It is still May, but the Houston Astros four-game series versus the Yankees feels like a big deal.
In July, Astros fans will be heading up to Cooperstown to watch Jeff Bagwell enter the Hall of Fame. Now, the Astros head up there to show the Yankees who will reign supreme in the American League this year. Playing the Yankees is always a big deal, but there is so much on the line for this matchup.
Who would have thought after last year’s fire sale that the Yankees would be playing so well? Much was expected from the Astros coming into the season, but I don’t remember too many expectations from NYC. Maybe from the Mets, but the injury bug has hit their pitching staff. If you call the 2016 season a rebuild for the Yankees, they are already ready to contend for the AL Pennant in 2017.
Yes, the World Series is not won in May, but it’s better to build up a lead in the AL West. The Mariners, Angels, or Rangers will eventually start winning. As we saw in 2015, no lead is safe as the Rangers overtook the Astros to win the AL West. The Mariners are already on a four-game winning streak to reach .500. The Astros currently hold a six game lead over the Mariners, but they can’t afford to lose ground versus the Yankees.
Shoot for three wins, settle for a series split. The Yankees are now 21-10 with a .677 winning percentage. On the other side, the Astros are 23-11 after a short two-game sweep of the Braves. Yesterday I wrote about how the Astros are winning this year, but what about the Yankees? Gone are the veteran players like Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran, and Brian McCann. The Yankees are a much younger team.
Are the Yankees like the 2015 Astros?
In a way, the Yankees remind me of the 2015 Houston squad. The Stros had career years from Luis Valbuena, Collin McHugh, and Colby Rasmus. They had several young players come up to have an instant impact on reaching the playoffs. Dallas Keuchel and Carlos Correa won the AL Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards respectively.
Everything seemed to click for Houston that year. That seems to be the case for the Yankees as well this year. Before yesterday’s games, the Yankees were third in the AL in ERA (3.58 ERA) behind Houston’s 3.46 ERA. Not known as a pitching staff that has high strikeout potential, the Stros are first in the AL with 301 strikeouts this year. The Yankees are not just one-sided this year, their hitters are raking.
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Before yesterday’s games, the Yankees ranked first in the AL with 509 total bases, 52 homers, and scoring 180 runs. The Astros were third with 165 runs scored, falling behind the suddenly hot Mariners and Yankees. The Yankees have breakout performances from Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. However, career years from Starlin Castro, Aaron Hicks, and other aging semi-stars. Matt Holiday has also picked up the slack that Beltran left.
The Yankees, like the Astros, also have a strong bullpen with Aroldis Chapman back in the fold. On paper, it would appear that the two teams are fairly comparable. Both teams have weakness’, but they have other attributes that help them win. One factor that you know makes the Yankees nervous is the guy pitching against them tonight. Keuchel has dominated the Yankees in the regular season and playoffs.
While this series won’t make or break the Astros season, it’s a clash of the two best teams in the AL. Who will win? Grab a hot dog and cold one and watch these two potent offenses go. The Stros were 2-4 last year versus the Yankees. Micheal Pineda and Keuchel did face one another last year, with Keuchel getting the hard-luck loss 2-1. Correa is not worrying about the Yankees, let’s go Stros!
***Stats from ESPN team stats and Baseball-Reference***