Saturday, September 23, 2023

MLB Preview: New York Yankees (65-69) at Houston Astros (77-58)


AT A GLANCE: The Yankees continue their season-long 10-game, three-city road trip tonight with the first game of a three-game set at Houston (through Sun.)…are 4-3 on the road trip after dropping two-of-three at Tampa Bay and winning three-of-four games at Detroit…after this road trip, return home for a six-game homestand vs. Detroit (Tues.-Thurs.) and Milwaukee (9/8-10). Have won three of their last four games…are 5-4 in their last nine games (since 8/23) after losing their previous nine from 8/12-22.

WELCOME TO THE SHOW: Prior to tonight’s game, the Yankees signed OF Jasson Domínguez and C Austin Wells to Major League contracts and added them to the active roster…will mark the 12th time in franchise history two players will make their Major League debuts as starters in the same game, the third such time in the last 54 years (since 1970) and fourth in the last 77 years (since 1947), joining Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin on 8/13/16 vs. Tampa Bay, Dean Anna and Masahiro Tanaka on 4/4/14 at Toronto, and John Ellis and Jim Lyttle on 5/17/69 vs. California.  Will mark the seventh time in franchise history two players age 24-or-younger will make their Major League debuts as starters in the same game…will join Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge on 8/13/16 vs. Tampa Bay, John Ellis and Jim Lyttle on 5/17/69 vs. California, Yogi Berra and Bobby Brown on 9/22/46-G1 vs. Philadelphia-AL, Billy Johnson and Snuffy Stirnweiss on 4/22/43 vs. Washington-AL, Ben Chapman and Dusty Cooke on 4/15/30 at Philadelphia-AL, and Howie Camp, Chick Fewster and Bill Lamar on 9/19/1917 vs. Cleveland. OF Jasson Domínguez is currently ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 2 prospect in the Yankees organization and the No. 77 prospect in all of baseball…is tabbed by Baseball America as the No. 3 prospect in the Yankees system and the No. 60 prospect in all of baseball…was originally signed by the Yankees as a non-drafted free agent on 7/2/19…was the top-ranked prospect by for the 2019 international signing period…is a native of Esperanza, D.R. C Austin Wells is currently tabbed by Baseball America as the No. 5 prospect in the Yankees system and the No. 81 prospect in all of baseball…is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 8 prospect in the Yankees organization…was drafted by the Yankees in the first round (28th overall) in the 2020 First Year Player Draft out of the University of Arizona.

THE MARTIAN HAS LANDED: At 20 years, 206 days old, OF Jasson Domínguez will be the youngest Yankee to appear in a game since RHP José Rijo (19 years, 54 days) on 7/6/84 at Minnesota…will be the youngest position player to appear in a game for the Yankees since Stan Javier (20 years, 111 days) on 4/29/84 vs. Milwaukee. Will be the youngest Yankee to make his Major League debut since Stan Javier (20 years, 97 days) on 4/15/84 vs. Chicago-AL. Will be the ninth-youngest Yankee to make his Major League debut as a starter and the sixth-youngest position player in franchise history to do so…will be the youngest position player to make his big league debut as a starter since Bobby Murcer (19y, 111d at SS on 9/8/65 vs. Washington-AL)… trails only Murcer, Mickey Mantle (19y, 179d in RF on 4/17/51 vs. Boston), Bobby Richardson (19y, 351d at 2B on 8/5/55 vs. Detroit), Al Downing (20y, 21d as SP on 7/19/61-G2 at Washington-AL), Gene Nelson (20y, 152d on 5/4/81 at California), Don Johnson (20y, 159d as SP on 4/20/47-G2 at Philadelphia-AL), Bill Lamar (20y, 182d in CF on 9/19/1917 vs. Cleveland) and Andy Carey (20y, 197d at 3B on 5/2/52 vs. Detroit).

ROARING TWENTIES: Ten of the Yankees’ 28 players on the active roster are 26-or-younger, nine are 25-or-younger and seven are 24-or-younger: OF Jasson Domínguez (20 years old), OF Everson Pereira (22 years old), INF Anthony Volpe (22 years old), INF Oswald Peraza (23 years old), INF/OF Oswaldo Cabrera (24 years old), C Austin Wells (24 years old), RHP Randy Vásquez (24 years old), RHP Jhony Brito (25 years old), C Ben Rortvedt (25 years old) and INF Gleyber Torres (26 years old).  If Domínguez, Pereira, Peraza and Volpe all start tonight, it would mark the first time the Yankees had four players 23-or-younger start in the same game since 9/18/69 vs. Washington-AL when Ron Blomberg (21 years old), Frank Tepedino (21 years old), Thurman Munson (22 years old) and Bobby Murcer (23 years old) all started. If Domínguez, Pereira, Peraza, Volpe and Wells all start tonight, it would mark just the second time in the last 54 years (since 1971) that the Yankees had five players 24-oryounger start in the same game (also 9/19/84 vs. Baltimore: Don Mattingly-23, Scott Bradley-24, Rex Hudler-24, Bob Meacham-24 and Mike Pagliarulo-24).


