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2019 Series Preview #4: New York Yankees @ Houston Astros

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The Astros (5-5, t-2nd in AL West) wrap up the first home stand of 2019 with three against the Yankees (5-4, 2nd in AL East)

MLB: New York Yankees at Houston Astros Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Recency Bias

Yankees

The Yankees land in Houston after an uplifting sweep of the Orioles that followed a somewhat disappointing start to the season. In addition to dropping more than a few of their early games they’ve also got a whopping 11 players sitting on the injured reserves list. Though there’s still plenty of power left in the lineup, the Yankees will be missing a good chunk of their starting lineup for this series.

DJ LeMahieu has been leading the charge this week with with a pretty sweet .364/.391/.455 slash line in 23 plate appearances, though he only has a couple of doubles for extra bases. He’s joined by Gleyber Torres near the top of the heap, who is the only other Yankee to be hitting over .300 and come to bat at least 20 times this week. He’s been flexing his muscles a little more than DJ though, with 2 doubles and 3 homers.

After that duo the Yankee’s biggest non-injured bat has been Clint Frazier, who has been punishing baseballs since getting called up to replace Giancarlo Stanton. He’s always been a highly touted prospect and has turned some heads in his five games since being in the lineup with 3 bombs of his own.

Speaking of bombs, catcher Gary Sánchez has definitely been dropping them all over opposing pitching with 6 so far on the season, including three in yesterday’s drubbing of the Orioles. The ever-dangerous Aaron Judge also found his power stroke against the Orioles, mashing a couple of balls out of the park in the second game of that series, though he did follow that up with an 0-for day in the finale.

Beyond that the offense has been somewhat slow for the Yankees with so many of their regulars on the shelf. Though having five premiere players who represent on base and power threats is not exactly something to poo-poo, so I shall not.

As for the Yankees’ pen, it actually saw an upgrade in the offseason for what was widely considered one of the better set of arms in the league. Adam Ottovino, who you may remember sporting a Rockies uniform last season, has been especially efficient so far in 2019, having yet to surrender a hit. Zack Britton has also gotten off to a hot start this season with a 0.00 ERA, though he has been letting runners getting on base with 3 hits and 2 walks in 5.2 innings on his ledger.

Tommy Kahnle is the only other 0 ERA arm in the pen, but he’s only worked 2.2 innings in 2 games so far. Luis Cessa has shown himself to be a bit of a long man for the Yanks this season, going 5.1 innings in just 2 games, and has also held opponents to a 1.69 ERA.

The biggest concern for the Yankees beyond that has to be a reduced velocity for Aroldis Chapman. He’s managed to convert both save opportunities that he’s been in, but has seen his average velocity dip by about 1.5 mph, which should be a bit of a red flag.

The three remaining relievers have not been great this season, each sporting an ERA north of 4.00, which is somewhat surprising for Chad Green, who has been one of the big boys out of the pen for the past two seasons.

Astros

The Astros welcome the Yankees after a series sweep of the A’s that must feel good after the total crap show that the start of the season had been. The offense would finally wake up in the last two games of the series, scoring 15 runs total between the two, including a 9-run slugfest in yesterday’s finale. They would also have their biggest inning of the year in that one, scoring 5 runs in the first inning.

Bregman has had one of his best weeks since he returned to the Lone Star state from the cursed Tropicana Field. He’s slashed a godly .550/.615/.650 in that time, going 11-for-20 with 4 walks and a couple of doubles. Springer and Gurriel, while not on that same level, have been more than solid in their performances this week, producing some clutch hits. Springer has been bringing the home run bat while Gurriel has smacked 4 doubles this week, including three in one game.

Though not quite on that same level, Correa has been a steady producer in the 5-hole while Altuve and Brantley have each started to come out of the funk they seemed to be in during the Texas series. Aside from Altuve’s role as the hero with yesterday’s walk-off walk, it was great to see him stroke three infield singles, all to pretty much the same spot. Reddick has also been quietly putting together solid AB’s, getting on base at a .400 clip since returning to Texas.

A big part of the recent success though were the bench players. Tony Kemp slipped effortlessly back into his spark plug role to ignite the home offense while Aledmys Díaz was the hero in yesterday’s game against the A’s. This comes after they both got off to some pretty awful starts to the season.

