Series Preview: Yankees @ Astros (4/30-5/3)

The Yankees will be traveling to Houston for a four-game set against the defending World Champion Houston Astros, the first time the Bombers have visited Minute Maid Park since Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS. It is the final series of New York’s first mini West Coast trip. No one in baseball is playing hotter than the Yankees, having won their last nine games, including a three-game sweep of the Angels over the weekend. The Astros have started 2018 with a 19-10 record, notching the best team ERA in the MLB (2.59). This series should be a fun one to watch and will give Yankee fans a better indication on how legit this team is.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Game 1: Monday, April 30th, 8:10pm
Sonny Gray (1-1, 7.71 ERA) vs Charlie Morton (3-0, 1.86 ERA)

Sonny Gray takes the bump for the Yankees in the series opener. In his five starts this season, Gray has been no better than abysmal. He has one win to his credit, the only start he qualified for a W all season. Four of his starts were less than five innings long, including two where he could not get out of the fourth. In three career starts for Gray in Minute Maid Park, he is 0-1 with a 5.28 ERA. This strong ‘Stros offense coupled with Sonny’s struggles could put the Yanks in a precarious spot Monday night.

Batters to watch out for:
Jose Altuve: 11-for-31, 10 singles.

On the other hand, Charlie Morton has been fantastic this season. The veteran right-hander is putting up the best numbers of his career through his first five starts. He has gone at least six innings in four of his five starts, including giving up 0 earned runs in three of them. On the bright side for the Yanks, Morton suffered his worst outing of the year last Tuesday versus the Angels. He gave up four runs in just four innings. Giancarlo Stanton’s career mashing of Morton should hopefully put some doubt in his mind and allow others to see some good pitches.

Batters to watch out for:
Giancarlo Stanton: 9-for-18, 2 2B, HR.
Brett Gardner: 3-for-8, 2B.

Game 2: Tuesday, May 1st, 8:10pm, MLBN
Jordan Montgomery (2-0, 3.76 ERA) vs Justin Verlander (4-0, 1.36 ERA)

Young lefty Jordan Montgomery will pitch Game 2 for the Bombers. The Yankees have won four of his five starts this season, mostly due to stellar run support. He hasn’t had a start yet without giving up a run, but he has managed to bring his ERA down after two rough starts in early April. Montgomery faced Houston twice last season, both ending in Yankees losses. Boone will hope Montgomery can pitch into the sixth with few runs on the card.
Photo Credit: AP

Batters to watch out for:
Carlos Correa: 4-for-6, HR.

Since coming to Houston during the 2017 trade deadline, Justin Verlander has only lost one start (13-1), and that was in Game 6 of the World Series. He has been everything Houston hoped for and then some. He faced the Yankees two times in the 2017 ALCS, winning both games with dominate performances (Game 2: 9.0 IP, 1 ER, 13 K, Game 6: 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 8 K.). In his six starts this season, Verlander has gone at least six innings in all but one. In his previous outing versus the Angels, he went 7, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits. In his 13-year career, Verlander is 6-7 against the Yankees.

Batters to watch out for:
Didi Gregorius: 4-for-13, 2B, HR.

Game 3: Wednesday, May 2nd, 8:00pm, ESPN
Luis Severino (4-1, 2.61 ERA) vs Dallas Keuchel (1-4, 4.00 ERA)

The Yankees ace has pitched like it this season. Five of Sevy’s six starts this season have been quality ones. His devastating slider has been filthy all year, giving him a K/9 number that sits just below 10 (9.9). Though, in two career regular season starts versus Houston, Severino has not fared well, not getting out of the third in one and giving up six runs in the other. Let’s hope he mirrors his hot form over the first month of the season.

Batters to watch out for:
Carlos Correa: 5-for-7, 2 2B, HR, 3 BB.

The 2015 Cy Young award winner will look to add another win to his shaky early 2018 record. Dallas Keuchel has not necessarily had bad outings, as four of his first six starts were quality ones, but he has run into various problems in pretty much each game. Two starts with 4+ walks, one with three homeruns given up, and FOUR where his team has given him just one tally for run support. Keuchel has seen widespread success against the Yankees whether it be in the regular season or postseason. He is 4-2 with a 1.41 ERA in six starts against the Yankees in his career, averaging 7.5 punchouts per game in these outings. The Yanks will look to duplicate what the A’s did to Keuchel last Friday (6 runs, 7 hits, 3 HR).

