the ball hit the right-field short porch and bounced into the seats.
”It was a couple inches a little more over the plate than we wanted to and obviously the bounce went his way,” Cole said.
It would not have been a homer at any other major league ballpark, according to Statcast.
”That’s what the game’s about,” 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.”
Houston players responded to the homer with exaggerated clapping, arms spread wide. The gesture appeared to be initiated by Astros fan Scott Agruso, who attends games at Minute Maid Park wearing an alligator suit.
”It’s cool. I like how my teammates are into it now. Around the bases I see them always chomping,” McCormick said. ”It fires me up, and 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.”
Houston loaded the bases in the sixth and chased Cole. Trey Mancini followed with a sacrifice fly off Lou Trivino and Vazquez added a two-run single.
Javier pitched seven innings during the Astros’ combined no-hitter at Yankee Stadium on June 25. Making his first start since Oct. 1, the 25-year-old right-hander gave up one hit, struck out five and walked three in 5 1/3 innings. He didn’t allow a ball out of the infield until Giancarlo Stanton’s one-out double in the fourth.
Hector 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,” manager Aaron Boone said.
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.
Bader was caught stealing second by Vazquez after a leadoff walk in the fifth.
”We shut down the momentum from them,” Vazquez said. ”It was awesome.”
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.
”About as frustrated as you can get,” Cole said.
Some Yankees fans, already angry after two losses in Houston, booed Judge after a pair of strikeouts and jeered Boone during pregame introductions.
”I understand why there’s boos and why there’s yelling at times,” Judge said. ”We’ve got to pick it up as a team.”
Jose Altuve hit an opposite-field double to right in the fifth for his first hit after an 0-for-25 postseason start, the longest in postseason history.
”It’s been obviously hard personally,” Altuve said. ”but it’s been a lot easier too because we’ve been winning.”
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 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.
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports