Monday’s ALCS Game 3 was one the Houston Astros weren’t supposed to win. The New York Yankees had their ace pitcher C.C. Sabathia starting the game, had the home field advantage, and were in essentially a must-win situation.

A competitive loss wouldn’t have been a huge blow for the Astros, who still have a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-seven series after Monday’s 8-1 defeat, but the Astros lost Game 3 in such spectacular fashion that all of the momentum from their wins in Games 1 and 2 have now been completely erased.

The first three runs Astros starting pitcher Charlie Morton surrendered to the Yankees were of the hard-luck variety — a couple of weak singles setting up as weak a home run as a home run can be from the Yankees’ Todd Frazier, who hit a blooper just over Yankee Stadium’s short right field wall.

A 3-0 lead for the Yankees through two innings isn’t an ideal start for the Astros, but absolutely one they could potentially overcome. Then, things came completely unraveled in the bottom of the fourth, and suddenly, it feels like the Yankees have the advantage in a series they still trail.

Things got started in the bottom of the fourth when alleged outfield defensive specialist Cameron Maybin basically let a ball drop right in front of him, after a long run to chase it down, for a ground-rule double.

Then, in a two-out rally, a walk was followed by a bloop single to push the Yankees’ lead to 4-0 and end Morton’s night. After that, alleged get-of-a-jam bullpen pitching specialist Will Harris threw a wild pitch to see the Yankees’ lead go up to 5-0.

That was followed up by a batting practice pitch served up to previously struggling Yankees MVP candidate Aaron Judge, which he crushed for a three-run home run to right field for the knockout blow.

So, what did the Astros lose beside just one game in a best-of-seven playoff series?

The Astros’ confidence, based on previous performances, in Yankee Stadium now is probably a little shaken.

The defense that was picture-perfect in Games 1 and 2 (arguably the primary factor that won the Astros those games) showed cracks in its armor thanks largely to Maybin’s blunder.

Judge’s frustrations in the batter’s box are now gone courtesy of the piece of meat Harris threw him (and in addition to that, he had a couple of nice defensive plays to help get his swagger back).

And, once again, the vaunted Astros offense delivered an even more pathetic performance than in the first two games of the series, getting just four hits and one garbage-time run.

The Astros were definitely underdogs heading into Game 3, but Monday, they just played like dogs. And that lapse could be costly. Stay tuned for Game 4 at 4 p.m. today at Yankee Stadium.

Editor’s note: There will be no sports editor Astros column for Game 4 of the ALCS.

James LaCombe: 409-683-5242, or on Twitter @JamesAtGalvNews

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