LHP Carlos Rodón will make his ninth start of the season in tonight’s series opener at Houston…the 30-year-old will make the start on regular four days’ rest…last pitched on Sunday at Tampa Bay, allowing 2ER in 4.2IP while recording a season-high 7K (ND, 4H, 2BB, 1HR, 1HP)…is 1-4 with a 5.97 ERA (37.2IP, 33H, 25ER, 20BB, 33K, 10HR) in eight starts this season…finished sixth in the NL Cy Young voting in 2022 after going 14-8 with one complete game and a 2.88 ERA (178.0IP, 131H, 59R/57ER, 52BB, 237K, 12HR) over 31 starts with the San Francisco Giants…the two-time All-Star (2021 with Chicago-AL and 2022 with San Francisco) has finished in the top-six of Cy Young voting twice (fifth in 2021 and sixth in 2022)…over the previous two seasons (2021-22), went 27-13 with two complete games and a 2.67 ERA (310.2IP, 222H, 98R/92ER, 88BB, 422K, 25HR) in 55 starts…over that span, led the Majors in K/9.0IP (12.23) and opponents’ SLG (.307), ranked second in opponents’ BA (.196) and opponents’ OPS (.567), third in WAR among pitchers (11.1, FanGraphs), fourth in ERA (2.67), opponents’ OBP (.259) and double-digit strikeout games (16), fifth in HR/9.0IP (0.72), tied for sixth in wins and seventh in strikeouts…was originally selected by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 16th round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft but did not sign and went on to play three seasons at North Carolina State University (2012-14)…was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the first round (third overall) of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft…signed a six-year Major League contract with the Yankees extending through the 2028 season on 12/21/22.

LAST TIME OUT: Made his eighth start of the season on Sunday at Tampa Bay, allowing 2ER in 4.2IP while recording a season-high 7K (ND, 4H, 2BB, 1HR, 1HP)…allowed five of his first six batters faced to reach in the first inning before retiring his next 11 batters faced and 13 of his final 15 batters faced (2BB).

VS. HOUSTON: In eight career starts vs. Houston, is 2-0 with a 2.39 ERA (49.0IP, 39H, 16R/13ER, 14BB, 49K, 6HR)…opposing batters are hitting .217 (39-for-180)…his 2.39 ERA vs. the Astros marks his second-lowest ERA against a single opponent (min. 5GS), trailing only his 2.17 ERA in 5GS vs. Seattle. Has allowed 2ER-or-fewer in seven of his eight starts, 1ER-or-fewer in four of those starts and two starts were scoreless. Has made one start against Houston this season, allowing 5ER over 2.2IP on 8/6 at Yankee Stadium (ND, 3H, 2BB, 5K, 2HR)…left the game in the third inning with left hamstring tightness. Has posted a 1.86 ERA (19.1IP, 16H, 6R/4ER, 9BB, 18K, 1HR) in three career starts at Minute Maid Park. Will mark his third start this season vs. an AL West opponent (also 7/19 at Los Angeles-AL and 8/6 vs. Houston)…is 12-7 with a 3.45 ERA (177.1IP, 68ER) and 185K in 30 career starts vs. AL West opponents.

2023: Is 1-4 with a 5.97 ERA (37.2IP, 33H, 25ER, 20BB, 33K, 10HR) in eight starts this season.
Began the year on the 15-day injured list (retroactive to 3/27) with a left forearm strain and was transferred to the 60-day injured list on 6/1…missed 88 team games. Made his Yankees debut on 7/7 vs. Chicago-NL at Yankee Stadium, recording the loss despite allowing 2ER in 5.1IP (4H, 2BB, 2K, 1HR, 1WP)…was returned from rehab and reinstated from the 60-day injured list prior to the game. Earned his first win as a Yankee on 7/26 vs. the Mets after allowing just 1ER over 5.2IP (4H, 3BB, 4K, 0HR, 1HP). Tossed a season-high 6.0IP on 8/22 vs. Washington…was reinstated from the 15-day injured list prior to the game…missed 12 team games from 8/7-22 with a left hamstring strain. Recorded a season-high 7K on Sunday at Tampa Bay.

