Failure to Launch: Thoughts on the Yankees’ Loss(es) to the Astros
Gary Sanchez had a chance to redeem his team. After the Yankees (5-7) scored four runs in the inning to cut their deficit to one run, Sanchez pinch-hit for Tyler Wade in the top of the eighth inning with D.J. LeMahieu two outs. The previous two ugly losses were behind him. This was his moment.
That is, it could have been his moment. Instead, Sanchez struck out against reliever Ryan Pressly and the Yankees lost for the third straight night to the Astros (8-5), this time by a score of 8 to 6. Sanchez’s strikeout was another crucial play that once again turned the tide in Houston’s favor in the late innings.
Houston outscored the Bombers eight runs to four in the seventh and eighth innings in this series, with all of the Yankees’s runs coming in today’s game. Meanwhile, the Astros’ made the Yankees’ elite bullpen look pedestrian, scoring at least three runs in each game off New York’s relievers. This included three runs in an inning and two thirds against Zach Britton and three runs in two-thirds of an inning against Chad Green.
Here are a few more of my thoughts from the series finale:
SMALL BUT MIGHTY
Jose Altuve put on a laser show in this series, hitting the same number of home runs in three games – four – as the entire Yankees lineup. His two home runs in the series finale were the difference in the Astros’ final win.
He even had some luck go is way. Altuve’s first shot was originally ruled a double by umpires. Upon review, the ball was ruled gone, and Altuve kickstarted the offense once again. In the fifth inning, Altuve hit his second home run off starter James Paxton (who we’ll get to in a minute), a shot that kickstarted a four-run Astros rally in the inning. Overall, Altuve went five for 12 in the series, grinding out each at-bat and leading the Astros offense to three impressive wins.
This was a tough series for the Yankees’ southpaws. Zach Britton allowed three runs in an inning and two thirds in two pivotal moments of the series.
In game one, Britton came on with the Yankees up by two runs in the bottom of the seventh. After botching a potential inning-ending double-play, Britton walked Tyler White and surrendered a game-tying, two-run double to catcher Robinson Chirinos.
Flash forward two games and Britton entered in the bottom of the eighth following the Yankees’ two-run rally. With the Yankees cutting their deficit to one run, Britton had a chance to lock down Houston and get the top of the Bomber’s order up quickly. Two batters into the inning and that hope was gone, as Britton surrendered a momentum-shifting run.
Paxton struggled even more in his start against Houston in game three. Given an early one-run lead, Paxton almost immediately gave it back and left the first inning trailing by a run. Despite fighting command issues, Paxton failed to keep the Astros off the scoreboard, allowing three more runs and exiting in the fifth without retiring a batter. This is the second consecutive start in which the lefty got off to a slow start, but this time he could not recover his command. Paxton threw 95 pitches in those four-plus innings, allowing three walks and eight hits. The Astros’ stubborn core made Paxton fight from the very start. Unfortunately, the lefty could not keep up with the Astros this time.
IT’S STILL EARLY
Okay, so, this article has not exactly been a glowing review of the Yankees’ performance. This series was rough. That being said, it is still April. The Bombers still have 151 games left on the schedule and plenty of opportunities to grow. The Yankees were only outscored by six runs against a team with consecutive 100-win seasons with have of last season’s starting lineup injured. They may have lost, but they were competitive and fought until the end of each game.
Some issues – baserunning gaffs, mental mistakes on defense – are concerning, but the Yankees made similar mistakes at the start of last season as well. The Bombers got off to a six and seven start last year that included losing three-out-of-four at home to the eventual 115-loss Orioles and a series loss at Fenway. They finished with an 18 and 10 record in April and a 100-win season overall.
Obviously, a team with a World-Series-or-bust does not expect to look this poor at any point, but at the same time the Bombers have plenty of time to improve. CC Sabathia is going to return from the disabled list on Saturday. Dellin Betances, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Hicks should return soon as well. Clint Frazier has looked strong offensively (three home runs and 10 RBIs) filling in. The bullpen, while shaky thus far, has a strong enough track record to suggest at least some improvement. The sky is not yet falling in New York. The Bombers just could not quite take flight in this series.