HOUSTON — Aaron Judge ran up the first base line with his bat in his right hand in the eighth inning Thursday night, hoping he’d broken the spell. The Yankees slugger watched in almost disbelief as the fly ball he hit hard died just over the right-field warning track and Houston right fielder Kyle Tucker ran back and easily grabbed it.
Minute Maid Park is seemingly where the Yankees bats have come to die. Framber Valdez was dominant, just like Justin Verlander the night before, as the Astros beat the Yankees 3-2 in Game 2 of the American League Division Series.
The Astros take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, which heads back to the Bronx for Game 3 on Saturday. The Yankees have their ace Gerrit Cole set to start the critical tilt at Yankees Stadium. MLB teams taking a 2-0 series’ lead in a best-of-seven have gone on to win in 74 of 88 (84.1%) series all-time. The Astros have now won eight of nine home playoff games all-time against the Yankees. The Astros pitching has limited the Bombers to just 13 runs across those eight losses.
In the first two games of this series, the home-run reliant Yankees’ offense has one homer, scored a total of four runs and struck out 30 times. They were 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position Thursday night and are 1-for-9 in the series.
Valdez was dealing Thursday. He held the Yankees to two runs, both unearned because of his own fielding and throwing errors, scattering four hits. The lefty did not walk a batter and struck out nine.
The Yankees scored their two runs with a little help from Valdez. Judge singled to lead off and Valdez’s fielding error allowed Giancarlo Stanton to reach and then when he threw wide of first base, it allowed Judge to take third. Judge scored on Anthony Rizzo’s ground out and Stanton on a Gleyber Torres single.
With Torres on, Josh Donaldson, hit doubled for his first extra-base hit since Oct. 1 earlier, struck out. It was Donaldson’s 11th strikeout in 24 postseason plate appearances.
The Bombers had the tying run on first in the ninth with two outs, when Donaldson worked a walk off Ryan Pressly.
It was a disappointing night for Luis Severino, who was very good. He held the Astros to three runs on five hits over 5.1 innings. He struck out six and walked one.
Severino, making his 11th postseason appearance, lost each of his two regular-season starts against Houston, allowing five earned runs in 12 combined innings for a 3.75 ERA. He lost those games by scores of 3-1 and 2-1.
He was 0-2, 4.15 ERA in three career playoff starts against them coming into Thursday night’s game. The Astros held the Yankees to just one run in all three of those games.
Minute Maid Park, where he has made six appearances in the playoffs, has always brought back some bad memories for him and the Yankees. They lost in the ALCS to the Astros in 2017 and 2019.
Severino had much better stuff than he did Saturday night in Cleveland. He ramped up his fastball to 99 miles an hour — to strike out Yordan Alvarez to end the fifth. He got 13 swings and misses, including 10 on that fastball.
He made one real mistake. Severino started out the bottom of the third by hitting Houston catcher Martin Maldanoado with a pitch. He struck out the struggling Jose Altuve, got another out on Yordan Alvarez’s fielder’s choice and then got ahead of Alex Bregman 1-2, before the Astros third baseman crushed a three-run homer on Severino’s 97-mile-an-hour fastball. He retired the next eight batters he faced, but when he gave up a one-out single to Kyle Tucker in the sixth, Aaron Boone quickly went out to get him.
Jonathan Loaisiga gave up a single to Yuli Gurriel and then coaxed a double-play grounder out of Aledmys Diaz.
“I think about our losses here, That’s the only thing that came to my mind,” Severino said. “I think all the guys that have been here since then have to remember that. They have to remember that feeling and try to not feel the same way this year, try to be better, try to go out there with that mentality and win games.”