In real life, this was going to be one of the most anticipated weekends of the season, as the Yankees traveled to Houston for a series with the Astros. The two teams were projected to be the best in the AL, had faced off in a hard fought ALCS in October, and of course the sign-stealing drama that erupted in the winter featured the Yankees as a major supporting player. Somewhere on Earth-2, the baseball world is buzzing about what should have been a fun, fun series.
The best we can do in the current timeline is continue our sim of the 2020 Yankees season, and get an approximation of what this series should have looked like. Before we get to Houston, we have to make a quick stop in Tampa.
The Yankees took two of three at Tropicana Field, despite dropping the opening contest 5-3. Luis Severino is the team’s worst starter, and despite striking out eight men in just five innings of work, he allowed the same number of hits, and pushed his team-worst ERA to 5.85. Fortunately, New York follows their worst pitcher with their best so far in 2020: James Paxton.
Paxton, who leads the team in ERA and FIP, pitches into the eighth with 10 strikeouts against just a single walk, lowering that ERA to 2.59. The Yankees win 11-5, with Luke Voit hopefully waking up out of his early season slump. The first baseman drives in six runs on the back of two dingers to pace the offense.
The second-best pitcher on the Yankees seals the series win in Tampa, as Masahiro Tanaka sits down nine Rays and the team clubs three more long balls to win the rubber match 5-3. New York heads to Minute Maid Park for the long-awaited standoff with the Astros, far from the league’s best squad so far this year. The story of the series is the Yankee pitching, as has so often been the case with the club in 2020.
Jordan Montgomery blanks the Astros over 7.1 innings in the series opener, continuing his bizarre campaign. A month removed from the worst start in the history of baseball, the lefthander’s ERA stands at 5.27, but he was more than enough to hold down Houston, and the Yankees take the first game 2-0.
Gerrit Cole gets the ball in the second game of the series, making his return to the city that remade him as a pitcher. Cole’s had an inconsistent year, and that combination of brilliance and befuddlement shines through again in Houston. He strikes out nine but walks four and gives up seven hits in eight innings. Cy Young favorite Justin Verlander gets his first loss of the year as the Yankees win 4-1, but Cole’s process issues should still be a concern for digital Yankee fans.
On the verge of being swept at home, the Astros turn to Zack Greinke to salvage the final game of the set, and he does just that. The Yankees drop the last matchup 3-2, with the only bright spot for the Bombers being Urshela’s three hits, moving the leadoff man into the team lead in batting average.
The Yankees win four of the six games in the week, and sit atop the AL East at 29-19. That’s probably about where we would expect to see them in real life, and missing out on three close, pitching-centric games in Houston against the most likely challenger in the league is making me miss baseball even more.