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New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros: Series Preview

A familiar foe comes to town for a four-game weekend series.

Chicago White Sox v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After trips to Toronto and Tampa Bay, the Yankees’ tour of potential playoff rivals continues tonight as they return home to take on the Astros. They obviously have a lot of history with Houston in recent years and that’ll continue tonight when the two teams take the field at Yankee Stadium.

While they haven’t won at as high a rate as the Yankees, the Astros have opened a similarly sized lead in the AL West, coming into tonight with a 43-25 record. They’ve also been hot of late, winning seven of their last nine games.

Also of note is the fact that the Yankees are coming in on a 14-game home winning streak, having not lost in the Bronx since May 23rd. Let’s take a look at the pitching matchups we’ll see over the next couple days as they look to keep that winning run going.

DraftKings series odds: Yankees win (+175); Astros win (+225); Tie (+150)

Thursday: Jameson Taillon vs. Framber Valdez (7:05 PM ET)

After a pair of sub-standard outings immediately following his perfect-game bid, Taillon bounced back last time out, throwing 5.2 scoreless innings against the Blue Jays, striking out a season-high eight batters. His 2021 in general was fairly average, but one of his best starts last year came against this Astros’ team in his only meeting against them since joining the Yankees. He allowed two runs on three hits in six innings in Houston, leaving the Yankees with a lead in a game the bullpen eventually lost.

Taillon’s opponent in said game was Valdez, who the Yankees had knocked out after three runs (two earned) in four innings that day. The Yankees have had Valdez’s number in the two times they’ve faced him, scoring seven runs on 10 hits in 7.1 combined innings. Valdez has been very good so far this year, putting up a 2.78 ERA while holding hitters to a .592 OPS.

Friday: Luis Severino vs. Justin Verlander (7:05 PM ET)

Severino’s final numbers from his last start don’t look great, as he allowed five runs in five innings, though a bullpen meltdown contributed to that. Prior to that start, he had been on a nice little run, combining for 20 strikeouts in 13 innings in his two previous outings. This will be his first start against Houston since the 2019 ALCS, where he gave up two runs in 4.1 innings in a Game 3 loss.

Speaking of pitchers who’ve missed a lot of time, this will be the Yankees first time facing Verlander since Game 5 of the ‘19 ALCS. It will also be the first time they’ve faced him since attempting to sign him over the offseason. Verlander has been excellent so far in his return to action post-Tommy John surgery (2.30 ERA, 0.887 WHIP in 13 starts), but did get knocked out in the fourth inning last time out, having allowed nine hits and seven runs (four earned) in just 3.2 frames.

Saturday: Gerrit Cole vs. Cristian Javier (1:05 PM ET)

Cole’s last outing saw him take a no-hitter through seven innings at Tropicana Field, his second deep run at history in less than a month after a bid for perfection on June 3rd against Detroit. This will be his third occasion of squaring off with his former team, and the previous ones have been pretty good. His most iconic moment as a Yankee was probably his start in Houston last July, where he threw a complete-game shutout in a 1-0 win.

Four of Javier’s first six appearances of the season came out of the bullpen, but he’s been in Houston’s rotation fully since mid-May and has put up middling results. From May 14th onward, he has a 4.50 ERA in 34 innings. It is worth noting, however, that this figure is somewhat skewed, as 12 of the 17 earned runs in that period came in just two games.

Sunday: Nestor Cortes vs. José Urquidy (1:35 PM ET)

Cortes has been going through his worst stretch of the season, with a 5.79 ERA in his last three starts. That included allowing three home runs to the Rays on Tuesday after he had only given up six all season long prior to that. This will be just the Astros’ second look at Cortes 2.0, as he had a good start against them on July 9th last year while he was still establishing himself as a genuine rotation option.

Urquidy hasn’t been great this season, but is coming off one of his better starts of the season. He allowed one run in six innings against the Mets on Tuesday, helping Houston cruise to a win. The only time the Yankees have ever faced him was when he came out of the bullpen for the Astros in the fourth inning of Game 6 of the ‘19 ALCS. He allowed a home run to Gio Urshela in a 2.2-inning outing.