HOUSTON – – Thousands of fans left Minute Maid Park with a replica No.27 Jose Altuve jerseys from a Sunday giveaway.
The Houston Astros star didn’t come off the field with his.
Altuve hit a three-run homerun to cap a surprising six-run rally late in the ninth inning, having his shirt ripped in a frenzied celebration and lifting the Astros against the New York Yankees 8-7.
“It was a miracle,” manager Dusty Baker said.
The Astros had been shut out by the Yankees in the previous two games, evidenced by ace Gerrit Cole’s three hits in a 4-0 victory on Saturday night.
But in a series where teams took turns after lingering ill will over the years – including Yankees star Aaron Judge appearing to mock Altuve – the Astros and their dynamic second baseman had the final say.
“It was pretty amazing to see how Altuve did it again,” said wide receiver Martin Maldonado. “He’s a guy with a big heart and he’s the face of this team. He got to home plate, we knew something big was going to happen.”
Big-league teams are 493-2 this season with a four-point lead going to ninth – the Yankees lost an 8-4 advantage in an 11-8 loss to the Los Angels Angeles on June 30, making it the first season the Yankees lost games twice as they led by four points before the ninth.
New York led 7-2 after a three-run homer from Gary Sanchez in the eighth inning and was ready for a sweep before the Astros went wild and handed the Yankees another painful loss in the final inning.
“It’s the ultimate punch,” said manager Aaron Boone. “You have a five point lead in the ninth against a great team with a chance to win the sweep and they come back to win. We have some things to improve and make sure all hands are where they need to be. “
It was the first time the Astros had won after being led by five or more points in the ninth inning since they were also down 7-2 before rallying to beat the Montreal Expos 9-8 on July 25, 1980, according to information provided by the Astros of the Elias Sports Office.
After the first two Astros hit base against Domingo Germán in the ninth, Chas McCormick netted a two-point brace against Chad Green (3-5). Abraham Toro followed with an RBI brace to bring the score to 7-5, still without a strike.
Pinch hitter Jason Castro hit a single and an out later Altuve threw his sweep to left field. His teammates greeted him at the plate and ripped his jersey off during the celebration, leaving him shirtless as he hugged Baker as he exited the pitch.
“It was 100% after that home run,” McCormick said of Altuve’s jersey.
Baker added: “It is the most wonderful thing I have seen in years.”
Altuve was not available for a post-match interview. The Astros said his father was in the hospital and rushed to be with him.
Boone was asked why he hadn’t gone to collapse closer to Arnoldis Chapman in the ninth.
“I try to put him in (positive) situations,” he said. “Getting him back to where we need to be is essential. I want him to present these situations where he comes out with a clean exit under his belt.”
Ralph Garza Jr. (1-2) pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings for the win. He allowed three walks on a day the Astros won despite walking 14 batters.
Maldonado scored in Houston’s third goal over Jameson Taillon, making it a total and giving Houston their first inning in the series.
Maldonado lowered his jersey to the left side, revealing his bare chest as he rounded third base.
“It was a little hot,” he said with a smile. “I was trying to get some air into my shirt.”
The move came a day after the judge removed his jersey with both hands as he finished third on a home run. It was a move some interpreted as a reference to Altuve grabbing his jersey to continue celebrating his teammates for ripping it off after his home run in Game 6 of the 2019 AL Championship Series against the Yankees.
Following the discovery of the Houston sign-stealing scandal, some speculated that Altuve did not want his jersey removed because it was hiding a buzzer that contributed to the plot. The allegation was never proven and Altuve said he did it because he was shy and got into trouble with his wife when his jersey was ripped off before.
Altuve was not available early to discuss the judge’s posting, but Baker weighed in on her on Sunday.
“I noticed what he did,” Baker said. “It was wrong.”
Sanchez also pulled on his jersey just like Judge did on his way home to his circuit. He was greeted on the steps of the dugout canoe by Rougned Odor, who draped him in a thick Yankees coat – possibly a reference to the judge saying he did what he did because he did. “Cold enough” in Minute Maid Park when the roof is closed.
Boone wasn’t in the mood to talk about all the back and forth between players after the loss.
“I really have no interest,” he said. “We took a 7-2 lead. I don’t think it has anything to do with the extra things people are talking about.”
Yankees: Boone said RHP Luis Severino was feeling good after throwing a second reliever box on Saturday and that he would likely face some live hitters soon. Severino has not played in majors since 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and his return has been slowed down due to a groin injury he suffered last month.
Astros: Baker said SS Carlos Correa, who is on the injured list due to health and safety protocols, was still ill on Sunday but had no further details.
CHANGE OF PLAN
Cole was planning to pitch in Tuesday’s All-Star Game, but won’t be able to do so after throwing a career-high 129 shots on Saturday night. Boone called Rays manager Kevin Cash, who will lead AL’s All-Star team, on Sunday morning to let him know Cole would not be available.
Yankees: Play Game 1 of a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night.
Astros: Visit the Chicago White Sox for a three-game series starting Friday night.