The schedule does not get any easier for the Yankees as they enter a four-game set against the Houston Astros at the Stadium. Two teams heading in opposite directions following the trade deadline, the Astros find themselves in the thick of a divisional race while the Yankees slowly slip further away from a Wild Card spot.
Typically a hostile environment when the Astros come to town, the Yankees will try and prevent the stadium crowd from directing their frustration toward their own ballclub this weekend. Brian Cashman says the Yankees are “in it to win it” and if he means physically fielding a team against the Astros, then he is correct. Let’s take a look at the pitching matchups in what could be a make-or-break series for the Yankees.
Thursday: Clarke Schmidt vs. Cristian Javier (7:15 pm ET)
Despite his 4.39 ERA, Clarke Schmidt has slowly established himself as the Yankee’s most consistent starter behind Gerrit Cole. With the complete drop-off of Luis Severino, the injury to Nestor Cortes, and the inconsistency of Carlos Rodón coming off the IL, Schmidt has become a reliable starter for a struggling team. Schmidt has to cut down on the long ball, as he has given up a home run in three straight games, but his availability every five days is something that can’t be said for most of the Yankees rotation.
It has been an up-and-down season for Cristian Javier, culminating in what was a brutal July for the right-hander. He finished July with a 6.86 ERA, ballooned by a nine-hit, eight-run outing against Texas earlier this month. Despite his struggles, Javier is looking to build off back-to-back solid outings against the Athletics and Rays. The Yankee’s offense feels like a soft landing spot for a pitcher trying to find his groove again.
Friday: Luis Severino vs. Hunter Brown (7:05 pm ET)
Not much more to say about how brutal of a season it has been for Luis Severino. He has a 7.49 ERA and opponents are hitting .325 against him this season. He is arguably one of the worst starters in baseball. After picking up a win against the Royals, which followed a solid six-inning, one-run performance against the Angels, Severino laid a well-documented egg against the Orioles on Sunday. It was the fifth time that he has given up six or more runs in a start this season, and he’s only made 12 starts all year.
It has been a mixed-bag season for the Astros’ rookie right-hander Hunter Brown, as his struggles at the beginning of July highlighted the Astros’ need to improve their rotation at the deadline. Unfortunately for the Yankees, the young pitcher has begun to find his groove again. Similar to Javier, Brown is coming off back-to-back solid performances, tossing six innings of two-run ball in each outing.
The Astros’ rotation remains fluid for Saturday and Sunday with the addition of Justin Verlander and the impending return of José Urquidy off the IL. Both the Yankees and Astros have not officially announced starters for either game, but we will preview the likely scenarios for each matchup.
Saturday: Nestor Cortes vs Justin Verlander (1:05 pm ET)
Nestor Cortes will return to the Yankees rotation this weekend after a two-month IL stint with a rotator cuff strain. Following an All-Star campaign in 2022, Cortes struggled to find that same form before going on the IL in June. His struggles later in games were well documented, leading to his 5.16 ERA. The Yankees need a spark, and while the offense has been the main concern for the Yankees, another consistent starter would go a long way for this team.
Justin Verlander will make his first start back in an Astros uniform after being traded from the Mets at the deadline. What sparked this deal was a spectacular July by the reigning Cy Young award winner. Verlander gave up just seven earned runs over his six starts in July, including a six-inning shutdown performance against the Yankees a week ago. Historically, Verlander has had the Yankees’ number, and I expect much of the same this weekend.
Sunday: Carlos Rodón vs. José Urquidy (1:35 pm ET)
Injuries and inconsistency have plagued the Yankees team all season, and unfortunately, Carlos Rodón falls into both categories. The left-hander is coming off a rough outing against the Rays in which he gave up four runs in just four innings of work. Walks have become an issue for Rodón, including four more issued on Tuesday. Being able to control the strike zone and keeping the ball in the ballpark will be two key areas to watch as Rodón continues to find his groove.
Similar to Nestor Cortes, José Urquidy will be making his first start following a lengthy stint on the IL with shoulder inflammation. His last start came back on April 30th against the Phillies. Urquidy has been a solid starter for the Astros over the past two seasons but struggled before his injury. The Astros hope that his return will be an added boost to a rotation that has struggled for parts of this season.