YANKEES DEFEAT ASTROS

Verdugo powers Yankees to 10-3 blowout against Verlander and Astros

Astros Justin Verlander
Yankees hammer Verlander. Composite Getty Image.

Alex Verdugo homered and tied a career high with four RBIs, powering the New York Yankees past Justin Verlander and the skidding Houston Astros 10-3 on Tuesday night.

Anthony Volpe and Giancarlo Stanton also went deep off Verlander as the Yankees won their fourth straight. They've totaled 20 runs in the last three games after scoring just eight in a five-game span that ended Saturday.

Volpe finished with three RBIs and Juan Soto had three hits.

“Obviously, you’re not going to run out offensive nights like this every night, especially against a guy like Justin,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “But they are capable of that. They’ve got balance.”

Verdugo, batting cleanup between Aaron Judge and Stanton, accounted for New York’s first four runs with a three-run homer in the first and an RBI single in the third against Verlander (1-1).

“Sometimes it’s a little bit humbling when you’ve got Judge up there looking down at me and then you’ve got Stanton back right behind me,” a grinning Verdugo said. “I’m like the small guy in the group. But honestly, man, I love it. I really do. I feel like I add enough contact in there that I can either move over some guys (or) get the job done.”

The four-RBI game was the second of the season for Verdugo and fifth of his career. He also made a nice sliding catch in left field of a sinking liner by Jeremy Peña to end the sixth.

“We’re seeing the kind of player he is (on) both sides of the ball,” Boone said. “He’s been excellent. He’s been clutch.”

Verlander lasted five innings and gave up seven runs — the second-most he’s allowed in 37 regular-season and postseason starts versus the Yankees. He yielded eight runs in Detroit’s 13-9 loss on Sept. 1, 2008.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner permitted eight hits and walked three Tuesday night. The 41-year-old Verlander, who missed the first three weeks of the season recovering from right shoulder inflammation, has allowed 27 baserunners (17 hits, 10 walks) over 16 1/3 innings in his last three starts.

“If I’m being brutally honest with myself, the last couple games, probably in particularly, the walks showed me I was a little off,” Verlander said. “And sometimes it takes you facing a team that knows you intimately, and vice versa, to send you back to the drawing board. I think these guys showed me today that I’ve got some work to do.”

Volpe hit a two-run homer in the fourth. Stanton led off the fifth with a 421-foot drive to left field that was clocked at 118.8 mph off the bat. Judge and Jon Berti also had run-scoring singles for the Yankees.

Luis Gil (3-1) allowed just one hit — Kyle Tucker’s first-inning homer — and walked four with five strikeouts over six innings.

“Definitely was a point in the game where I told myself I’ve got to keep this game right here,” Gil said through a translator.

Trey Cabbage had a two-run single in the ninth for the Astros, who matched a season low with three hits. Houston has lost three straight to fall to 12-23 — tied for the fifth-worst record through 35 games in franchise history.

“Pleased about our walks. We walked six times, something that we’ve been trying to get better at — be more selective,” manager Joe Espada said. “We just couldn’t get that much offensively.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: DH Yordan Alvarez crumpled to the ground in pain after fouling a ball off his left leg in the third. He was lifted for a pinch hitter in the eighth. ... RHP Cristian Javier (neck), who threw 3 1/3 innings Saturday in a rehab start for Double-A Corpus Christi, will return to the Houston rotation this weekend. … RHP Jose Urquidy (right forearm) threw to hitters and is expected to begin a rehab assignment soon.

Yankees: RHP Gerrit Cole (right elbow) threw in the bullpen for the second time since he was injured in mid-March. … INF Oswald Peraza (right shoulder) began a rehab assignment by going 2 for 3 with a home run for Class A Tampa. Boone said Peraza, yet to play this season, will need a spring training-like ramp up of minor league games before returning to the Yankees. … RHP Nick Burdi (right hip) struck out all three batters he faced in his first rehab appearance for Triple-A Scranton. … INF DJ LeMahieu (right foot) is feeling better and participating in baseball activities. Boone said LeMahieu will travel with the team for this weekend’s series against Tampa Bay and could get at-bats at the Yankees’ minor league complex in Florida.

UP NEXT

The three-game series continues Wednesday night, when Yankees LHP Carlos Rodón (2-2, 3.68 ERA) is scheduled to face RHP Spencer Arrighetti (0-3, 8.27).

