Jose Altuve gets last laugh with walkoff homer off Chad Green to complete Yankee meltdown

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HOUSTON — Aaron Judge and the Yankees trolled Jose Altuve Saturday night, but the Astros and their second baseman had the last laugh Sunday. In an all-too familiar scene for Yankee fans, Altuve hit a game-winning walkoff home run, off Chad Green this time, capping the Astros’ six-run ninth inning and delivering a 8-7 gut-punch to the Bombers in the series finale at Minute Maid Park.

“We were three outs away from a really good road trip. Now we have this kind of sour taste in our mouth for three days,” Green said. “Obviously with a five-run lead going into the ninth. We should win that game 99% of the time.”

The weekend played out like the Yankees’ first half of the season: inconsistent.

On the heels of perhaps their biggest win of the year — beating the Astros behind a resurgent Gerrit Cole’s complete game shutout — the Yankees suffered a brutal loss. In the first 89 games of the season, the only thing consistent about the Bombers has been their erratic play.

With confidence in closer Aroldis Chapman low, they went with Domingo German to start the ninth. He put two on and Green let them score on Chas McCormick’s double. He gave up another on Abraham Toro’s double and then three more on Altuve’s homer.

“It’s another gut punch. And we’ve had a number of those obviously here the first half,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.

And Sunday, they not only had to suffer the deflating loss, but then had to see the Astros troll them back on the way out.

Sunday, Altuve let his teammates rip off his jersey as they celebrated the win, a clear response to the Yankees having mocked him all weekend.

Altuve had hit a walkoff home run off Aroldis Chapman to send the Astros to the World Series in 2019 and had hugged his jersey to his chest as he came home, telling his teammates not to tear his jersey off in celebration. He claimed it was because his wife didn’t like it when his teammates ripped off his shirt, but it led to speculation that the Astros were using buzzers under their jerseys to continue their illegal sign-stealing scam.

Saturday, Judge had mimicked Altuve hugging his jersey to his chest. When asked about it, however, Judge said it was chilly in the ballpark. So Sunday, when Gary Sanchez hit his 15th home run of the season, he too mimicked Altuve and then his teammate put a coat over his shoulders to make sure he didn’t catch a chill.

Altuve declined to talk after the game, citing his father in the hospital.

And Boone had had enough of it.

“I really don’t even have any interest in that. I mean, we coughed up a 7-2 lead. I don’t think it had anything to do with any of the things, the extra stuff people are talking about,” Boone said.

After winning four of six games on this road trip and taking both series against the Mariners and Astros, the Yankees (46-43) ended their first half with the same concerns, an inconsistent offense and a struggling closer, that dogged them for the last month. Those issues are still hanging over their heads as they go into the three-day break.

They don’t have much time to figure it out.

After this deflating loss, they go into the All-Star break still eight games behind the American League East-leading Red Sox, who they will face eight times in their first 10 games out of the hiatus. Then they face the Rays, who are battling Boston for the division lead.

“I think coming out of the break, it’s a huge deal. It’s right in front of us, we’ll have eight or 10 games so we can go out and take what’s ours and if we play well we can put ourselves right back in the mix,” said Jameson Taillon, who allowed two hits over six innings Sunday. “And if we don’t come out and play well, it’s not gonna be good for us. I hope everyone has a good break and physically and mentally resets ... because, you know, the Red Sox and Tampa Bay will be ready.”

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