Batters to watch out for:
Austin Romine: 2-for-3, 2B.

Game 4: Thursday, May 3rd, 2:10pm
Masahiro Tanaka (4-2, 4.37 ERA) vs Lance McCullers Jr. (4-1, 3.71 ERA)

Masahiro Tanaka will look to put up his third straight quality start in the final game of this series. He is coming off back to back 6+inning starts giving up just one run in each, bouncing back from two rough starts in the second week of April. In four career outings against Houston, Tanaka is 0-2 with a 10.38 ERA, 4 points worse than his 28th best team ERA. He has been notoriously bad against the Astros, including a 1.2 inning outing where he gave up 8 runs in 2017. Let’s hope that splitter stays down on Thursday.

Batters to watch out for:
George Springer: 6-for-17, 2 HR, 3 BB, 2B.
Carlos Correa: 6-for-19, 2 HR, BB.
Jose Altuve: 6-for-20, 2B, HR.

On the other side, Lance McCullers will look to notch his fifth win of the season, two shy of his 2017 total. The young righty has gotten at least seven runs from his offense in four of his six starts this season. McCullers has relied a lot on the strikeout this year. His sinker and curve are a deadly duo and could pose a threat to some of the Yankees biggest mashers. McCullers is coming off of a 7.0 IP, 0 ER performance. His career line against the Bombers (2-0, 2.08 ERA, 11.9 K/9) shows that this is not the best matchup for New York.

Batters to watch out for:
Didi Gregorius: 5-for-12, 2B.
Brett Gardner: 4-for-14, 2B.
Aaron Judge: 3-for-8, 2B, HR, 2 BB.
Ronald Torreyes: 2-for-2, 2B.

Players to Watch


Gary Sanchez
Gary Sanchez has bounced back after a terrible start to his 2018 campaign. He is batting .259 with 4 home runs and 11 RBIs over the past week. He has had two game winning home runs, including an improbable walk-off against the Twins on Thursday. With Sanchez now swinging the bat well, it is taking less pressure off Judge and Stanton to produce. According to Alex Rodriguez, Sanchez “has been seeing the ball like a grapefruit” lately. Look for this to continue in Houston.
Photo Credit: AP
Giancarlo Stanton
After being heavily scrutinized early in the season about strikeout problems, Stanton has been putting the ball in play more recently. He has 8 K’s in his last 7 games, not great, but improvement nonetheless. He was 10-for-28 (.357) last week moving his average up to .239. All in all, if Stanton can hit home runs Yankees fans will be content. He has only hit two since April 5th.

Didi Gregorius
What more can be said about this guy? He has been an absolute stud all season, leading the recent Yankee win streak while acquiring all sorts of accolades. He is batting .357 with 10 RBIs over the last week, including a solo shot in the tenth inning that proved to be the winner against the Angels Friday night. He shows no signs of slowing down, expect him to have another good series at the dish in Houston.


Carlos Correa
So far in his short career, Correa has been a Yankee killer. In 19 games versus the Bombers, Correa is hitting .384 with six home runs and an OPS of 1.144. The Yankees have just not had an answer for his special combination of power and speed. He is hitting .320 with four home runs this season, but like most of the Astros he has struggled over the past week. Look for Correa to be a difference maker in this series.

Jose Altuve
The 5-foot 6-inch slugger has continued to dominate the MLB this year, posting a .351 batting average with two homers and 15 RBIs in 29 games. His power numbers are down from the previous two seasons, but both his home runs came in the past four games. A turnaround is likely. Altuve is hitting .410 with those two homers and 11 RBIs over his last 10, including a four-hit performance on Saturday. Yankees pitchers will struggle with him all series.


This Yankee team is riding higher than any other ball squad in the Majors right now. Winners of nine in a row, they will face their first true test of this win streak. In a matchup of the 2017 ALCS, look for the Yankees to come out mad and ready to win. Booney (can I call him that?) must do a good job of managing his depleted bullpen in this series. Odds are both managers will be going their early and often. With how hot the Yankees are, some may see a split as less than ideal, but whenever you can come out of Houston even or up, it’s a win.

Article by: Shane Black


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