Garrett Cole was great in Saturday’s Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.

But, continuing the trend that has defined the entire series, the Houston Astros were better. Cole’s five-plus innings, seven strikeouts and three earned runs aren’t particularly troubling, and a night like that is something a manager would gladly take into a playoff game. But in Cole’s eyes, the night came down to a few specific pitches.

“We made two and a half mistakes tonight,” he said. Cole then detailed the pitch that led to Alex Bregman’s leadoff double in the sixth — the inning where his outing finally ended with the bases loaded and nobody out — soon after. Kyle Tucker’s walk, and a fastball that Chas McCormick hit to short porch. in the second innings.

“Bregman’s changeup that he hit for a double was a ball,” explained Cole. “McCormick leaked a little bit more over the plate than we wanted, and I would have liked that. [3-2] Curveball to Tucker to be a little more competitive.

Asked what makes Houston such a vexing assignment, Cole gave an answer that just about bridges the gap between the Yankees and Astros.

“His ability to hit good pitches.”

Cole’s night ended with some light drama, as the Yankees took a trip to the mound after Tucker’s walk, and a second forced a bunt when Yuli Gorrell’s ensuing single put runners on each base. .

“I wasn’t ready to come out,” Cole said in one of many brief postgame responses. “But to my knowledge, the second trip is the same.”

There was also a brief intermission from manager Aaron Boone before crossing the first base line, prompting an official mound visit that forced Cole’s exit. Boone said he paused because he wanted to buy reliever Lou Trevino more time to get ready.

As for Cole, the tough loss puts his team in a situation where the odds are historically stacked against them. A total of 39 teams in major league history have gone 0-3 in a postseason series. The 2004 Red Sox are still the only ones to have come back victorious. Knowing that Cole was in a pretty sour mood when he addressed the media after Game 3.

“I’m about as desperate as you can get.”

Being 0-3 down is a full tree of disappointment for Cole. Roots are the Astros’ hitters, who have a unique ability to get under a pitcher’s skin, countering everything they’re trying to do. Sometimes, they even accept what a pitcher is doing and just do it better than them. Cole also grabbed a talking point from the shelf that Boone and Luis Severino visited during the series, noting that the Astros are getting a little dose of batted ball luck.

“We kept throwing pitches to the edge all night and they took really good, punishing swings at the pitcher’s pitches,” Cole said. “They obviously had a little bit of luck, especially in right field. Top to bottom, that’s what they did all night.”

Like all series zombies, pitching in defense of hitters is no easy task for a pitcher. That’s what Cole, Severino and Jameson Talon had to do in the first three ALCS games. Cole said he knows the hitters will have a tough job against Houston and that the starters will have to do everything in their power to help a Yankee offense that is woefully undermanned.

“I think it’s going to be a tough game against the Astros, no matter what,” Cole unwound. “Especially in playoff baseball, it always comes down to a handful of pitches that fix the balance of the game in any way. As a pitcher, that balance is often irrelevant to what you do out there. trying to. A little bit, like, a motivational factor to try to present better and be the guy who lifts people up.”

One group that wasn’t providing a pick-me-up on Saturday was Yankee fans. After the Astros hit a three-run home run in the sixth inning, the stadium slowly began to clear, and by the end of the game, all the noise from the seats was characterized by anger. Cole was asked directly if he felt like the Bronx faithful had abandoned the 2022 Yankees, or if he saw a mass exodus of them.

“I was unaware of that,” the pitcher said.

Those planning to attend Game 4 bought tickets to the baseball game, but might get the funeral instead.

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