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New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros: Jameson Taillon vs. Framber Valdez

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The Yankees try to end a disappointing first half on a high note with a sweep of the Astros.

New York Yankees v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Play today. Sweep today. That’s it.

Gerrit Cole’s superhuman effort Saturday night, backed up by Aaron Judge’s homer and subsequent trolling of Jose Altuve and the Astros, leaves the Yankees nine innings (hopefully) away from sweeping the first-place Astros in Houston. A win means the Bombers end this road trip with a 5-1 record and go into the All-Star break feeling good about themselves after a subpar first half of the season. A 4-2 road trip, especially winning two of three from Houston, would be acceptable but it is time for the Yankees to get over their aversion to sweeping series.

For the Yankees, shutting down the Astros’ bats for a third straight game falls to Jameson Taillon. Although some of his numbers on the season – especially his ERA and his HR/9 – remain uglier than a pair of used bowling shoes, he has been at the top of his game in two of his last three starts. Last time out against Seattle, Jamo threw seven innings of one-run ball, struck out nine, and kept the ball in the yard. I suspect every Yankees fan would sign up for a facsimile of that performance today against a scuffling-yet-dangerous Astros lineup.

Houston counters with Framber Valdez on the hill against the Bombers. The 27-year-old lefty has pitched to a 2.86 ERA for the Astros in 50.1 innings so far in 2021. Since breaking into the big leagues in 2018, Valdez has excelled at keeping the ball on the ground, with a 64.6 GB% for his career. In 2021, that rate has spiked even higher as Valdez has induced a 70.9 GB%. Getting the ball in the air will be critical for the Yankees. Their propensity to hit into double plays even at the best of times this season looms large considering the frequency with which Valdez produces ground balls.

Leadoff man DJ LeMahieu, who extended his on-base streak last night, has been quietly good over the last month-plus. DJ dug himself into a hole early, so his overall numbers are nowhere near what Yankees fans are used to seeing from him. Over his last 30 games, however, LeMachine has hit .291/.357/.433. With Aaron Judge hitting behind him, LeMahieu’s consistent presence on the bases has given Judge (and others) more opportunities to do damage with runners on than we saw earlier in the season.

Let’s Go Yankees! Sweep the Astros. Show some killer instinct and let’s enter the break on a high note.

How to watch

Location: Minute Maid Park — Houston, TX

First pitch: 2:10 pm ET

TV broadcast: YES, AT&T Sportsnet Southwest, TBS

Radio broadcast: WFAN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280

Online stream: MLB.tv

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