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2019 Series Preview #25: Houston Astros @ New York Yankees

The Astros (48-27, 1st in AL West) head to the Bronx for four more against the Yankees (46-27, 1st in AL East)

Houston Astros v New York Yankees Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

Recency Bias


Things have certainly taken a bit of a left turn for our intrepid baseball heroes as the Astros limp into NYC fresh off getting swept by the Reds. While the Reds’ pitching may be deceptively good, Houston made them look much better by consistently missing out on the big hit and doing just enough to lose each game by a single run. The final game was especially heartbreaking as Osuna, who has scuffled in recent weeks, allowed both the tying and winning run to score with two outs in the bottom of the 9th. The Astros are now on a 4-game skid and will have to try and right the ship against a much tougher challenge than Cincinnati.

Toronto Blue Jays v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

As for the good news, Tyler White seems to suddenly be making a play for the DH role after a rather anemic start to the season. He’s been unconscious in the last two series with a .368/.520/.632 slasher and 5 doubles. Probably because he smells Yordan Álvarez on his heels for the job, who was a little quieter during the series against the Reds, only managing a couple of hits.

Michael Brantley has suddenly become a beast again after going through a small cold spell. The last two games alone have seen 6 hits for Uncle Mike, including a two-run bomb yesterday to gave the Astros the lead until the ill-fated 9th. He also slapped a couple of doubles while in Cincinnati.

Gurriel had one of the better weeks for the remaining offensive players, slashing .333/.429/.389 in the past two series. Unfortunately there hasn’t been a whole lot of power in his swing with one double compared to five singles, but he actually managed a couple of walks so he seems to be seeing the ball well at least.

Bregman also has been taking walks to the tune of 5 this week, but beyond that his bat seems to be having trouble getting knocks. He did mash a couple of homers though, but that was 2 of just 4 hits he managed this week.

Reddick had a rather unspectacular week, though there was production and a couple of RBI’s at least. You could probably say the same for Chirinos if he hadn’t popped his first-ever MLB grand slam in one of the Toronto games.

Altuve made his return to the lineup in yesterday’s game, but went 0-for-4 in that one.

Houston Astros v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Honestly there’s not a whole lot to report on the bullpen this week other than Osuna laying an egg in yesterday’s game to give up the series sweep. While as a fan there’s always a sense of panic when it comes to a struggling pitcher, Osuna was so good for so long we almost forgot what it looks like to watch a struggling closer. Please don’t put gifs of Giles punching his face in the comments section, you know what I mean.

Beyond that, the only pitcher out of the pen to even give up a run this past week was Cionel Pérez, who was sent back to Round Rock to make room for Altuve’s return. It was goose egg ERA’s for everyone else this week (except for Tyler White, but I’m not counting him here), though there was some tension at least from time to time.

As an aside, Pressly pitched in yesterday’s game as well and looks much sharper and crisper since extended time off in the past week thanks to extra off days and good management.


The Yankees will start this series with a bit of an opposite vibe from Houston. They come into it after sweeping the Rays in three games to make a statement and stake themselves to a 3.5 game lead in the East. Though the vibe might not be super high considering that that was their first series win in the last five tries. The Yankees love to win mainly through a smothering offense, but their pitching is no joke either, sitting in the top 10 in most categories this year.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Gary Sánchez has essentially been the epitome of the Yankees’ philosophy this season with a .266 BA to go with a .616 SLG. His defense has been not-so-great though, and this has led to some discussion about whether or not to move him permanently to a DH role. This isn’t the first time there’s been whispers about that, but he certainly seems a better fit when he doesn't have a glove on his hand. Until then, the Yankees will have to simply settle for excellent offense from the Catcher platoon as backup Austin Romine has been pretty hot as well recently.

Luke Voit has been the Yankees’ next best non-injured starter this season after finally getting a chance for regular playtime. His 71 games in 2019 are already a career high for him, and he’s done nothing but mash since he put on the pinstripes last season after coming over from the Cardinals.

