An odd take, particularly given the Yankees just lost 2-1 in a random one-off game in Houston. Anthony Rizzo’s home run was the only support Luis Severino received in an overall strong effort. On Houston’s end, Alex Bregman’s double was more than enough.
Except, Bregman’s double was just one of three Astros hits compared to the Yankees’ five. In fact, Houston didn’t register any hits after the third inning. They didn’t even have a baserunner until Yuli Gurriel’s walk in the seventh inning.
Such were the same Astros during last weekend’s series split in the Bronx. Sure, they beat the Yankees in two of the four games, but very rarely did they beat up on the Yankees. Except for getting to the slumping Jameson Taillon early last Thursday, their victories only came from a perfect storm of pitching mistakes and dumb luck.
All it takes is a simple look at the boxscores from Friday and Saturday’s games. Friday, the Astros only had five hits in a 3-1 win. The difference-maker was that fifth hit being a three-run homer from Kyle Tucker.
Not only did Cristian Javier have “it” en route to a combined no-hitter on Saturday, but Houston had crazy good luck. The team scattered eight hits, but didn’t register one until the fifth inning. Luck struck in the seventh when .100 career hitter J.J. Matijevic hit a two-out solo shot against Gerrit Cole. Jose Altuve’s in the next inning was just a bonus.
All this to say, are the Astros really as good as they seem? They’re 20th in batting average, 19th in runs scored, yet fourth in seventh in walks and home runs. Instead of the offensive juggernaut that cheated/slugged its way to a World Series in 2017, and then hit well again in 2019, these are a different Houston Astros.
Rather, they seem more similar to the Tampa Bay Rays teams of the last few years. They don’t so much handily beat the Yankees, but capitalize on mistakes, as we’ve discussed before.
And yet, for some reason or another, the Yankees seem to fall into old habits against the Astros. Instead of building at-bats and forcing mistakes, they try to beat Houston at their own game and win games with one swing. This could be a problem without adjustments. Two regular season matchups remain, and the road to the World Series absolutely runs through Minute Maid Park.
But let’s not forget how the Angels swept the Yankees in 2009 and also had their number for years. Those old Mike Scioscia teams were aggressive and swung pretty freely, and often gave the Yankees fits. Cut to the ALCS that same year, and New York clinched the pennant in six games.
Meanwhile, the Bronx Bombers are still the best record in baseball, have a comfy lead in the division, and only trail Houston 3-2 in the season series. And yet, the Astros are this big, scary, Texas-sized monster that simply owns New York? And probably shot JR too, while we’re at it?
Maybe I’m wrong, but these Astros don’t seem too big a threat. They’re more a team that’s mastered the three true outcomes approach and has the privilege of playing in a weak AL West. Having the great Dusty Baker as manager doesn’t hurt either. The Yankees, on the other hand, are more balanced than they’ve ever been since this rivalry was born five years ago.
And in October, we’ll have an answer as to who truly is the better team.