ROAD RULES: Will be making his fourth road start this season (7/14 at Colorado, 7/19 at Los Angeles-AL and Sunday at Tampa Bay)…is 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA (14.0IP, 12ER) in those three starts. Went 6-6 with one complete game and a 3.73 ERA (94.0IP, 70H, 40R/39ER, 26BB, 116K, 7HR) in 16 starts on the road in 2022 with San Francisco…opponents batted .204/.263/.315 (70-for-343). Allowed 2R-or-fewer in 10 road starts in 2022, 1R-or-fewer in seven starts and two starts were scoreless.
 His .315 opponents’ SLG on the road last season was the sixth-lowest mark in the Majors and his .204 opponents’ batting average was the eighth-lowest.


TONIGHT’S GAME: The Astros will put their five-game winning streak on the line tonight as they open a three-game home series against the rival Yankees…tonight, the Astros will start RHP Justin Verlander, who’s already made three starts against the Yankees this season, going 1-1 with a 1.42 ERA (3ER/19IP) in those outings…he’ll be opposed by LHP Carlos Rodón, who the Astros rocked for five runs in 2.2 innings last month, on Aug. 6 in New York.

LIKE A FINE WINE: 40-year-old RHP Justin Verlander will make his 22nd start of the season and the 504th start of his career tonight…he is 4-1 with a 2.79 ERA (9ER/29IP) in his five starts since returning to the Astros via trade on Aug. 1… in his last start, he hurled 5.0 scoreless innings with seven strikeouts in a 17-4 win on Aug. 27 at DET…Verlander enters tonight’s start on an active 11.0-inning scoreless streak.

IN GOOD COMPANY: According to STATS, RHP Justin Verlander enters tonight ranking 13th all-time in career strikeouts (3,308) and tied for 42nd all-time in career wins (254) along with Tigers HOFer Jack Morris and White Sox HOFer RHP Red Faber…by seasons end, Verlander could move up to 12th all-time in strikeouts, as he enters tonight’s start needing 34 strikeouts to match 12th-place RHP Phil Niekro (3,342).

SEPTEMBERS TO REMEMBER: Last season, the Astros were an MLB-best 22-9 (.710) in September and October, which continued a trend for strong finishing kicks in recent years… over the past six seasons (2017-22), the Astros have the best combined record in September and October in the AL at 110-59 (.651)…in that span, Houston has had the best September and October record in the Majors in three different seasons, in 2018 (21-6, .778), 2019 (19-6, .760) and in 2022 (22-9, .710).

WINNING WAYS: The Astros have ripped off five straight wins, which ranks as their second-longest winning streak of the season, trailing only an eight-game run, posted from May 14-22…their current five-game streak has pushed them to a season-high 19 games over .500.

HOW THE WEST WAS WON: The Astros enter September tied atop the AL West division along with the Mariners (76-57), with both teams 1.0 game up on the second-place Rangers (75-58)…with a win tonight and a Mariners loss at New York (NL), the Astros would be alone in first place for the first time in the 2023 season.

WEDNESDAY’S WINNER: The Astros completed their franchise’s first sweep at Fenway Park on Wednesday with a 7-4 victory…DH Michael Brantley (2×4, 2RBI) and C Martín Maldonado (2×3, RBI) led the offense, which posted back-to-back, three-run innings in the 2nd and 3rd to put the game away early…LHP Framber Valdez (2ER/6IP) picked up the win in another quality effort…RHP Kendall Graveman (.2IP), RHP Hector Neris (1.1IP) and RHP Ryan Pressly (1IP) combined for 3.0 shutout innings to close out the victory.

TODAY’S ROSTER MOVES: With rosters expanding to 28 today, the Astros have reinstated IF Grae Kessinger from the 10-day IL and have recalled RHP Joel Kuhnel from Triple A Sugar Land… lastly, RHP Jake Cousins was outrighted to Triple A Sugar Land.

HIT PARADE: The Astros have recorded 78 hits in their last five games, which is the club record for a five-game span…the Astros need nine hits tonight to tie their club record for hits in a six-game span (87), which was set from Sept. 5-10, 2000…within their current streak, the Astros had a 25-hit game on Sunday at DET, which matched the club’s single-game record.

LEVELING LEFTIES: OF Chas McCormick (.356) and SS Jeremy Peña (.346) rank first and second in the AL in batting average vs. LHP…collectively, the Astros offense leads the AL in batting average (.280) and OPS (.824) vs. left-handed pitchers.

ASTROS-YANKEES: The Astros are 2-2 against the Yankees this season with the two clubs splitting a four-gamer in New York in early August…these two teams have a strong rivalry after an extensive postseason history against each other, which includes the Astros sweep of the Yankees in the 2022 ALCS… overall, the Astros are 13-5 against the Yankees in postseason action and are the only franchise in MLB history to eliminate the Yankees in the postseason on four occasions (2015 Wild Card Game; 2017, 2019 and 2022 ALCS).