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One presumes the Chicken Littles have stopped clucking about the Astros’ season being a goner, or if not gone, on life support. It wasn’t when they were 7-19. It wasn’t when they were 12-24. It certainly isn’t now that they’ve won six straight games and eight of their last nine. Another three or four weeks of inept play could have doomed them, but the worm has turned. A 20-25 record is no cause for celebration, but it has the Astros within four games of first place. Yes, getting to play the A’s four times this week helped. And?

I detailed the schedule issue on our Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast this week. The Astros were flat lousy for the season’s first six weeks. But… Starting the week the Astros had played a whopping 32 of their 40 games against teams with a winning record as of Monday. The Seattle Mariners had played 23 such games, the Texas Rangers only 16. The Philadelphia Phillies have been sensational so far and are fully legit. But… The Phillies entered the weekend having played three games vs. teams now sporting a winning record. Three! Out of 45 games. Going into this weekend's series only the Blue Jays, White Sox, and Angels had played more games against winning teams than had the Astros. It’s not mere coincidence that the Blue Jays, White Sox, and Angels are the three last place teams in the American League. The Astros were not up to the challenge of their first quarter schedule, but by no means did it render them dead, particularly in the thus far Mild, Mild, American League West.

A good Brewers team visits Minute Maid Park for three games this weekend. The Astros beat their best starter Friday night. Next the Astros get the pathetic Angels here for three before a three-game series at Oakland. Meanwhile the West leading Mariners start a ten-game road trip this weekend: three at the excellent Orioles, four at the excellent Yankees, three at the respectable Nationals. The Astros stand a good chance of overtaking the M’s by the end of this month if they can win the four-game series they open Memorial Day in Seattle.

Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers snapped a five game losing streak Wednesday to eke back over .500 at 23-22. The reigning World Series champs hope to get somewhat well vs. the Angels in Arlington this weekend but dropped the series opener to drop back to .500. For their sake they better because the Rangers then hit the road for Philadelphia and Minnesota.

Naturally, many Astros fans are upset with Ronel Blanco serving a 10 game suspension for illegally using whatever substance on his glove and non-pitching hand. The suspension is basically automatic. The suspension is also not a big problem. Blanco has been fantastic since getting a starting rotation spot only because of Justin Verlander’s delayed start to his season. It’s said that all life owes us is opportunity. Man, did Blanco seize his. With just seven big league starts to his name before entering this season as a 30-year old, Blanco has made eight this season with a sparkling 2.09 earned run average. So, what’s that about the suspension is not a big problem?

Blanco will miss one start and have another pushed back a day or two. That’s just not a big deal. In fact it may be helpful in the bigger picture. With last year being the first time in his professional career that Blanco topped 100 innings pitched (125 1/3), the Astros need to be wary of Blanco’s workload which is on pace to blow past last year’s career-high innings total. J.P. France probably pitched over his head for a while last year, but went well past his prior career-high innings total and faded badly. Cristian Javier was tremendous in 2022 while pitching more than in any previous year, but he pitched even more in 2023 and faded badly.

Alex Bregman lives! After being nearly inconceivably inept through the first quarter of the season, the Alex awakening in the Oakland series was not shocking but most welcomed. Over his first 37 games Bregman had a paltry seven extra base hits. Even with a feeble .201 batting average and .534 OPS, that Bregman had scored just eight runs over those 37 games was hard to believe. Then Monday and Tuesday saw five extra base hits and four runs scored.

In a trade not commanding any headlines, Dana Brown Wednesday sent outfielder Corey Julks to the White Sox for 20-year-old low minor league pitcher Luis Rodriguez. There is now no reason to call it a great Astros trade but Brown made a smart deal. Julks had no future here, hence he would have been released if no deal was struck. Taking a flyer on a young arm can’t hurt. Frankly, the White Sox are dumb to trade a young arm of any promise whatsoever for a 28-year-old outfielder with limited value. Julks was a nice story for parts of last season. The Clear Brook High School grad and UH product had a couple windows of production, highlighted by a sizzling nine game 17 for 34 stretch straddling June and July. Alas, not two weeks later Julks began what would become an 0 for 36 nightmare. He was sent to the minors for good in late-August.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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