Yankees, Astros, Rays face off in Bronx

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Many were expecting the Houston Astros to run away with the American League West division. Tinkering on a double-digit lead throughout the past number of weeks, it appears they already may have.

Not many, however, saw the rise of the New York Yankees in light of all their many injuries. Even without several studs like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino and Miguel Andujar, the Bronx Bombers have managed to hang atop the AL East.

Regardless of how they do it, the Astros and Yanks could be on another collision course after meeting in the ALCS only two years ago. In the meantime, they’re about to meet for the second and final time during the regular season, with the Yanks seeking to avenge a sweep they suffered in Houston early in the campaign.

It will definitely be a series worth following, so let’s take a look at the pitching matchups and determine how to play this weekend’s totals.

Framber Valdez vs. Chad Green (Thursday): The four-game set from the Bronx kicks off with a bit of an unusual encounter. Green, of course, has been serving as the Yankees’ “opener” and in his first five such assignments, he’s surrendered three runs across 7.2 combined innings, but he’s also compiled 13 strikeouts compared to just two walks. Nestor Cortes Jr. and his 3.79 ERA is expected to follow.

Opposite New York’s version of the bullpen game is a rookie who has done nothing but impress since first debuting last year. In fact, in Valdez’s 76 career innings, he owns a 2.49 ERA and has limited opposing hitters to a stingy .197 mark. UNDER

Brad Peacock vs. James Paxton (Friday): Following a return from the injured list at the end of May, Paxton’s been inconsistent in four starts but his most recent outing might indicate he’s returning to form. In that assignment at U.S. Cellular Field, the southpaw known as Big Maple recorded his first quality start since landing on the sidelines.

Perhaps his track record facing the Astros can help tip his outlook. Paxton saw them plenty of times during his tenure with the Seattle Mariners and in 13 career meetings, he’s 7-4 with a 3.33 ERA.

Much like his counterpart in this one, Peacock will be aiming to get back in a rhythm. It was only a short time ago when Peacock carried a six-start streak into June in which he hadn’t yielded more than two runs. In his last pair of turns, though, the opposition has scratched out four runs apiece off the right-hander. He could be vulnerable to the potent Yankee bats right now. OVER

Wade Miley vs. Masahiro Tanaka (Saturday): There’s no question Miley has been one of the most pleasant surprises in terms of free-agent pitchers who signed this past offseason. The nine-year veteran is 6-4 to go with a shiny 3.30 ERA, and while his strikeout rate is less-than-desired, he can still get by here. The Yankees have the second-lowest team OPS (.677) in the AL against southpaws.

Tanaka has also been cruising along, coming off another quality showing that saw the 30-year-old notch his fourth career big-league shutout. He faced the Astros in that first encounter back in April and was very effective, holding Houston to just one run on three hits in six in innings. Tanaka is making it a habit of stepping up in big games. UNDER

Justin Verlander vs. J.A. Happ (Sunday): As usual, Verlander finds himself in the thick of the AL Cy Young Award race. The former No. 2 overall draft pick has once again looked marvelous in 2019, and since joining Houston prior to the trade deadline two years ago, that’s actually always been the case when he’s taking on the Yanks. Including the playoffs, Verlander has faced them five times as an Astro, going 3-0 with a pristine 1.23 ERA, 0.76 WHIP and 46-3 K/BB ratio in 36.2 innings.

A former Astro, Happ gets the call in the series finale for New York. He was experiencing some difficulties earlier in the season but seems to have settled in. After his first handful of starts, the former NL Rookie of the Year was saddled with a 7.23 ERA and 1.66 WHIP but has cut that down considerably, coming in with a 4.66 ERA and 1.19 WHIP on the year. UNDER

Last week: 2-1

Season: 19-16

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