ROAD WARRIORS: The Astros are coming off a successful road trip, in which they went 5-1 with a series win over the Tigers (2-1) and a sweep of the Red Sox (3-0)…for the season, the Astros are 42-27 (.609) on the road, which ranks second in the AL, trailing only the Orioles (41-24, .631)…the Astros have not lost a road series since dropping two of three games at Dodger Stadium from June 23-25…since that weekend, they have had 11 road series, winning nine and splitting two.

PENA’S PALS: Tonight, SS Jeremy Peña will host his group, Peña’s Pals, this time honoring kids from The Rice School, which serves K-8th grades…Peña’s Pals is a program devel- oped by Peña in partnership with the Astros Foundation, that celebrates kids and their development in academics, character building and making healthy choices.


LAST START – 8/27 AT DET: the long-time Tigers starter returned to Comerica Park on Sunday and tossed 5.0 scoreless innings, allowing just 2 hits and striking out 3 batters to pick up the winning decision in a 17-4 Astros victory, securing a series win. Was his 100th career win at Comerica Park, becoming the first player to reach 100 wins at the venue…only two other active pitchers with 100+ wins in a single ballpark: LHP Clayton Kershaw (Dodger Stadium), RHP Adam Wainwright (Busch Stadium). Was his 2nd straight scoreless start and has tossed 11 scoreless innings over that stretch.

ABOUT VERLANDER: the future Hall of Famer, 9-time All-Star, 3-time Cy Young Award winner, 2011 AL MVP and 2006 AL Rookie of the Year returned to the Astros rotation in early August after a 3-month stint with the Mets. Acquired by Houston on Aug. 1 along with cash considerations in exchange for minor league prospects OF Drew Gilbert and OF Ryan Clifford…marks his second time to be acquired by Houston via trade, which also happened at the waiver trading deadline in 2017…thanks in large part to Verlander, the Astros went on to win the 2017 World Series. Has now made 5 starts with the Astros, in which he’s gone 4-1 with a 2.79 ERA (9ER/29IP)… has 3 quality starts in his 5 chances as an Astro.

STRONG STRETCH: his strong stretch spans over his last 12 starts (5 with the Astros)…has gone 8-2 with a 2.02 ERA (16ER/71.1IP) and has held opponents to a .210 (56×267) batting average and a .584 OPS.

LEAGUE LEADERBOARD: among MLB pitchers with at least 120 IP this season, ranks 9th in ERA (3.06).

VERLANDER AS A MET: after earning his 2022 Cy Young Award and helping guide the Astros to their 2nd World Series title, departed the Astros via free agency this offseason…signed a 2-year deal (2023-24) with the Mets, which also included a vesting option for 2025. Began the season on the IL after suffering a right teres major strain…returned in May and went on to make 16 starts as a Met, going 6-5 with a 3.15 ERA (33ER/94.1IP)…the Mets went 8-8 in his 16 starts.

CLIMBING THE CHARTS: the 18-year Major League veteran enters tonight’s start with 254 career wins in 503 starts, while striking out 3,308 hitters in 3286.1 innings pitched. Has reached a couple milestones this season…earned his 250th career win on July 30 in his final start with the Mets…made his 500th career start on Aug. 11 vs. LAA. Ranks 13th all-time in MLB history in strikeouts with 3,308…immediately trails Phil Niekro (3342) and former teammate Max Scherzer (3354) on that all-time list. According to STATS, currently ranks T-42nd on MLB’s all-time wins list, along with Hall-of-Famers Jack Morris and Red Faber (254 wins)…next on the list is former Astros LHP Andy Pettite (256 wins)…leads all active players with his 252 career wins, with Zack Greinke the next-closest (224). Among Modern Era pitchers (since 1901), Verlander ranks 38th in career starts, directly behind Jim Bunning (519 starts).

JV VS. NYY: will be making his 26th career regular season start vs. the Yankees and has gone 10-8 with a 3.21 ERA (59ER/165.1IP) in those starts. Has faced the Yankees 3 times this season (1 time with Astros) and has gone 1-1 with a 1.42 ERA (3ER/19IP) in those starts, holding them to a .186 (12×66) opponent’s batting average… made his 1st start in his return to the Astros on August 5 at NYY and completed 7.0 innings while allowing 2 runs on 7 hits with 4 strikeouts in a losing effort. Has held Yankees sluggers Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton to a combined .118 batting average (8×68) throughout his career. His 26 career starts and 165.1 IP are the most of any active player vs. NYY…his 3.21 ERA is the 7th-lowest of any pitcher vs. NYY (min. 100 IP). Has made 9 career postseason starts vs. NYY, dating back to the 2006 AL Division Series, and has gone 5-1 with a 2.62 ERA (17ER/58.1IP) and a 0.91 WHIP in those starts…was the MVP of the 2017 ALCS vs. NYY, recording a 0.56 ERA (1ER/16IP) in 2 starts, including a complete game in Game 2.

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