ASTROS @ YANKEES
May 11-14, 2017
It’s without a doubt the Astros’ highest-profile series so far: the American League’s two best teams duke it out in the Bronx for four games, up to three (and no fewer than two) of which will be nationally televised.
What happened in the last series?
The Yanks are coming off an unusual Wednesday off-day after splitting a two-game series in Cincinnati. They are hot, winning 10 of their last 13, and they own baseball’s second-best home record at 12-3. They are tops in the AL in runs scored (Astros are 2nd) and tops in MLB in run differential (Astros are 4th). Their rotation trends pretty average overall, although they’ve allowed the second-fewest walks in baseball. The bullpen, though, has MLB’s 3rd-best ERA and lowest opponent OPS. If the Astros need a late rally in any of these games, they will need to do better than they did against another elite bullpen (Cleveland).
The Astros took care of business in a two-game series against the Braves. To counter NYY’s second-best home record in MLB, the Astros are the AL’s second-best road team at 9-5.
Thursday, May 11 – 6:05pm CDT
Dallas Keuchel (5-0, 1.88) vs. Michael Pineda (3-1, 3.12)
MLB Network has picked this up as their Showcase game.
Keuchel looked to be coasting to another complete game against the Angels before an unfortunate 9th inning shot both the CG and a winning decision. However, he has enjoyed Steinbrenner-grade ownership of the Yankees in recent years, even in New York: including the 2015 Wild Card Game, he is 3-1 with a 1.61 ERA and a 0.750 WHIP(!) in Yankee Stadium since 2014.
Pineda is off to a better start than his ERA would indicate: his 0.98 WHIP doesn’t lag far behind Keuchel’s, and his gaudy 43:5 K:BB ratio is the second best in MLB. His ERA is also skewed from his first outing of the season, when he lasted only 3.2 innings and gave up four runs; he has a 2.32 ERA in his five starts since. Houston has not had much trouble scoring runs off Pineda recently, giving him a 5.18 ERA in four starts against the Astros since 2015. Correa and Springer both have two bombs off of him, and five Astros hitters have a 1.000+ OPS against him.
Friday, May 12 – 6:05pm CDT
Lance McCullers Jr. (2-1, 3.40) vs. Jordan Montgomery (2-1, 3.81)
McCullers had a fantastic two-hit outing against the Angels last Saturday, spoiled only by an early unearned run and a bullshit soft-contact rally against the bullpen in the bottom of the 9th. He faced the Yankees once last season, holding them to one run over six innings while punching out ten.
The rookie southpaw Montgomery has been a pretty steady presence in the Yankees rotation since his callup during the first week of the season, and is usually good for about six innings and 2-3 earned runs. He brings a five-pitch arsenal that includes two- and four-seam fastballs in the low-90s, low/mid-80s changeup with sinking action, mid-80s slider, and high-70s curve. He split time between AA and AAA in 2016, going a combined 14-5 with a 2.13 ERA and 1.199 WHIP, and throughout his minor league career his LHB/RHB splits have been roughly equivalent.
Saturday, May 13 – 12:05pm CDT
Mike Fiers (1-1, 5.64) vs. Luis Severino (2-2, 3.40)
MLB Network will carry this game unless the Mariners and Blue Jays look more attractive. As bad as the Blue Jays are, I won’t judge.
I was hoping that Monday’s off-game would grant us a Fiers-free series, but I guess they can’t hide him in the dugout forever. Fiers is still really bad (good?) at the long ball, still tied for the MLB lead in home runs allowed. He faced the Yankees once last year and gave up five runs on nine hits in five innings.
Severino has been eating innings early, with four starts of seven or more innings. His performances have alternated between good/great and meh, and he has lacked run support in the meh starts: the Yankees have lost all of his starts when he allows three or more runs. The Astros have only faced him once, in two scoreless relief innings last year in a game the Astros won.
Sunday, May 14 – 6:30pm CDT
Charlie Morton (4-2, 3.63) vs. Masahiro Tanaka (5-1, 4.36)
If the start time didn’t give it away, this is ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball game.
Morton has put together some pretty decent back-to-back starts against the Rangers and Braves, falling just one out short of a quality start against the latter. He hasn’t faced the Yankees since 2014, but one player in particular to watch out for is Starlin Castro: dating back to both of their stints in the National League, Castro is 12×27 with three home runs lifetime against Morton.
After a terrible first start on Opening Day, Tanaka has largely gotten things under control and has racked up five straight wins in as many starts. That said, it’s kind of bizarre that the Astros have had good success against him throughout his career: he is 0-1 with a 6.89 ERA in three games against Houston, his second-worst ERA against any team, and the Astros’ .913 OPS against him is his worst allowed to any team.