They won’t, but they need to! While the New York Yankees are hobbling, they’ve been blessed to see their direct AL East competition in the Rays and Blue Jays stumble with heartbreaking losses of their own. It’s been an added bonus that the Red Sox have been awful, too.
Now, another rival outside of the division has suffered a significant blow. On Friday, the Houston Astros lost a key player in Michael Brantley, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery after only playing in 64 games this year.
To the dismay of Yankees fans, Houston already found his “replacement” when the team traded for Orioles outfielder Trey Mancini at the Aug. 2 deadline, so it’s evident general manager James Click prepared for the worst on Brantley.
However, Mancini isn’t a postseason stalwart like Brantley is. The former Cleveland star is as consistent and reliable as they come, even though his numbers don’t necessarily stun you off the page. Across 54 games in October, Brantley has hit .296/.357/.380 with 21 runs scored, 4 homers and 25 RBI. And that’s after beginning his playoff career 4-for-25 in three series with the Indians.
Mancini is an admirable trade-off, but Brantley was a pest against the Yankees in the 2019 ALCS and has hit .270 against New York in 61 career regular season games.
The Astros losing Michael Brantley for the season is big for the Yankees
Though the Astros have built a reputation for chugging along and still dominating despite losing top contributors (Justin Verlander, Lance McCullers, Carlos Correa, etc.), this injury puts more pressure on guys like Kyle Tucker and Alex Bregman, both of whom haven’t had great showings in 2022.
Looking at the numbers, it’s clear that could be the case, too. Brantley’s been out since June 26. Here’s how Bregman and Tucker have performed in the month of July without him in the lineup:
- Bregman – .242 AVG, .776 OPS, 4 HR, 17 RBI (his OBP took a massive dip)
- Tucker – .212 AVG, .625 OPS, 4 HR, 14 RBI
Guys like Jose Altuve and Yordan Alvarez have continued to slug the lights out, and despite fast starts from Bregman and Tucker in August, this could still have a lingering effect on a lineup that’s relied on Brantley since 2019 (he’s batted .306 over that stretch and has earned two All-Star nods).
Additionally, Mancini has oddly logged just 23 at-bats since being acquired at the deadline, which has raised questions about his usage. Houston is just 5-4 since Aug. 2 and 12-9 since the break.
Even though the Astros have the best record in the AL, it’s clear there have been some issues since Brantley’s been out, and now that his absence for the remainder of the year is official, the Yankees need to get right and assert their dominance they displayed from April-June.