It was good to see the bats coming around as the bullpen would stumble slightly in the most recent series. Though it wasn’t a complete meltdown, the relievers would give up 4 runs in two games of the most recent series after only giving up 4 total for the first seven. And while Big Flames James would would have a scoreless inning against Oakland, he would also cough up the lead in yesterday’s match on a 2 run homer. Rondón would also give up his first run of the season in that game while Osuna would allow one in his only save opportunity against Oakland.

I guess there wasn’t much to complain about beyond that though. Pressly continues to be a bullpen ace and Devo had a solid inning in Game 2. Harris has also looked good in limited service, and seems to be the go-to so far when AJ needs a reliever to come in mid-inning before the late stages of the game.

Now that they’re back to .500 the Astros will look to continue tasting that home cooking and hopefully win their second series of the season against the snake-bit Yankees.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Masahiro Tanaka, RHP (1-0, 1.46 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander, RHP (1-0, 4.09 ERA)

Tanaka has started the season on the right foot so far, pitching a couple of excellent games to open the season. He was the Yankee’s Opening Day starter, and would twirl 5.2 innings of 2-run ball (1 unearned) against the Orioles to take the win. His next start against the Tigers was even better, with 6.2 IP and only 1 earned run to go with 7 K’s. He has been giving up a good number of hits though, with 14 scattered across both those starts, though he has yet to walk anyone.

As for Verlander, he would have a pretty dreadful start in his last game for the Astros. He would have little to no command in that one, walking 3 batters while surrendering 4 runs in just 4 innings of work. That came after a pretty excellent start against the Rays where he would go 7 innings and only surrender a single run, so kind of a tale of two starts.

I expect to see Verlander come out angry here to show that his start against the Rangers was an anomaly, but Tanaka is no slouch, so this one could go either way for the starters.

Game 2: Jonathan Loaisiga, RHP (0-0, 2.25 ERA) vs. Gerrit Cole, RHP (0-2, 3.00 ERA)

While Loaisiga is pretty much just keeping a rotation spot warm for Luis Severino or C.C. Sabathia, he was actually alright in his lone start so far this season. He would go 4 innings in a game against the Tigers and only give up one earned run in that time. He would also walk three in those frames though, but did manage to strike out 4 at least. This is just his second season in the big leagues, getting into 9 games in 2018 with 5 of those coming out of the pen.

Houston counters with Cole, who was the victim of some shoddy umpiring in his last game but still managed to have a quality start, if just barely. He would go 6 innings against the Rangers with 3 runs surrendered and 3 walks, but would continue his strong strikeout numbers, punching nine tickets on his way to his second loss. This brings his season K total to 19 in just two games and 12 IP. Not too shabby.

So long as the umpires do a decent job I don’t see how Cole won’t have the edge in this match up.

Game 3: James Paxton, LHP (1-1, 4.09 ERA) vs. Collin McHugh, RHP (1-1, 2.45 ERA)

Old nemesis Paxton comes into this game after making back to back starts against the Orioles, where he would have a tale of two starts himself. Making his Yankees debut after being traded from Seattle, he would pitch a solid 5.2 innings his first time out, with just 1 earned run surrendered. He would then follow that with 5.1 in his next with 4 ernies given up. While he would strike out 9 of the orange birds, he would also allow 2 walks and 8 hits across those frames. He would still manage to pick up the win in that game thanks to a surging Yankees offense.

Collin McHugh opened the series against the A’s with a solid performance, twirling 6 innings of 1-run ball. While he wouldn’t continue his high strikeout rate from game one, only setting down 4, he would definitely turn in a gritty start. His defining moment came when he would strike out A’s power hitter Khris Davis during a bases loaded AB that seemed to be the turning point of the game.

Paxton has always seemed to kick it up a notch against the Astros while McHugh has definitely been a bit of a Yankee killer in the past, so hard to say who’s going to have the edge here.

Fun Fact

Yesterday’s game featured the first earned run allowed by Blake Treinan in the regular season since August 23rd, 2018.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Monday, April 8th @ 6:10 pm CDT
Listen: Yankees - WFN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280 / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Yankees - YES / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / ESPN, ESPN (out-of-market only)

Game 2: Tuesday, April 9th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Yankees - WFN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280 / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Yankees - YES / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / ESPN, ESPN (out-of-market only)

Game 3: Wednesday, April 10th @ 6:40 pm CDT
Listen: Yankees - WFN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280 / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Yankees - YES / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB Network (out-of-market only)

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (45 votes)
  • 57%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (174 votes)
  • 23%
    Yankees Win 2-1
    (70 votes)
  • 3%
    Yankees Sweep 3-0
    (12 votes)
301 votes total Vote Now