The Houston Astros and the New York Yankees begin a four-game series at Yankee Stadium in what could be an American League Championship Series preview. Each team possesses double-digit division leads and are currently the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the American League by wide margins.
The upcoming Astros-Yankees series will be a chance to see where the Astros need to improve their roster in preparation for October.
The first half of a Major League season is when teams find out whether or not they are in contention for the postseason. Once it’s established you’re a contender, the trade deadline is where you find out what your biggest weakness is and make a trade to cover up that hole.
The Astros’ biggest weakness last year was a leaky bullpen, which they addressed with trades for Phil Maton, Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero while Montero didn’t factor in last year he is paying dividends this year for the team with a 2.00 ERA in 27 innings pitched along with 28 strikeouts.
The Astros bullpen suddenly was a strength and carried them through the playoffs, especially the ALCS where the starting rotation faltered missing ace Lance McCullers Jr. The Astros lacked a strong bullpen at the deadline and rotation depth in the postseason while their offense was stellar and deep.
This year, for the first time in the Astros dominating stretch dating back to 2017, their offense has been inconsistent while their pitching staff, both rotation and bullpen, is one of the best in baseball.
The starting rotation has a surplus of pitchers with the emergence of Cristian Javier, the resurgence of Justin Verlander, and the dominance of Framber Valdez alongside Luis Garcia’s strong sophomore performance. This all being done without McCullers and Jake Odorizzi who are both making their way back to the major league roster.
The back end of the bullpen features Ryne Stanek, Rafael Montero and Ryan Pressly giving the Astros a very reliable seventh-eighth-ninth inning combo.
Look how much things can change in one year.
When the Astros visit New York it will just be another regular season series in the sense that these losses and wins count just the same as ones against the Oakland A’s or the Baltimore Orioles.
But considering the fact that both teams are looking to be the top two seeds heading into the playoffs and the top two favorites to represent the American League, this series will show where the Astros biggest weaknesses are against their greatest challenge to repeating as American League champions and capturing that elusive second World Series title.
The bullpen will most likely not be addressed at the trade deadline but the Yankees will see the depth of the Astros rotation facing Justin Verlander, Valdez, Javier and Jose Urquidy. Performances from Javier and Urquidy especially in this series could be the difference between the Astros looking at a rotation upgrade or an offensive upgrade.
On the flip side if the Astros pitch well but struggle getting any production from the six through nine spots in their lineup it could shift their focus to center field, catcher and possibly even first base.
Depending on which falters more in this series, either Javier and Urquidy or the back third of the Astros offensive lineup, will most likely determine what the team chooses to address before the deadline.
This series will be the perfect chance to see what the Astros are up against as the rosters stand currently and what they need to do to take the next step and jump the Yankees if not in the regular season standings then in overall talent come October.