Houston stays hot

Astros wallop A's again in home opener

Houston's bats kept mashing in the home opener. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After starting their year with six games on the road, the Astros returned home for their home opener on Thursday night, against the A's, who they had faced for the first four games of the season in Oakland. They hoped to have a similar outcome, with Houston sweeping the series to start 4-0 and dropping one of their AL West rivals to a tough 0-4. Indeed they would, giving the home fans at Minute Maid Park a lot to cheer about in another lopsided win.

Final Score: Astros 6, A's 2

Astros' Record: 6-1, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Cristian Javier (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Cole Irvin (0-2)

Javier goes five shutout innings

Doing much better than his first start of the year, Cristian Javier managed to pitch himself into position for the win in his second. He was electric in the first three innings, retiring the first eight batters he faced, five on strikeouts. He went on to allow just three hits, giving his team five scoreless innings. Javier's final line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 88 P.

Houston's high-power offense stays hot

Much like their high-scoring games against the A's last weekend, Houston kept plating runs against Oakland in this one. The first two runs came off the bat of Carlos Correa, one on a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the second, the other a one-out RBI-double in the fourth.

They expanded their lead by three runs in the bottom of the sixth, with Yordan Alvarez getting his second homer of the year, a solo shot, then Myles Straw bringing in two more on a two-RBI single. Jose Altuve's first hit of the night was a loud one, a 426-foot solo homer to extend the lead to 6-0.

Astros get the lopsided win

After Javier's five innings, Ryne Stanek would take over and retire four batters in a row to get one out into the seventh. Blake Taylor finished that inning, then Enoli Paredes entered for the top of the eighth. Paredes would walk back-to-back batters before leaving mid-at-bat with an injury.

Joe Smith would make the quick entry, doing well to erase those two walks and keep the A's off the board to complete the top of the eighth. Brooks Raley had the ninth and finished off the win, despite allowing two runs to get Oakland on the board, to improve Houston to 6-1 on the year, sending Oakland to 1-7.

Up Next: The middle game of this series will be another 7:10 PM start on Friday. The Astros will send Lance McCullers Jr. (1-0, 1.80 ERA) to the mound for his second start, while Oakland will turn to Sean Manaea (0-1, 9.64 ERA), whom the Astros scored five runs on in the finale in Oakland.

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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