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Manning the middle ground: Yankees vs Astros series recap

The Yankees took to the road in the aftermath of the Aroldis Chapman trade to take on the Houston Astros in a three game set.  The team has played well of late, especially considering the level of competition they have faced.  Unfortunately, they still have a bit of ground to make up in order to get in real contention.

Train kept a rollin’

Facing a pitcher they haven’t had much luck against in the last couple of years, the Yankees knew they would have to play well in all aspects of the game to pull out a win.  Michael Pineda would get the start and the hope was that he would continue an upswing to his Jekyll and Hyde season.

The game would get off the an inauspicious start for Pineda as he would give up a home run to George Springer on the first pitch out of the gate.  He would settle down from there and take care of business.  He would give the Yankees 7.0 innings of 5 hit baseball, striking out 8.  The slider was working magnificently and he only had to work out of real trouble in the sixth inning when he got rookie Alex Bregman to fly out to the wall with the bases loaded.  Kudos to Big Mike on his performance and Larry Rothschild for getting his mechanics smoothed out from the hideous start to the season.

The offense didn’t have to do a whole lot in this one and it was probably a good thing.  It basically consisted of Carlos Beltran and the bottom part of the order.  Beltran, Chase Headley, and Austin Romine had two hits apiece with Headley and Romine getting the RBIs.  Dallas Keuchel was good, but the Yankees found a way to scratch out just enough to eek out a 2-1 victory.  Pitching has dominated during this streak of baseball as the offense has scored 3 or fewer runs in 9 of their last 15 games.  Definitely not a team clicking on all cylinders, but a win is a win any way you can get it.

The new look back end of the bullpen finished the job as Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller struck out 4 in their 2.0 innings of work.  The Yankees are three games above .500 and will try to keep the hope alive on Tuesday night with C.C. Sabathia working.

Back in the groove

Sabathia would rebound from a string of disappointing starts to give the Yankees 6.2 quality innings on Tuesday night.  The main blemishes against him would be a pair of solo home runs.  He seemed to be locating the ball better than in his previous 5 or 6 starts.  Getting weak contact was key for Sabathia early in the season and this performance had the look of one of those starts.  His final line was 6.2 innings, 4 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, and 5 strikeouts.

The Yankees made Doug Fister work very hard in this one.  The offense strung together hit after hit in the second inning to plate a pair of runs and then finished off the night with three more in the fifth for a 6-1 lead.  The opportunity for more was still there as they were 4-for-11 with runners in scoring position with 10 left on base.

Betances and Miller once again closed out the game after Anthony Swarzak bridged the gap by getting three outs in relief of C.C.  The 6-3 victory pushed the Yankees to four games above .500 for the first time this season and they have won 11 out of 16.  They may not be there until the end, but hopefully this team will at least make things interesting down the stretch.

Can’t seal the deal

Seeking a sweep of the Astros, the Yankees sent Masahiro Tanaka to the hill.  The game would be littered with strikeouts.  Unfortunately, it was the Astros pitchers racking up the strikeout totals.

Tanaka would have one of his worst performances of the 2016 season.  He would last five innings, giving up seven hits and four runs for only his third loss on the season.  A bit of wildness would haunt Tanaka on Wednesday night.  Walks and wild pitches would set the plate for the Astros and they would come up with the big hits in both the second and third innings that would spell doom for Tanaka and the Yankees.

The offense could only muster a fourth inning solo home run from Brian McCann, his 15th of the season.  The team only had 5 hits and struck out 15 times against Lance McCullers and the Astros bullpen.  The curveball was nasty for McCullers as hit generated one swing-and-miss after another on his way to recording 10 of the 15 K’s.

The Yankees could have pulled within 3 games of the second wildcard with a victory, but instead had to settle for the series win.  In the grand scheme of things, there is nothing wrong with that.  They are playing winning baseball right now, but they are still on the outside looking in as far as real playoff contention is concerned.