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New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros: Series Preview

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Hmm, has anything interesting happened with these two teams in recent years?

Houston Astros v Atlanta Braves Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

So, quite a bit has happened since the last time the Yankees faced the Astros. In the months after the Yankees fell to Houston in Game 6 of the 2019 ALCS, the Astros’ sign-stealing controversy emerged. Yankee Stadium was always going to be one of the places where Houston got their harshest reception, but a certain pandemic meant the teams wouldn’t meet at all in 2020. Now a year and a half after the scandal first broke, the Astros are finally returning to Yankee Stadium.

Thanks to a series sweep of the Tigers, the Yankees have managed to build up some wins and some confidence after the horrid start to 2021. They’ve gotten back to .500 as Houston comes to town, where they’ll face a step up in competition from what they’ve dealt with recently.

The Astros come into this series averaging just under five runs per game, which is one of the better marks in the league. They might have lost George Springer in the offseason, but they still boast five regular hitters with an OPS+ of at least 130, with Yuli Gurriel the best of them so far. On the rotation front, the Astros are solid once again, although the Yankees will miss Cristian Javier, who has given up just three runs since April 2nd.

The next three games will be interesting at the very least, so let’s take a look at the pitching matchups that await us.

Tuesday: Domingo Germán vs. Zack Greinke

Since returning from the alternate site, Germán has been good, allowing just three total runs, all in his very first inning back. Since that one inning, he’s thrown 12 straight scoreless innings, including seven against the Orioles where he gave up just three hits. However, the Astros offense represents a step up from Cleveland and Baltimore, who both rank towards the bottom of the league in runs per game.

The ageless Zack Greinke has put in a solid start to the season, coming into this game with a 3.44 ERA (120 ERA+) and a 3.97 FIP, while doing some very Greinke things along the way. On the other hand, he’s coming off a less-than-stellar start, lasting just four innings against the Mariners and surrendering four runs.

Wednesday: Jordan Montgomery vs. Luis Garcia

Montgomery’s season so far has consisted of two acceptable to good starts and three mediocre ones. His most recent start was one of the better ones, but even then, he was pulled with nobody out in the sixth inning. Both of the better starts have also come against the Orioles, so he has yet to put in a good game against a good team.

While not remotely on the level of the Mets’ ace, Garcia has gotten somewhat Jacob deGrom’d so far this season. He’s made five appearances (three starts) and has thrown 20 innings across them. He has a 2.70 ERA and a 1.050 WHIP, yet has taken losses in his only three decisions on the year, with the Astros having combined for four runs across those three games. He was similarly pretty good in a small sample size last year, when he made his MLB debut.

Thursday: Gerrit Cole vs. Lance McCullers Jr.

For the first time since leaving them in free agency in 2019, Cole will take on the Astros on Thursday. He is coming into this showdown on absolute fire, combining for 23 strikeouts, no walks, and just one run allowed in his last two starts. Cole’s numbers on the season are simply absurd — through six games, he has a 1.43 ERA, 0.46 FIP (!), 14.8 K/9, 0.7 BB/9, and 2.4 fWAR already.

McCullers quite famously closed out Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS by holding the Yankees to just one hit in the last four innings. Between a combination of him undergoing Tommy John surgery and the pandemic meaning the teams didn’t face in 2020, the Yankees have only faced him once since then. Back in May 2018, the Yankees got him for three runs in seven innings, and eventually won the game 6-5. As for present-day McCullers, he’s been pretty good so far this year after signing an offseason extension, putting up a 3.38 ERA and 3.36 FIP in his five starts so far.