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NEW YORK YANKEES (39-33) at HOUSTON ASTROS (42-32)
The Houston Astros begin a seven-game homestand when the New York Yankees come into town for the first of four contests on Thursday night.
The Yankees have been right around the top of the AL East all season long and are a mere one game behind Tampa Bay in the division after losing three of their past four games. The pitching was putrid during that stretch, giving up an average of nine runs per game and allowed the opposition to put double-digits in the run column during all three defeats. They looked to be getting a break with the Phillies coming to town at the beginning of the week, but New York took a beating the first two games, being outscored 22-14, while they managed to not get swept with a 10-2 victory on Wednesday afternoon. The return of starter Ivan Nova (6.2 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 1 K) gave the team a much needed boost and the offense rewarded him with 15 hits, two of which came off the bat of 3B Alex Rodriguez (.290) who is riding an eight-game hitting streak in which he is 13-for-28 (.464) with three homers and 12 RBI. The Astros have been one of the better surprises in 2015 as they have been able to rebound from a string of horrid seasons with a start that has them four games ahead of the Rangers in the AL West. They have spent the last eight contests on the road and split the games (4-4) while managing to outscore opponents 44-30. Most recently they took on a talented Angels team in Los Angeles and were unable to get the series win after splitting the first two games; losing the rubber-match in heartbreaking fashion after 13 innings with a 2-1 score. SS Carlos Correa (.300) has come as advertised at the age of 20-years-old and over the past 10 games is 15-for-45 (.333) with two long balls and eight RBI. Grabbing the start for the visiting Yanks will be RHP Adam Warren (5-4, 3.62 ERA) as he looks to outpitch LHP Dallas Keuchel (8-3, 2.35 ERA) of the host team. New York will look to push its road record to .500 with a win here as they are 18-19 away from home thus far and will be going against an Astros group which is 23-14 in front of their fans. The Yankees hold a slight 7-5 record overall in this series since the 2013 campaign and are 4-2 when on the road during that stretch. Trends to watch include that New York is 32-23 (.582) in road games against left-handed starters in the past three seasons while the Astros are 27-17 (.614) when Keuchel is on the mound in the last two years. OFs Jacoby Ellsbury (Knee), Mason Williams (Shoulder) and Slade Heathcott (Quad) are on the DL for the Yankees as Houston is without OF Jake Marisnick (Hamstring) and SS Jed Lowrie (Thumb) while they recover on the DL.
Warren may be making the move back to the pen, where he was solid last year with a 2.97 ERA and 8.7 K/9, after this road trip, but while in the rotation he has been effective for New York. In his 13 starts he has seen his strikeout rate drop (5.8 K/9), but is showing some decent control (2.9 BB/9) and has benefitted from batters hitting a mere .264 BABIP against him. The Yanks have won with Warren taking the mound in four of his last five starts and the righty has been extremely consistent with three runs or fewer allowed in each of his last eight outings. He pitched a gem (8 IP, 2 ER, 7 H, 7 K) in his last time out against the Tigers and did well (5 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 4 K) in his one opportunity meeting with the Astros in 2013. Warren has not had the chance to face many of the hitters in this lineup with so many youngsters joining the club, but he will be happy that SS Jed Lowrie is out as he is 3-for-6 with a double and an RBI in the matchup while 2B Jose Altuve and 1B Chris Carter are a combined 0-for-6 against the 27-year-old. The bullpen for New York has gone 11-8 with a 3.58 ERA (1.21 WHIP) and are 23-for-27 (85percent) in save opportunities. Dellin Betances (1.25 ERA, 4 saves) has been phenomenal with 14 hits allowed and 59 strikeouts in 36 frames, but is coming off a very tough appearance in which he gave up four runs over an inning; taking his first career loss.
Keuchel has been the rock for this Houston rotation as he builds on a breakout 2014 season with another solid campaign, this time with a winning ball club. He is mowing down 7.0 batters per nine innings while showing continued control (2.5 BB/9) and has been able to keep the ball in the yard with seven homers allowed over his 107.1 frames (0.59 HR/9). One thing that has aided him greatly in his success is batters hitting a meager .229 against him and that has put his FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching) at 3.25, still a solid mark, but shows that he could regress slightly. The Mariners gave him issues in his last start, knocking three home runs out of the park as he took a loss after going six innings with five runs allowed on five hits. He will also hope to do well against the Yankees once again and he has faced them only once, but did great with three runs allowed on seven hits over eight innings in a losing effort. OF Chris Young (4-for-13, 2 doubles, 1 triple, 2 RBI) has had success against Keuchel while the trio of OF Carlos Beltran, 3B Chase Headley and 1B Garrett Jones each have a home run and at least two RBI in limited at-bats. On the other hand, leadoff hitter, OF Brett Gardner, is 0-for-4 in the matchup. The relievers for Houston have been stellar, combining to go 15-11 with a 2.61 ERA (0.95 WHIP) and are 23-for-30 (77percent) in save chances. Luke Gregerson (3.68 ERA, 17 saves) has blown just two saves on the year and has a 9:0 K/BB ratio over his last eight appearances (7.2 IP).