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Astros Drive Yankees Insane

Astros drive New York Yankees fans hilariously insane, leave American League's richest bats in need of Viagra

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Dexter Fowler Astros celebration
Dexter Fowler once again put himself at the center of the celebration, leaving Astros manager Bo Porter beaming. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Jared Cosart Astros Yankees
Astros pitcher Jarred Cosart shut the Yankees out for five innings. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Derek Jeter Astros whiff
Jarred Cosart left "30 million hit" man Derek Jeter frustrated in his first gift game. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Matt Dominguez Astros swing
Matt Dominguez went deep for the Houston Astros against the Yankees. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Dexter Fowler low high five
But it's hard to match Dexter Fowler's go-low Astros home run celebration. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Andy Pettitte Astros ball sign
Astros catcher Carlos Corporan even made sure to get an autograph from Andy Pettitte. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Dexter Fowler Astros celebration
Jared Cosart Astros Yankees
Derek Jeter Astros whiff
Matt Dominguez Astros swing
Dexter Fowler low high five
Andy Pettitte Astros ball sign
News_Chris Baldwin_managing editor_arms crossed

Jarred Cosart is still young enough to carry a backpack to work — and there it is, a plain black utility number, at his feet as he talks about beating the New York Yankees and firing 98 MPH fastballs past Derek Freaking Jeter. The wonder remains in the voice of the Houston Astros' 23-year-old pitcher, even though it's a good two hours after he walked off the Minute Maid Park mound.

"Jeter comes to the plate and gets a standing O," Cosart says. "The guy's got like 30 million hits."

Not quite, but Cosart's sense of respect for his future Hall of Fame elder is commendable. It's the 23-year-old's lack of fear that's truly exciting though. For Cosart makes sure Jeter doesn't add to the 3,317 hits he does have on this night. The League City kid who watched Jeter rack up championships when he was a wide-eyed elementary schooler gets the Yankees icon to meekly ground out twice.

For the second straight night, it's quickly made clear that Astros will not back down to the American League's richest team. This time the $45 million payroll team beats the $203 million payroll team by a 3-1 margin. Don't look now — and most of you aren't as evidenced by the disappointing 23,145 crowd for a Yankees game, one of only three games Derek Jeter and Co. will play in Houston this season — but the Astros have already won a series.

 "I'm not saying we're going to go to the playoffs or anything. But our goal is to shock the world, whatever that ends up meaning." 

Houston's left for dead baseball team is suddenly 2-0 for the first time in 11 seasons. And while few may have noticed in this beaten down baseball town, this strange development's certainly getting attention in New York City.

The Yankees are a loss away from being swept by the team that couldn't beat anybody last season — and downright panic is breaking out in Gotham. Yankees manager Joe Girardi is already calling Thursday night's series finale "important." Which may be the first time in baseball history a manager's sounded the alarm and attached a sense of urgency to the third game of a 162-game slate.

"Nobody expected us to come in here and win a series from the Yankees," Cosart says.

You needn't remind anyone in The City That Never Sleeps. Late night callers to New York's 24-hour local all-sports radio station 660 AM are railing against the Yankees' high-priced flailing bats, talking themselves out onto an early doomsday ledge of no playoffs in the Bronx again.

Matt Allbers — Matt Albers?! — is mowing down the Yankees' Murderers Row of great mid-2000s era hitters, striking out Brian McCann, Mark Teixeria and Alfonso Soriano back to back to back to end a critical eighth inning threat.

Nobody's ever said  Matt Freaking Albers in frustrated admiration. Or Dexter Freaking Fowler for that matter.

But there's Fowler hitting the second pitch he sees over the right center field wall, the night after he knocks the third pitch he's offered all the way up Tal's Hill. The Astros new leadoff man is making Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow's offseason trade for him look like a grand theft — especially considering jettisoned former Astros pitcher Jordan Lyles couldn't even make the Colorado Rockies Major League roster coming out of spring training. (Lyles has since been called up due to injury.)

 There's crazy April misery in New York and unexpected promise in Houston. 

Astros manager Bo Porter went through eight different leadoff men last season — and still the Astros never found a table setter worth a damn.

They have one now.

Dexter Fowler is playing baseball like it's his chance to spread joy to the world.

"It's always awesome to be 2-0," says Fowler, who may have already broken the all-time Minute Maid Park home clubhouse record for smiles in just his first week in it.

It's even better when there's a young talent like Cosart powering the way.

Jarred Cosart's Time

Cosart retires the first seven batters he faces, working as fast as the Astros new veteran staff leader Scott Feldman did the night before. He pounds the strike zone (20 of his first 28 pitches are strikes), induces a run of ground balls and shows little fear of the big, bad Yankees.

He's lifted after five scoreless innings and nine ground ball outs, the necessary, smart price of protecting a 23-year-old arm for a rebuilding franchise.

Bo Porter went through eight different leadoff men last season — and still the Astros never found a table setter worth a damn. They have one now. 

The idea that Cosart's 1.95 ERA in 10 starts last season was but an illusion — that his 33 strikeouts and 35 walks in 60 innings forecast a future sudden regression — suddenly seem much more farfetched. Cosart's already smartly benefiting from Feldman's presence spending three hours with the 10-year veteran going over video of the Yankees lineup a few days before the series began.

"Last year was my first experience in the majors and this is first time I've really gotten into video and looking at to help format a gameplan," Cosart says. "(Feldman) just went over how he approaches some of their hitters and how he handles certain situations. He really helped me a lot.

"I used a number of the things he talked about tonight."

No wonder the Yankees can't hit Cosart — they're going against two pitching minds. And a team on an unexpected mission. "We know what everyone's saying about this team," says Josh Fields, who only needs 10 pitches for a 1-2-3 ninth and his first Astros save. "People are going to be surprised to see us off to a 2-0 start, especially against the Yankees."

Still, only 23,145 show up. For the Yankees. The night after Opening Day, when whatever little hope there is for these 2014 Astros should still be alive.

After years of being horrific, being fun and interesting might not be enough.

Then again, maybe these young Astros can patiently wait for everyone else in Houston to catch on. They're certainly showing resiliency too. Matt Dominguez is 0 for 6 with four strikeouts on the young season when he steps into the batter's box in the bottom of the seventh. He promptly drills a no-doubt shot — the power-challenged Astros fourth home run in two games — into the right field stands.

There's crazy April misery in New York and unexpected promise in Houston.

"I'm not saying we're going to go to the playoffs or anything," Cosart says. "But our goal is to shock the world, whatever that ends up meaning."

Soon, Cosart's lifting that backpack onto his shoulder and heading out into a balmy Houston night, the image of facing down Derek Freaking Jeter no doubt dancing in his head.

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