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Houston Astros Series Preview: May 4 to 6

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Here it is.  The moment Yankees fans have been waiting for since news of the Houston Asterisks cheating scandal broke in late 2019 – starting this evening, the Bronx faithful will have the opportunity to boo the Trashstros out of Yankee Stadium.  I’ll be there, and I look forward to sharing that collective catharsis with the other 10,000 people who are there for the same reason.

The series comes at a good time for the Yankees, who seem to be in the process of recovering from their early season struggles.  They are coming off a three game sweep of the Detroit Tigers, which featured outstanding pitching performances from Corey Kluber and Gerrit Cole and offensive breakouts up and down the lineup.  If the team can continue its production on both sides of the ball throughout the week, Houston, who is coming off a 2-of-3 series win against Tampa, might have a problem.

Their Story So Far

Before the season, Dusty Baker’s Astros were picked to win the AL West by a large margin by both PECOTA and FanGraphs.  Much like the Yankees, they have struggled somewhat out of the gate and currently sit tied for second place, two games above .500 at 15-13. 

However, despite their less-than-exemplary record, Houston has been performing relatively well.  Through yesterday, the team was 5th in the AL in OPS+ at 105, and tied for first in runs scored (138).  They have five regular members of their starting lineup who have slugged over .450 thus far, and four players with four or more home runs. There is a sharp split in performance between the top and bottom of their lineup, however, and the elite hitters are balanced by several players who have almost been automatic outs thus far.

Similarly, their pitching has been pretty good.  Their 113 team ERA+ is 5th in the AL, and their rotation has been consistently solid.  Among their starting four of Zack Grienke, Jose Urquidy, Lance McCullers Jr., and Cristian Javier, Urquidy’s 3.71 ERA is the highest on the staff, and Javier especially has enjoyed early season success with a 3-0 record and a 1.75 ERA over 25.2 innings.  Closer Ryan Pressly has allowed just two runs over 11 innings, and has struck out 13 while walking only 3.

The Yankees and the Astros are both elite teams who have underperformed through the first month of the season, and the Yankees are going to have their work cut out for them this week against a likely playoff rival.

Injury Report

PLAYERPOSITIONINJURYINJURY STATUS
Enoli ParedesRPSideOut until at least mid-May
Pedro BaezRPShoulderOut until at least early June
Framber ValdezSPFingerOut until at least late May
Jake OdorizziSPForearmOut until at least mid-May
Blake TaylorRPAnkleOut until at least mid-May
Austin PruittRPElbowOut until at least early June
Josh JamesRPHipOut until at least late May
Justin VerlanderSPElbowOut for the season

Spotlight: Yuli Gurriel

After an overall disappointing 2020, Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel is having a brilliant start to his age-37 season.  Through the first month of 2021 he has slashed .327/.421/.520, working out to an OPS+ of 167.  Gurriel’s career story is interesting, as he debuted in the majors at age 32 after a long career in Cuba, but has never quite lived up to the hype that pegged him one of best players in the world in the mid-2000s despite a solid 5 years in Houston.

This year, however, he has arguably been the Astros MVP through the beginning of the season.  He had multiple three-hit games in the first week of the season and hasn’t really looked back.  Is it sustainable?  Who knows – his BABIP is sitting at .341, almost 50 points above his career average and about 40 points above a league average. Statcast has his xwOBA pegged at .384, slightly below his actual wOBA of .409 but still much higher than his career average.  He’s also been walking a ton this year, with a 14% walk rate compared to his career rate of 4.7%.  

Gurriel is not so significantly outplaying his peripherals that the Yankees, or other AL teams, should bank on a huge regression, and that could be a problem as the Astros look to catch up to their potential.

Projected Lineup

Below is Roster Resource’s projected starting lineup for the Astros.

  1. Jose Altuve, 2B (.260/.305/.356, 88 OPS+)
  2. Michael Brantley, LF (.330/.364/.521, 149 OPS+)
  3. Alex Bregman, 3B (.286/.348/.452, 127 OPS+)
  4. Yordan Alvarez, DH (.313/.360/.550, 155 OPS+)
  5. Yuli Gurriel, 1B (.327/.421/.520, 167 OPS+)
  6. Carlos Correa, SS (.283/.336/.462, 125 OPS+)
  7. Kyle Tucker, RF (.188/.248/.366, 72 OPS+)
  8. Myles Straw, CF (.226/.295/.280, 66 OPS+)
  9. Martin Maldonado, C (.094/.171/.141, -9 OPS+)

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday, May 4, 7:05PM

RHP Zack Greinke

Grienke has pitched well to start the season, with a 2-1 record and a 3.98 FIP.  He stumbled somewhat in his last start against Seattle, surrendering 4 runs over 4 innings, but has thrown some gems this year, including a 4-hit 8-inning shutout against the Mariners on April 17.

RHP Domingo Germán

German had his best outing of the season against Baltimore last week, going seven innings without surrendering a run on only three hits.  His starts have gotten progressively better since his season debut, and the Yankees hope he can keep up that trend.

Wednesday, May 5, 7:05PM

RHP Luis García

The rookie Garcia has split time between starting and relief this year, but has performed reasonably in both roles despite an 0-3 record. In his last start, he surrendered just one run to Seattle over 5 innings, but wound up taking a tough-luck 1-0 loss.

LHP Jordan Montgomery

Montgomery has been inconsistent to start the season, but turned in a pretty good performance last week against Baltimore, surrendering 2 runs on 6 hits over 5 innings.  He has not thrown 90 or more pitches in any start this year, so look for the Yankees to continue being meticulous with his pitch counts after injury-plagued seasons.

Thursday, May 6, 1:05PM

RHP Lance McCullers Jr.

McCullers, 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA to start the year, spun an absolute gem against Tampa last week, striking out 9 over 7 shutout innings in a 2-1 win.  Going up against Gerrit Cole, the Astros hope he can replicate that performance to hang with the Yankees’ ace.

RHP Gerrit Cole

AL Pitcher of the Month Gerrit Cole was Gerrit Cole once again against the Tigers last weekend, pitching through ridiculous weather to record 12 strikeouts in 6 shutout innings.  His 62 strikeouts in April are the second-most by any Yankees pitcher in a single calendar month.

Bullpen Status

PlayerSaturday SundayMonday
Ryan Pressly19
Ryne Stanek14
Brooks Raley1920
Bryan Abreu26
Joe Smith
Kent Emmanuel15
Andre Scrubb
Brandon Bielak

With Monday’s off-day for both teams, both bullpens should be rested and ready to go for this week’s series.

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3 Comments

  1. Brian M

    *%^! the Astros. Would be awesome if fans brought their own trash cans and banged on them during every Astros at bat.

  2. Gerreddardit Cole

    If we only win 3 more games the entire season it needs to be these 3 games, Bobby. I’d much rather sweep this series and lose every remaining game this season than lose these games and win the World Series. That’s how important they are. Good must prevail over evil.

    Tonight will be the hardest one to win. Greinke is too crafty for this lineup. Let’s hope Boone and German are ready. I don’t think they are but Monty and Cole should win their games. And I don’t like Boone’s chances in a battle of wits against the great Dusty Baker.

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