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Yankees vs. Astros takeaways: Gerrit Cole shuts down former team; Aaron Judge seems to be mocking Jose Altuve

Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, the New York Yankees and Houston Astros continued their three-game series that wraps up the first half of the season. The Yankees won Friday’s opener behind spot starter Nestor Cortes Jr. (NYY 4, HOLD 0).

There is no love lost between these two clubs who have been frequent opponents after the season in recent years. The Astros eliminated the Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game 2015, ALCS 2017 and ALCS 2019. Yankees fans bowed Houston relentlessly in response to the cartoon-stealing scandal when they visited New York in May.


7;s game was a nineteenth pitcher duel and one of the most entertaining games of the 2021 season. The Yankees won the game 1-0 to win the series victory (box score). Here are four takeaways from Saturday’s match.

Judge seemed to mock Altuve


Aaron Judge rode in Saturday’s only race with a solo home run on the train tracks in the left field in the third lap, and as he rounded third base and he made a pulling motion with his jersey that certainly looked like a reference to Jose Altuve does not want to remove his jersey after his ALCS walk-off home run in 2019. Here are home runs and referees rounding out third:

Yes, it’s hard to look at it as anything other than a judge mocking Altuve. The referee played it cool after the game, but instead of admitting his true intentions.

“Every time they keep the roof closed here, it’s a little chilly. I just asked my teammates to push up a little bit,” Judge told reporters, including MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch.

Fair or not, there has been speculation that the Astros used sums to steal signs in 2019, and Altuve, who did not want to remove his jersey after the ALCS walk-off home run, has been cited as evidence. He has vehemently denied it, saying he was “too shy” to remove his shirt.

Many players around the league were outspoken after the news of the sign stealing scandal broke, including the referee. He said: “I just do not think (their 2017 World Series title) has any value. You cheated and you did not earn it,” when asked about the last spring training.

In MLB’s report describing its investigation into the sign steel scandal, Commissioner Rob Manfred said the league did not disclose evidence that the Astros stole signs illegally in 2019. In public court, Houston does not benefit from the doubt and clearly referee (and certainly others) players) still feel wrong. Hard to blame them.

The referee finished in second place behind Altuve in the MVP poll in 2017. Saturday’s home race was his 21st this season. Referee took a .286 / .377 / .526 battle line into the game and was voted into the All-Star Game as the starting outfielder. Altuve and all other Astros are pulled out of the All-Star Game.

Cole the light was off


The last few weeks have not gone well for Gerrit Cole. Coincidentally or not, his performance has cratered since the word came out MLB would crack down on foreign drugs last month. Cole had a 1.78 ERA in 11 starts in April and May. In June and July, it was a 5.24 ERA in six starts that went on Saturday and his spin rates were markedly down.

On Saturday, April and May, Cole showed up. He held the Astros, his former team, to three singles and two walks in the 1-0 complete game end. Cole struck out 12, his highest strike in total at nine starts. Houston’s lineup is impoverished with Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa injured, though Cole still had to finish with Altuve, Michael Brantley, Yuli Gurriel, Yordan Alvarez and others.

Cole threw 112 season-high lanes through eight innings Saturday, but with Aroldis Chapman battling and top-setup men Chad Green (workload) and Jonathan Loaisiga (COVID list) inaccessible, Yankees skipper Aaron Boone sent Cole back to the ninth. When Altuve led the inning with a single, it looked like things were going downhill for the Yankees.

Soon after, Boone went out to the mound to chat with his starter – Chapman was warming up in the bullpen at the time – and Cole told his skipper to leave him in the game. The conversation was animated to say the least.

“I said the F-word a lot, and then I just turned black. I do not remember what I told him,” Boone told reporters, including MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch, about his conversation with Boone.

After the Altuve single, Cole came back to get Brantley to fly out and to knock Gurriel and Alvarez out to end the game. He threw 129 seats – his last pitch was 99 km / h – most of all pitcher since the former Astro Mike Fiers threw 131 seats in his no-hitter on May 7, 2019. The 129 seats are most of a Yankee since Hall of Famer Randy Johnson threw 129 on July 19, 2006.

After the game, Boone revealed that Cole was “under the weather and got IVs” during the club’s previous series in Seattle, according to NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty. It was unclear if Cole would start Saturday’s start at all. Start, he did, and it was a brilliant performance to give the Yankees a league win against a hated rival.

Greinke went out with an injury


If the loss and being shut down by a former teammate was not bad enough, the Astros also lost starter Zack Greinke to an injury. He walked out of the game after three innings and 65 lanes with soreness in his right shoulder, manager Dusky Baker told reporters including Chandler Rom about Houston Chronicle. It is unclear if he will try.

Greinke, now 37, took a league-leading 111 1/3 inning in Saturday’s game. He allowed Judge’s solo home run before going out, and the Yankees worked him hard and pushed him into several deep counts despite not breaking through with a big inning. The good news is that the All-Star break is coming, so the Astros can easily give Greinke extra rest without placing him on the injured list.

“It’s always possible (I want to miss time), but it’s not the worst thing I’ve dealt with,” Greinke told Rome.

José Urquidy is currently on the list of injured with a shoulder problem, and of course Justin Verlander has been recharged from the Tommy John surgery. Should Greinke miss out on time, Houston is likely to rightly return Cristian Javier to the tournament. Javier recently moved into the bullpen and threw three fruitless innings Saturday night.

The Astros were shut out again

As we enter Saturday’s match, the Astros led the baseball in the race (488), stroke average (.270), percentage on the base (.340), OPS (.785) and OPS + (115). They have been the best hit team in baseball without any minimum margin in 2021.

Despite this, the Yankees have shut Houston out in the first two games of their weekend series, holding them to six hits in total in the two games. This is the first time the Astros have been shut out in back-to-back games since 1-2. May 2018, also against the Yankees. Several Astros hitters ran long 0-rapids in the middle laps.

There is no shame in being shut down by Cole, who he threw Saturday, plus Bregman and Correa are injured, so the Astros do not have their full lineup at the moment. However, they are far too good for this offensive malaise to continue. The Yankees have put them well the last two days and thank you to them. Houston will take it out on a bad team fast enough, maybe even the Yankees on Sunday. They are too good to hold down for too long.

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