Weekly Preview: NYY vs. HOU 5/4 – 5/6, NYY vs. WAS 5/7 – 5/9

 

Fresh off a weekend sweep against the lowly Detroit Tigers, the Yankees welcome the Houston Astros to the Bronx in a long-awaited rematch.  This will be the first time since the 2019 ALCS that the two teams have faced off against one another, the first time since the Astros were caught cheating during their 2017 World Championship campaign, and the first time fans will be in attendance to hopefully boo the ever living shit out of them.  Following the three-game set against the Astros, the Yankees will wrap up their homestand with a weekend series against the Washington Nationals.

 

Photo Credit: Rob Tringali/Getty Images

The Yankees have finally clawed their way back to .500 after starting off the season an ugly 5-10, including five losses in six games to division rival Tampa Bay.  Winners of five of their last six and eight of their last 11, the Yankees have dug themselves out of the AL East basement and now have a chance to get back on track against two quality opponents to finish off the homestand.

 

NYY vs. HOU:

Game 1: Tuesday, May 4 | First Pitch 7:05 PM | TV: YES Network, ESPN

Domingo German (2-2, 4.05 ERA) vs. Zack Greinke (2-1, 3.44 ERA)

 

Game 2: Wednesday, May 5 | First Pitch 7:05 PM | TV: YES Network

Jordan Montgomery (1-1, 4.39 ERA) vs. Luis Garcia (0-3, 2.70 ERA)

 

Game 3: Thursday, May 6 | First Pitch 1:05 PM | TV: YES Network, MLB Network

Gerrit Cole (4-1, 1.43 ERA) vs. Lance McCullers (2-1, 3.38 ERA)

 

Photo Credit: Thomas Shea/USA TODAY Sports

NYY vs. WAS:

Game 1: Friday, May 7 | First Pitch 7:05 PM | TV: YES Network, MLB Network

Jameson Taillon (1-2, 5.24 ERA) vs. Patrick Corbin (1-3, 8.10 ERA)

 

Game 2: Saturday, May 8 | First Pitch 1:05 PM | TV: YES Network, MLB Network

Corey Kluber (2-2, 3.03 ERA) vs. Max Scherzer (2-2, 2.54 ERA)

 

Game 3: Sunday, May 9 | First Pitch 1:05 PM | TV: YES Network, MLB Network

Domingo German (2-2, 4.32 ERA)* vs. Joe Ross (2-2, 4.39 ERA)

 *updated after Tuesday evening's start vs. Houston


German and Montgomery will get the ball in the first two games of the Houston series, hoping to build upon strong outings against the Orioles in their last appearances.  Montgomery took a no-decision in a game the Yankees dopped in extra-innings, but German looked as good as he ever has in pinstripes.  The Yankees will need more of this from the both of them in order to contain a lethal Houston lineup before handing the ball to Cole on Thursday afternoon.

 

The Astros will counter with Greinke, Garcia and McCullers who have been three of their best starters on the young season. The Yankees consistently seem to struggle against Greinke and have never faced Garcia.  McCullers missed all of the 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John Surgery and then with the regional-only schedule in 2020, has not faced the Yankees since 2018.  In that start he went seven innings and allowed only three runs in a game the Yankees would rally in the ninth to win.

 

Jameson Taillon and Corey Kluber to get the first two of the three games against Washington before the Yankees give the ball to German on Sunday. Both Taillon and Kluber are coming off their best starts in pinstripes, earning consecutive victories on Saturday and Sunday this past weekend.  Taillon's victory was his first in two full years while Kluber looked like vintage Kluber, shutting out the Tigers over eight dominant innings.  The most intriguing pitching matchup of this series is a duel of former (multiple-time) Cy Young winners in Kluber vs. Max Scherzer on Saturday afternoon.

 

What to Watch For:

Bipolar offense – the Yankees have yet to hit their stride offensively but have turned in games of seven and ten runs over the last week.  The problem is they’ve also chipped in two games of four or less hits, scoring two in each.  Against a strong Houston lineup, the Yankees will need to put runs on the board consistently if they expect to win more than once.  The worst offenders in this lineup continue to be Aaron Hicks, Gary Sanchez and Clint Frazier, although Clint has started to show some signs of life within the last week.  On the flip-side, Giancarlo has started to lock in, as he carries a nine-game hitting streak into this series and has seen his batting average increase from .158 to .269 over that stretch.  Stanton continues to punish the ball, owning the league's highest average exit velocity at 98.7mph as well as the highest hard-hit percentage in the MLB at 66.2%.  Aaron Judge, too, seems to be locking in, carrying a .350/.435/.900 slash line over his last six games (five starts plus one PH appearance).

 

Photo Credit: John Minchillo/AP Photo

Playing angry – there are many holdovers from the 2017 season still on the current Yankees squad and this will be their first crack at the Astros after it was revealed they cheated during the 2017 season, robbing the Yankees of a trip to the World Series that year.  Multiple Yankees have been outspoken about the Astros in the year-plus since their cheating scandal was revealed and I would expect them all to have a little extra motivation this week.

 

Aces showdown – Thursday’s afternoon affair will feature a stout pitching matchup of staff aces. This will also be the first time Gerrit Cole will face his former squad after signing a nine-year contract with the Yankees following the 2019 season.  Gerrit Cole has been nothing short of elite so far this season, currently leading the AL in wins (4), FIP (0.47), WHIP (0.717), BB/9 (0.70) and K/9 (14.8) and he was just announced as the American League Pitcher of the Month for April.

 

Photo Credit: Getty Images

The Yankees have a prime opportunity to flex their muscle here and re-establish themselves as an AL favorite after the slow start.  After finding themselves with the worst record in the entire league just two weeks into the season, they’ve rallied some, albeit not all the way back yet.  The Yankees will need to hit their stride and keep their foot on the gas as any step in the wrong direction this week would again raise the ire of fans and build questions around this team’s makeup and leadership.  The Yankees cannot afford to win less than three of these next six games as the calendar has flipped to May and you don't want to start digging yourself a hole in the division as summer approaches.  Hopefully that’s a bridge we don’t find ourselves crossing this time next week.

 

Preview by: Andrew Natalizio

 

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