The last time the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros met, it was a cold three days in New York to open the season. The Yanks took two out of three games and after that both teams proceeded to have tough Aprils. However, while the Yankees can’t seem to put together any kind of sustained momentum with a 50-48 record, Houston has emerged as one of the hottest teams in baseball. They have managed to crawl out of their horrific 7-17 start to their present ten games over .500 at 54-44. They are only 2 1/2 games out first place in the American League West and a half game behind the second Wild Card spot. The Yanks and Astros now meet for three games at Minute Maid Park.
In order for the Yankees to prevail in this series, they need to contain Most Valuable Player candidate Jose Altuve. Houston’s second baseman leads all of Major League Baseball with a .360 batting average, a .426 in-base percentage and 136 hits. His double play partner, shortstop Carlos Correa, is having an outstanding sophomore campaign. He leads the club in RBI’s with 64 and also has 15 home runs. Right fielder George Springer is tops in long balls with 21 and is third in runs driven in with 59. On the flip side, outfielder Colby Rasmus is hitless in his last 26 at-bats. Re-enforcements are on the way for the Astros. Top infield prospect Alex Bregman, the second overall pick in the 2015 Draft and MLB.com’s #18 prospect, has been called up to the big club and will be in the lineup Monday night. Also, the Astros landed the latest star Cuban import, third baseman Yulieski Gourriel with a 5-year, $77.5 million dollar contract. He has been assigned to Houston’s Rookie League squad but the organization expects him to be in the Majors before the end of the season.
Monday night’s starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel is a Yankee killer but he has endured a terrible 2016 season. The lefty is 6-9 with a 4.70 ERA and will oppose Michael Pineda. Doug Fister has been Houston’s most consistent starting pitcher and he will get the ball on Tuesday, opposing C.C. Sabathia. Fister is 10-6 on the year with a 3.42 ERA and is tops among qualified rotation members in just about every important category. Wendesday’s starter is Lance McCullers, Jr. who was dominant in his last outing. He shut the Los Angeles Angels over eight innings, striking out ten. McCullers has 90 strikeouts in only 70 1/3 innings along with a 3.33 ERA. The ‘Stros have had a revolving door in the closer role. Ken Giles, whom the team obtained for a steep price from the Philadelphia Phillies, flopped in Spring Training and was replaced by Luke Gregerson, the team’s stopper last year. At the beginning of June, Gregerson struggled and was replaced by Will Harris whose dominant first half was rewarded with an All-Star selection. The 32-year old Harris has struck out 42 batters in 41 innings and has walked six while allowing just one home run.
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