This may be the most challenging week and a half of the season for the Astros. The best team in the NL (the Mets) visits from New York for two games, and the Astros head east to play the best team in the AL and in all of baseball, the Yankees, in New York for four games.
They stay in New York for two more games with the Mets, and then, for some reason, the Yanks stop by Minute Maid for a single game. By the way, the Astros have the second-best record in the AL (though 8-1/2 games back of the insane Yankees) and third in the majors, 2-1/2 games back of the Mets.
After much talk and moves and gnashing of teeth over the last few years, the NY Mets have finally (seemingly) put things together and are cruising along at 45-24, having put the whole of the NL, including the LA Dodgers, in their rear view mirror.
Their offense is one of the best in the majors, with 342 runs scored (1st in the MLB), .261 BA (Tied 1st), .334 OBP (1st) and .737 OPS (6th). They have done this while only ranking 18th in home runs with 64. They are led by Pete Alonso (.280 BA/.362 OBP/.910 OPS/19 HR/63 RBIs), Francisco Lindor (11 HR/52 RBIs), Jeff McNeil (.326 BA/.385 OBP/.844 OPS) and the familiar face of former Athletic Mark Canha (.296 BA/ .385 OBP).
On the pitching side, the above injuries have dragged the Mets’ starters down towards mediocrity (3.91 ERA – 16th in the majors). Scherzer was pitching excellently (5-1, 2.54 ERA) when he went down. Taijuan Walker (5-2, 2.88 ERA) and David Peterson (4-1, 3.18 ERA) have been two of the best starters in the early going. The Astros get to face Trevor Williams, who spent most of his career with the Pirates and who they have only encountered once before. Williams is 1-2 with a 4.50 in his 5 starts this season and has only gone 20 innings in those starts. They then face Carlos Carrasco, the Mets’ winningest pitcher at 8-2 despite a middle-of-the-road 3.96 ERA.
The Mets relievers have an ERA of 3.64, which is 12th in the majors and about a run higher than the Astros. In the back of the bullpen, closer Edwin Diaz (2.30 ERA, 14 saves), Adam Ottovino (2.73 ERA) and Drew Smith (2.03 ERA) are pretty good, so the Astros need to get into the bullpen early and often to feast off those who are not so good.
The Astros chances for these two series against the Mets are dependent on not letting the Mets’ offense take off while scoring early and often themselves.
While the matchup with the Mets looks like a fair match, no one seems to be able to slow down the Yankee machine this season. The Yankees were a very good 34-15 in April and May, and now they have hit another gear and gone 16-2 in June.
The Yanks starters are 2nd in the majors behind the Dodgers at 28-6 with a 2.77 ERA and an MLB-best 1.01 WHIP. Their starting 5 is a pick your poison as they are all pitching very good to excellent – Gerrit Cole (6-1, 3.14 ERA), Jameson Taillon (8-1, 2.70 ERA), Jordan Montgomery (3-1, 2.72 ERA), Nestor Cortes (6-2, 1.94 ERA) and Luis Severino (4-1, 3-27 ERA).
The Yanks bullpen has the second-most saves in the majors (24) and the fourth-best ERA (2.97 ERA). Big names like Aroldis Chapman and Chad Green are on the IL, but the lesser names carry this bullpen. Closer Clay Holmes (4-0, 11 saves, 0.55 ERA), Michael King (4-1, 2.41 ERA) and Wandy Peralta (2-1, 2.42 ERA) are the backbone of the back end.
The Yankees’ offense is power-dependent. Their team batting average .248 is tied for tenth in the majors, but they lead the majors with 5.13 runs/game, .443 slugging and .770 OPS. Aaron Judge is leading them all with 25 HRs and 50 RBIs, but he has a lot of help from Giancarlo Stanton (14 HRs/ 42 RBIs) and Anthony Rizzo (19 HRs/ 49 RBIs) and Gleyber Torres (13 HRs/ 32 RBIs). And that does not include other veteran hitters like Josh Donaldson, Joey Gallo (OK, Gallo the new Dave Kingman) and DJ LeMahieu.
This is a tough matchup, and the Astros cannot come out and go 3-4-5 innings without scoring, or they will likely be in a hole quickly. The Astros’ pitchers have been able to handle the Yankees in the past, but the New Yorkers are healthy and on a tear.
Where do you think the Astros will be on their schedule after the next 9 games?
Can they match up with the very best in the majors?