Alex Verdugo owning Justin Verlander is unexpected twist Yankees fans are loving

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Houston Astros v New York Yankees
Houston Astros v New York Yankees / Al Bello/GettyImages

What a difference a half-inning of damage makes. The New York Yankees were about to lose the first game of their homestand on Friday against the Detroit Tigers to follow up a horrible series vs the Baltimore Orioles after a silent eight innings of scoreless baseball. But they rallied in the ninth, took the win, and swept the series.

Then, they got a much-needed day off on Monday with the Houston Astros coming to town. Regardless of how poorly they're playing, the Astros present a challenge to the Yankees after all the history dating back to 2015. And with Justin Verlander on the mound for the opener, New York fans were ready to be hurt again.

Tuesday night's game didn't get off to a good start, either. Kyle Tucker took Luis Gil deep with two outs in the top of the first and Houston jumped out to an early 1-0 lead. All Verlander needed, right? A confident offense and a cushion before he even stepped foot on the mound.

But the Yankees punched back immediately. Juan Soto singled. Aaron Judge walked. And Alex Verdugo deposited a fastball on a 3-2 count into the right field seats. And he showboated directly in Verlander's face.

The Yankees took a 3-1 lead and never looked back. Gil thankfully used the offensive boost to toss six innings of one-run ball (he allowed just one hit, issued four walks and struck out five).

Alex Verdugo owning Justin Verlander is unexpected twist Yankees fans are loving

But the bigger story was the offense erupting for 10 runs in unexpected fashion. The Yankees scored only 12 runs against the Tigers (though Detroit has the fourth-best ERA in the sport) across three games, but it still felt like the lineup wasn't "awake" yet this year, outside of the burst in Milwaukee.

Verdugo was the catalyst with that three-run homer and an RBI single in the third (also off Verlander) that kept the line moving. The Yankees would score in every other inning after that with the exception of the eighth. Verlander was tagged for seven earned runs on eight hits and three walks in five innings. After logging a 2.08 ERA in his first three starts, he ran into a buzzsaw.

The dogs are barkin'. Now we're really wondering what might've happened if Verdugo was with the team for the entire series in Baltimore (he was placed on the paternity list and missed three out of the four games).

Historically, in an Astros uniform especially, Verlander has had the Yankees' number. In 27 career starts, he has a 3.41 ERA against New York, and his postseason success against them has been excruciating. Everyone has that Aaron Hicks homer clipped and ready to go, but the truth is Verlander has been lights out against the Bombers. We'll wait and see if that's about to change, but Verdugo's energy and ability to rise to the moment had New York winning the battle on Tuesday.

Who else got in on the fun? Anthony Volpe and Giancarlo Stanton homered. Aaron Judge and Jon Berti notched RBI singles. It was a statement win and, quite frankly, an uncharacteristic one, because the Yankees would usually allow a limping team to linger around and eventually get the best of them in the later innings.

But the Astros never stood a chance. The Yankees offense looked the way it should against an ace and future Hall of Famer. And Verdugo's tenacity has given the Yankees an element of surprise we haven't really seen when these two teams face off.

Keep riding the house money on Wednesday and Thursday, fellas.