By Brad Carroll
The New York Yankees didn't get the sweep they were looking for against the Philadelphia Phillies to start the week. They didn't even get a series win against the worst road team in baseball. But after salvaging the final game of a three-game set, the Yankees find themselves, luckily, in the same spot they were four days ago, one game behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East.
While that is a positive from losing two of three games to the terrible Phillies, it doesn't hide the fact the Yankees should at least be tied for first place right now. Playing one of baseball's worst should have been an opportunity to make up ground in the division race, not remain stagnant.
But what's done is done and the Yankees, even after a bad series loss, would make the playoffs if the season ended today, as they are tied with the Minnesota Twins atop the wild card standings.
While that is great news, nothing could be better than what the Yankees got from pitcher Ivan Nova in his return to the big leagues Wednesday afternoon. Nova tossed 6.2 shutout innings, allowing just three hits, in beating the Phillies in his first start since undergoing Tommy John surgery. It was a encouraging outing for Nova and the starting rotation as a whole, and for the team as a whole, as he stopped a three-game losing skid.
The Yankees now go into a four-game series with AL West-leading Houston Astros with some positive momentum. Here is our inside look at that big, four-game series which begins Thursday night.
New York Yankees (39-33, 1 GB in AL East))
at Houston Astros (42-32, 1st Place AL West)
Thursday, 8:10 p.m.
Adam Warren (5-4, 3.62) vs. Dallas Keuchel (8-3, 2.35)
Friday, 8:10 p.m.
Nathan Eovaldi (6-2, 4.95) vs. Vincent Velasquez (0-0, 4.15)
Saturday, 4:10 p.m.
Masahiro Tanaka (4-3, 3.17) vs. Brett Oberholtzer (2-1, 2.81)
Sunday, 2:10 p.m.
Michael Pineda (8-4, 4.25) vs. Collin McHugh (8-3, 4.80)
The Yankees current momentum was created by a guy making his season debut Wednesday, as Nova had a tremendous return, beating the Phillies in what was a must-win situation. The victory allowed the Yankees to finish 5-3 on their eight-game homestand. Since sweeping four games from the Colorado Rockies, the Astros have dropped two straight series, losing two of three games to both the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels. The Astros are playing great baseball this season, but are just 11-12 this month.
Three Astros To Watch
1. Last year's rookie sensation, George Springer, got off to an extremely slow start this season, but is starting to turn things around. Springer is batting .321 (10-for-31) over his past seven games, with five runs scored, two homers and three RBI. And that average includes Springer going 0-for-10 in three games against the Angels to start the week. The New Britain, Conn. native is hitting .273 this season with 14 doubles, 12 home runs, 26 RBI and 13 stolen bases in 68 games. Springer is making $513,000 this year, is arbitration eligible in 2017, and can be a free agent in 2021.
2. Jose Altuve has become one of the game's best second baseman and part of the amazing, young talent the Astros have on their roster. He's batting .285 with 12 doubles, five home runs, 29 RBI and 18 steals this season. He leads the AL in stolen bases. Altuve has returned after missing four games with a hamstring injury, going 3-for-13 with a pair of runs scored against the Angels. Altuve likely won't be a free agent until at least 2020, as he's signed for two more years at $3.5 and $4.5 million, respectively, and the team has options on the following two years, at $6 and $6.5 million.
3. Carlos Correa is another young star for the Astros, as he has six doubles, four home runs and 12 RBI in just 16 games this season. He's batting .300 on the season, getting a hit in eight of his last 10 games. In the last two games against Los Angeles, Correa went 4-for-11 with three runs scored, two doubles, a home run and five RBI. The 20-year-old is another example of what kind of young talent Houston has.
The Yankees head to California to play three games against the Los Angeles Angels.