The vaunted New York Yankees – second place in the strong AL East – rolled into Houston on Friday to do battle with the powerhouse Houston Astros. The matchup had all the makings of a classic clash of the Titans. The Astros have rolled over their competition all year; the Yankees have rode their youthful talent to an expectations-shattering season.
Neither team disappointed – gutsy performances abounded, with each club flexing their respective muscles. The Bronx Bombers drew first blood, exploding for twelve runs over the last four innings of Friday’s game. It was an evening of ugly lines for the Astros bullpen, as Luke Gregerson alone was able to navigate a scoreless frame. Down 10-4 and sensing the tightening jaws of defeat, Houston manager AJ Hinch turned to an unusual arm to pitch the ninth inning: veteran outfielder Nori Aoki. The Japanese import allowed three earned runs, but he did net himself a fun accomplishment: He retired rookie phenom Aaron Judge.
Saturday’s was a see-saw affair. The Astros struck first, scoring twice in the fifth inning. They didn’t have much time to savor the lead – the Yankees rode a grand slam off the bat of Didi Gregorious to a five-run sixth, and took a 6-3 lead into the bottom of the eighth. But the Astros weren’t done. Houston rallied for four runs off of lockdown relievers Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman and escaped game two with a narrow 7-6 victory.
There wasn’t as much drama on Sunday. The Astros scored three in the second and two in the fourth, staking starter Mike Fiers to a comfortable 5-0 lead. Fiers would depart before the fifth, as he needed over 100 pitches to grind the New York offense into submission. Chris Devenski and company took it from there, and the ‘Stros cruised to an easy 8-1 win.
Houston’s record now sits at 56-27; they maintain a 14.5-game lead over the second-place Angels.
Five Star ‘Stros
As expected, three Astros – George Springer, Carlos Correa, and Jose Altuve – were voted into the starting lineup of the 2017 All-Star Game. Two of their teammates will be joining them in Miami – starters Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr. were also selected to represent the American League. Five players is a lot for any team, but the Astros had a sixth deserving candidate: Chris Devenski is having one of the best seasons of any AL reliever, but was inexplicably left off the mid-summer squad.
The Astros received some tough news this week. Rookie David Paulino, one of the top prospects in baseball entering the season, was suspended 80 games for violating Major League Baseball’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Paulino figured to play an important part in the Astros’ plans this year – either pitching for the team down the stretch or as part of a mid-season trade package to land top-tier talent.
Astros Visit Sun Trust For First Time
The Astros play one more series before the All-Star Break, and it’s against an unfamiliar foe: The Atlanta Braves of the National League. The Braves opened a new ballpark this year, and the trip figures to be a fun one for Astros catcher Brian McCann – McCann spent the first nine years of his career in Atlanta, and must be eager to see his old team’s new digs.