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In the big picture, the Yankees losing the season series to the Astros, and decisively, likely isn’t a big deal.

Even with a 5-2 split in the Astros’ favor, New York still owns a healthy 12-game lead over the second-place Rays in the AL East (and a two-game lead for home field in the postseason). The Aug. 2 trade deadline could also add reinforcements either in the lineup or through the pitching staff, perhaps both. There’s still time to adjust if the road to the World Series does include a stop in Houston.

And for what it’s worth, the Yankees have won the ALCS against opponents who owned the season series. In fact, of New York’s last five trips to the World Series, three of their ALCS opponents won the season series:

  • 1999: Red Sox won season series, 8-4
  • 2000: Mariners won season series, 6-4
  • 2001: Mariners won season series, 6-3

However, history cannot compare with the greater problem these Yankees have against the Astros. For some reason or another, this team just brings out the worst in New York’s talented roster. The focus that’s been a mainstay all year long just evaporates. Even as the Yankees take their walks, execution is nonexistent and energy scarce.

You’ll recall that last month, I remarked the Astros weren’t as scary a monster as they seemed. Catching Michael King on a bad day and tattooing a fresh off some rehab appearances Domingo German later, I still very much believe that.

But there is one key difference between both teams. Unlike the Yankees, the Astros treat these regular season games like dry runs for the playoffs. Should these two meet in the ALCS, Houston now has a potentially winning strategy of making New York’s bats overcompensate.

The Yankees, on the other hand, have little to nothing. It doesn’t matter that they tied the score in the ninth inning of the first game or rallied a bit in the ninth in the second. Late July baseball means no more moral victories.

This means it’s time for a good old-fashioned sitdown in the clubhouse to just talk about playing the Houston Astros and what’s so frustrating about it. Think of what we discussed last year about the Rays, Tropicana Field and the proposed Florida Project strategy.

In this case, we could jokingly call it the Apollo Missions. How are the Astros so intimidating as a team that every game, win or lose, seems an uphill battle from the first pitch? Why is Minute Maid Park’s noise an issue when other stadiums are also loud? What is it going to take to finally face this team and take the fight hard to them instead of clawing and scratching to victory half the time?

Be it by these means or an exorcism a la “Ted Lasso,” the Yankees need to change how they approach the Astros. Forget that they won a measly two games out of seven. Rather, focus on how New York’s bats were sleepwalking save for a handful of plate appearances.

Oh, and how about the fact that these Astros no-hit the Yankees this year?

There’s enough time left in the regular season that the Yankees can now focus on securing home-field advantage in the playoffs. That is at least within reach. Focus on games to win instead of ones already lost.

Except with the Astros a near-certain ALCS opponent, the Yankees at least must discuss that very scenario. What is the strategy for beating Houston and can it be done? If you ask this writer, it’s simply showing a sense of urgency and matching Houston’s ice cold focus with a classic New York mean streak.

There’s a long time between now and a potential playoff matchup with Houston. Now, let’s see if the Yankees use that time to learn from these losses.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.