Home Sports Astros vs. Yankees: Who’s hot, who’s not and what to watch in this American League heavyweight showdown

Astros vs. Yankees: Who’s hot, who’s not and what to watch in this American League heavyweight showdown

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 Astros vs. Yankees: Who's hot, who's not and what to watch in this American League heavyweight showdown

The 2022 ALCS was a defeat, an annihilation, a complete dismantling.

In four games, the eventual world champions, the Houston Astros, trampled the New York Yankees. The final results were close (Houston took Games 1, 2 and 4 by a single run each), but the gap in talent was enormous. At no point did it appear that the Yankees, long the most inevitable force in the sport, would emerge victorious. And a sweep is a sweep no matter how small.

The series victory gave Houston, at the time, its sixth consecutive appearance in the American League Championship Series. Meanwhile, New York extended its American League pennant drought to 13 years, the second-longest non-title period in franchise history.

“We got beat by a better team right now, and that’s the reality,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone admitted in his postmortem news conference. “They are clearly setting the mark in this league that we aspire to reach.”

Fast forward to today and the canyon appears over as the two clubs prepare to meet this week in the second of two regular season meetings.

The Yankees, at 23-12, are one game behind Baltimore in the American League East and have an 87.6% chance of making the playoffs, according to FanGraphs. The currently injured American League Cy Young Award winner Gerrit Cole has yet to throw a pitch. Aaron Judge, the mammoth, world-class slugger, struggled his way through the first month. However, the Yankees have shined. The rotation has weathered the storm without Cole, and offseason addition Juan Soto has electrified the offense (and all of New York City).

The Astros, 12-22 and seven games behind Texas in the American League West, have been an exercise in bewildering frustration. They are not as bad as their track record indicates nor as good as their recent track record would suggest. Houston’s offense has performed nearly identically to last year’s 90-win team, but the injury-ravaged starting rotation has struggled. However, the bullpen, strengthened over the winter by the acquisition of Josh Hader and heralded by many as the best in the game, has been the most devastating disaster.

New York took all four games in Houston to start the season, sweeping the Astros in what, in retrospect, seems like quite an omen. This time around, the Yankees have a chance to bury the 2024 Astros once and for all. A three-game sweep would bring Houston to 12-25. No MLB club has made the playoffs after starting in such a hole.

The Astros, on the other hand, have a chance over the next three days to save their season. A series win in the Bronx would be invigorating, the kind of narratives they are built around.

We are going to undermine the confrontation.

Houston first baseman jon singleton He’s on fire, with three long balls in the last week. The sturdy lefty, whose windy path back to the MLB was one of last year’s most charming stories, has performed admirably since. Jose Abreu was sent to Houston’s complex in Florida for a restart after a historically horrendous start to the season.

Even with all the turmoil brewing around these Astros, both Kyle Tucker and Jose Altuve have performed up to their supersonic standards this season. They are not abnormally “spicy” on the plate; They are undeniably good all the time.

jeremy peña, who terrorized the Yankees in the 2022 American League Championship Series, appears to have taken a significant step forward at the plate so far this season. The muscular shortstop has reduced his strikeout rate and improved the quality of his contact.

juan soto It’s so fucking good. It doesn’t take away plate appearances. He doesn’t swing outside the strike zone. He doesn’t flinch in the big moments. He’s everything the Yankees hoped he would be and more.

austin wells He was a victim of bad batted ball luck for much of April, a trend that is starting to change for the rookie catcher. Wells walks a lot, doesn’t strike out much, and throws the ball quite often. Expect more good things here.

After a mediocre start, Aaron judge Look back. The Yankees captain has three home runs in his last nine games.

Alex Bregman He hasn’t looked like himself all year. The soon-to-be free agent is still making elite swing decisions, which has kept his profile afloat, but he’s not elevating the ball with any power. At least he finally hit his first home run last week against Cleveland.

Yordan Alvarez is going through a cold streak, with just three extra-base hits and an 8-for-46 line in his last two weeks. Part of it has been misfortune with the batted ball, but the big slugger has also been too passive with pitches in the strike zone. Perhaps the small porch of Yankee Stadium will awaken you from your slumber.

Like an everything, Giancarlo Stanton He’s looked healthier and less infuriating at the plate this year, but he’s currently mired in a high-strikeout routine. The leading slugger has 10 strikeouts in his last 20 plate appearances.

Antonio Volpe he has 11 of his last 64, with just three extra-base hits in that span. Before that, the 23-year-old was off to a great start in his sophomore season, earning a move into the leadoff spot behind a more contact-oriented swing path. Internal metrics suggest the recent cold spell is more of a blip than a problem, so watch out for Volpe against Houston.

Tuesday: Future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander will face the Yankees rookie Luis Gil. Verlander, 41, has made just three starts so far after shoulder soreness delayed the start of his season. He has looked solid, but currently has a relatively poor strikeout-to-walk ratio of 1.86. Gil, 25, who earned the final spot in the club’s rotation in spring training after Cole went on the disabled list, has been the Yankees’ best pitcher so far. A powerful four-seamer, changeup and slider combination has him missing bats and limiting hard contact, giving him a chance to stay in the rotation even after Cole returns.

Wednesday: Houston will send Spencer Arrighetti to the hill against Carlos Rodón. Arrighetti has an astonishing 8.27 ERA in his first four starts, but he has pitched better than that number. Getting ahead in counts and locating his secondary material for strikes will be crucial if he wants to keep Yankee hitters off his fastball. Rodón was enjoying a bounce-back season until his most recent start against Baltimore, in which the O’s hit him for seven runs in four innings. The big lefty relied too much on his fastball and his slider in that start, and the Orioles were on top of his heater, which produced only two strikeouts.

Thursday: surprise leak Ronel Blanco will step on the slab against the veteran Marco Stroman. Blanco, who threw a no-hitter in his first start of the year, has helped keep Houston’s rotation afloat early. He has a five-pitch combination, but relies primarily on his four-seamer, his slider and his changeup, all of which he has excellent command of right now. Stroman’s sinker, which he throws 40% of the time, has seen a drop in velocity and is sitting at 90.3 mph right now. That makes the short right-hander’s margin for error smaller, but style, a deep repertoire and pitching feel have fueled a solid start to Stroman’s first year in pinstripes.

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