Another fresh face to the Yanks, but one that should be familiar to Astros’ fans, is 2017 World Series Taco Hero Cameron Maybin. Maybin signed a minor league deal with the Indians before being traded to the Yankees as a stop-gap for their slew of injured players. He’s turned it on since then with a .307/.383/.874 slasher in just 40 games, and will make decision making a little tough for New York once players start to come off the shelf.

The 22-year-old Gleyber Torres has continued to be a hot commodity for the Yanks this season, and is showing a little bit of pop to go with a pretty good average and OBP. Clint Frazier and his weird faux-hawk mullet were comparable to Torres in a little less time, but that effort was rewarded with a trip back to the minors once Stanton returned from the IL. Speaking of, the Yankees’ depth has certainly been on display as their response to around a dozen injuries was to win a bunch of games and taking the division lead from the Rays.

DJ LeMahieu and Gio Urshela have also been good stories for New York this year, with each of them sporting an OPS right around .820. Meanwhile, ubiquitous leadoff man Brett Gardner continues plugging along, though this season has been somewhat pedestrian for him.

The Yanks have also seen some familiar faces return as both Giancarlo Stanton and Didi Gregorius have come off the IL recently. Neither have been particularly impactful since returning, though Stanton’s only been in a single game. There’s also recent trade pickup Edwin Encarnación, who at least has managed a homer in his three games since joining the team

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Yankees’ bullpen has been pretty solid this season, starting with the big closer, Aroldis Chapman. In 29 games Chapman has secured 19 of 21 save opportunities with a 1.30 ERA and ridiculous 0.90 ERA. He’s set up by former Oriole and trade darling Zack Britton, who has been one of the better relievers in the league, though not as good as Chapman and Ottavino.

In fact, Adam Ottovino has been pretty lights out this season, in spite of the Astros roughing him up at MMP earlier in the year. He’s also got a sub-2.00 ERA at 1.69 and finishes off the Yankees’ trifecta for the late innings, making their pitching a particularly tough nut to crack after the sixth.

Tommy Kahnle has also been pretty good for the Yankees’ bullpen, contributing to making them one of the better set of arms in the league. While not approaching Chapman or even Britton numbers, he’s still holding steady with a 2.90 ERA in 32 games, and a WHIP sitting at 1.01.

Expect to see either David Hale or Nestor Cortes Jr. if the Yanks need someone to go multiple innings as both already have two 4-inning appearances each this season. Hale has 17.1 IP in just 7 games, and only one of those featured an outing less than 2 innings long. Cortes has a longer average IP per game, though, and tandemed off an opener for 5 innings in his most recent game against the White Sox.

The rest of the bullpen gets a little iffy after that however, as no other reliever has more than 15 innings and an ERA below 4.93. Jonathan Holder is that lucky 4.93 ERA guy, and seems to do the most mop-up work with 34.2 innings. He’s not too far ahead of Luis Cessa though, but his ERA is almost a full point lower.

Special mention to Chad Green, who looked like he was going to develop into a relief ace for the Yanks but instead completely crapped the bed to start the season. He hosts a particularly cringe-worthy 9.60 ERA in 15 innings this season, but has had success as the Yankees’ opener this season. He also seems to be slowly rounding into form during June.

Pitching Match Ups

Toronto Blue Jays v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Game 1: Framber Valdez, LHP (3-2, 2.77 ERA) vs TBD

Valdez will make just his third start of the season after a couple of damn fine showings in a row. In his last two turns through the rotation he twirled a couple of gems including a 7-inning, 1-run game against Baltimore. That was followed with a 6 inning showing with just 2 runs surrendered to Toronto. He would also strike out 15 batters across those 13 innings of work and make a strong case as the 5th starter for the foreseeable future.

