Though things have changed and both rosters are significantly different since the last time they played, it’s still no secret that they could be duking it out for a World Series berth come October.
But the Yankees have a favorable opportunity to set the tone during this three-game series. Once again, the Astros will luck out in some capacity since they’ll only be playing in front of 10,000 Yankees fans at The Stadium. However, the Yankees can expect every single one of those fans to bring the necessary energy to provide a true hostile experience for their opponent.
As for the product on the field? The Yankees have the edge. And they can make it clear early in the 2021 season that the Astros will need a whole lot more than stealing signs to take down the Bombers.
Remember when the Astros swept the Oakland A’s in a four-game set to begin the year and were 6-1 in their first seven contests? Well, that feels like ages ago. And for some reason, we only heard about the wins! Must be nice not residing in a harsh media market, huh?
Houston is now 15-13, having gone 9-12 in their last 21 games. That includes getting swept in a two-game set against the Colorado Rockies and a three-game set at home against the Detroit Tigers.
The Yankees have a golden opportunity to hurt the Astros on the field.
Though guys like Yuli Gurriel, Michael Brantley and Yordan Alvarez are bringing the lumber early on and leading the team in various hitting statistics, the usual suspects aren’t exactly blowing us away. Let’s take a look:
- Jose Altuve – .260 with a .661 OPS, one homer, nine RBI
- Alex Bregman – .286 with a .800 OPS, four homers and 15 RBI
- Carlos Correa – .283 with a .793 OPS, four homers and 13 RBI
Really not that special. Houston’s 27 homers as a team puts them 25th in the league. They do get a lot of action with runners on base, but the Yankees rotation will probably be the best they’ve seen so far in 2021, since we’d venture to say Gerrit Cole and Co. are better than whatever the A’s, Angels, Mariners, Rockies, Tigers and Rays have to offer.
And we’ll get these pitching matchups:
- Domingo German vs Zack Greinke
- Jordan Montgomery vs Luis Garcia
- Gerrit Cole vs Lance McCullers Jr.
While the Yankees’ offense has been extremely sluggish to start the year, it’s started to wake up, and the timing of their series against the Tigers couldn’t have been better. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have combined for 13 blasts and 33 RBI so far. Admittedly, the rest of the lineup has looked fairly bad, but guys are heating up here and there. If Judge and Stanton can get things going, others will follow.
Most importantly, the Astros will find themselves in their most uncomfortable position since the 2019 World Series during this three-game series in the Bronx. They got away with murder in 2020 playing in front of no fans and getting a red carpet rollout during the postseason with matchups against the Twins, A’s and Rays, ultimately falling one game short of the World Series.
Thanks to the Rays deciding to get worse, the Astros never really relented their supremacy in the American League. They’ve been to four straight ALCS’ and the 2018 Boston Red Sox were the only team to dispatch Houston from the playoffs with ease.
The Astros used to be up for these kinds of challenges. But there’s no more Justin Verlander or Gerrit Cole. George Springer, who was arguably the motor of this offense, is in Toronto. Jose Altuve has slowly turned into one of the most underwhelming big-name players in the league. Their bullpen is nowhere close to intimidating. This is not the Houston Astros baseball fans have been accustomed to for the last four years.
So it’s time for the Yankees to flip that script this week after they scratched and clawed back to .500. New York’s suspect start can disappear with a dominant series against the Astros to help them maintain a mental edge for the remainder of 2021.