By Brad Carroll
In years past, winning two of four games against the Houston Astros would be considered a disaster of a road trip for the New York Yankees. This year, however, splitting a four-game set should be considered a success. The AL West-leading Astros are on a whole new level from the recent past, where they were always at the bottom of the standings not only in their division but in all of baseball. So, the Yankees escaping with two wins is exactly what the team needed.
The Yankees still trail both the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays by a half game in the AL East standings, with the Toronto Blue Jays right there at a game behind. The tightly-contested division does mean the Yankees will have to do better than playing .500 ball this season. Next, they get to play the AL West's second best team, as the Angels await a visit from the Yankees for three games to start the week.
Here's a inside look at the series, one of four for the Yankees before heading to the All-Star break.
New York Yankees (41-35, .5 GB in AL East)
at Los Angeles Angels (39-37, 4 GB in AL West)
Monday, 10:05 p.m.
CC Sabathia (3-7, 5.65) vs. CJ Wilson (5-6, 3.92)
Tuesday, 10:05 p.m.
Ivan Nova (1-0, 0.00) vs. Andrew Heaney (0-0, 1.50)
Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Nathan Eovaldi (7-2, 4.81) vs. Matt Shoemaker (4-6, 5.03)
If the Yankees got any kind of offensive contribution Sunday, they would have won the four-game series against Houston this weekend, but just one run later and the Yankees settled for a split. It's not a bad way to start a road trip, but the Yankees have struggled of late, winning just three of their past eight games. The Yankees do have momentum against the Angels, sweeping a three-game set earlier this month at home. The Angels have taken two of three games from both the Astros and Mariners leading into this matchup and are 6-4 over their last 10. Over that latter stretch the Angels have made up two games on the AL West lead and overtook the Rangers by a game for second place in the division.
Three Angels To Watch
1. Mike Trout is one of the best players in baseball and is having a season to match, batting .300 with 18 doubles, 19 home runs and 42 RBI in 76 games. He's second in the AL in home runs, slugging and OPS, fourth in runs scored and eighth in walks. Trout has just one home run in his last 10 games, however.
2. Albert Pujols has turned back the clock this season, hitting a league-leading 23 home runs to go along with 47 RBI (ninth) in 73 games. He had a four-game stretch where he hit four homers and had 10 RBI, but has cooled off since, going 2-for-17 with no extra base hits or RBI in the last five games. In his last seven games, Pujols is batting .278 with three homers, five RBI and six walks.
3. Wilson, who starts the series opener Monday, allowed seven runs in 3.1 innings against the Astros in his last start, the shortest outing of the season. He also was roughed up against the Yankees earlier this month, allowing six runs in seven innings, including three home runs, during a 6-2 defeat. He will face off with Sabathia, another pitcher who has struggled greatly recently, and all season for that matter. The winner in this matchup could set the tone for a series win.
After a long awaited off day Thursday, the Yankees return home to start a three-game series with the division leading Rays.