The Yankees have not announced a starter for this game but Chad Green got the call as the opener the last time this spot came up. Green has done well in this position so far, going 2 scoreless innings his last couple of times out, and the Yankees have a couple of options for longmen to come on after him. Nestor Cortes Jr. came on to relieve him last time for five innings and hasn’t pitched since then, so he seems like the more likely candidate.

Game 2: Brad Peacock, RHP (6-4, 3.67 ERA) vs James Paxton, LHP (4-3, 3.93 ERA)

After a pretty strong month of May minus his clunker at Minnesota, Peacock has slipped somewhat in his past two games. He’s given up 4 earned runs in both of those, but was at least able to get into the 7th in the one against Milwaukee. Peacock has been a little erratic at times this season, showing stretches of what looks like dominance before a getting slapped around a little in a game. His peripheral numbers suggest that those slaps are anomalies more than the norm, however, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Brad bounce back a little here.

The last time we saw Paxton he was getting lit up by Astros bats before complaining to the media about how mean Houston was for figuring out that he was tipping pitches. He then went on the IL for close to a month a few starts later, probably on account of debilitating butt-hurt. He’s been a little up-and-down since returning, tossing 4 dominant innings in his first game back before giving up 4 then 6 runs in back-to-back matches. He was good his last time out against the White Sox, hurling 6 innings of 2-run ball while striking out 7.

Game 3: Wade Miley, LHP (6-4, 3.30 ERA) vs Masahiro Tanaka, RHP (5-5, 3.23 ERA)

Miley makes this start after a game against the Reds where he failed to get out of the 5th inning while walking 4. Indeed, Miley’s walk numbers have been on the rise lately, but he still continues to consistently keep teams at 3 runs or less, even when chased early. He’s only surrendered more than 3 runs once this season, but beyond that Miley has been pretty much the model of consistency for Houston in 2019.

Tanaka makes this start after hands-down his best one of 2019. He would pitch a complete game shutout against the Tampa Bay Rays, holding them to just 2 hits and only walking 1. This was most welcome for Tanaka, who had previously pitched four straight games where he gave up 4 runs, though he at least went deep into those. Tanaka is the de facto ace of the Yankees’ pitching staff but has probably profiled closer to a #3. He’s got the potential for domination but he will throw the occasional clunker from time to time.

Game 4: Justin Verlander, RHP (9-3, 2.59 ERA) vs JA Happ, LHP (7-3, 4.59 ERA)

Verlander will take another crack at 10 wins after he’s been denied in his past three starts. JV has been going through a bit of a down period in his last few games as the long ball has really come out to hurt him. In the past two games alone he’s give up 6 total homers, though at least he struck out 15 Brewers in one of those. Though he may not have looked like his usual dominant self recently, you can still expect JV to go deep as he has gotten into the 7th inning in his last 9 starts.

As for Happ, he’s been a little back and forth as well, seeming just as likely of going 7 innings of shutout ball as he is of getting tagged for 6 runs in just 3.2. This is with more than a few average starts mixed in there as well. Happ hasn’t really been bad this season so much as ho-hum when you look at his overall numbers. He’s probably not really what the Yankees were expecting when they got him from Toronto last year, but he hasn’t been a complete disaster for them either.

Fun Fact

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Thursday, June 20th @ 6:05 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Yankees - WFAN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Yankees - YES

Game 2: Friday, June 21st @ 6:05 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Yankees - WFAN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Yankees - WPIX / MLB Network (out-of-market only)

Game 3: Saturday, June 22nd @ 6:15 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Yankees - WFAN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280
Watch: FOX

Game 4: Sunday, June 23rd @ 1:05 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Yankees - WFAN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Yankees - YES / MLB Network (out-of-market only)


Who wins this seris?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Astros Sweep 4-0
    (8 votes)
  • 10%
    Astros Win 3-1
    (24 votes)
  • 42%
    Series Split 2-2
    (99 votes)
  • 34%
    Yankees Win 3-1
    (81 votes)
  • 9%
    Yankees Sweep 4-0
    (23 votes)
235 votes total Vote Now