Mets and Yankees are strongly reminded of Astros strength


Mets and Yankees are strongly reminded of Astros strength

The Astros emerged as a wake-up call in the middle of a dream New York baseball season.

They reminded the Yankees that from here to the World Series it won’t be a cakewalk. You’ve shown the Mets that there’s a weight class they have yet to move up to.

When Houston embarked on a whimsical nine-game home-and-home streak, excluding Sinatra (“New York, New York,” for those not playing), the Yankees had the best record of the majors and the Mets second-best. The Astros are eight games into this challenge, and not only are they 6-2, but the only time they’ve been behind over 73 innings was literally when two of those games were over — Aaron Judge delivered last Thursday Walk-Offs and Sunday.

The Astros now have the second-best MLB record behind the Yankees, with the two teams set to play a single lockout game Thursday in Houston. Regardless of what happens on Thursday, the Astros’ last eight games have offered the biggest slap in the face to New York’s good baseball spirit this season.

“I don’t think our guys wanted to compete with anyone,” said Justin Verlander, amazingly the Astros team ace again after missing most of the last two seasons following Tommy John’s surgery. “We know how good we are and I don’t think we definitely want to see how we do.”

Verlander allowed a run in 15 innings in his last two starts against the New York clubs, including eight shutout frames in a Wednesday matinee won 2-0 by the Astros at Citi Field.

Jason Castro's game-winning homer (left) and Justin Verlander's eight innings of shutout helped lead the Astros to a 2-0 win over the Mets.
Jason Castro’s game-winning homer (left) and Justin Verlander’s eight innings of shutout helped lead the Astros to a 2-0 win over the Mets.
New York Post: Charles Wenzelberg (2)

The Yankees didn’t trade for Verlander in August 2017, when he instead went from Detroit to Houston and was instrumental in the Astros beating the Yankees in seven ALCS games and winning their only championship (tainted, of course, by the sign-theft scandal) . The Yankees spoke to him again off-hand this past offseason, but Verlander told me last week they were late and never a factor.

In theory, the Mets were hoping to have two Verlander types in Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer. But on Wednesday, Showalter watched live as deGrom, who has yet to play in the majors this year, held a 27-pitch live batting practice in Port St. Lucie. That leaves him weeks away from helping out and he will surely cross a year (July 7) without appearing in a major league game due to arm disease. The Mets opted for Max Scherzer (oblique) to make another minor league rehab start Wednesday rather than face his former Tigers teammate Verlander.

But it wasn’t as if Scherzer did any better than Taijuan Walker, who served superbly to mitigate the loss of the co-aces somewhat. Walker delivered seven shutout innings against Houston, helped by a Brooks Robinson/Graig Nettles-like play in third from Luis Guillorme. With various body contortions and arm angles, Guillorme has been involved in 12 outs, and the Knicks can only hope Jalen Brunson has a similar talent for creative play as Guillorme, who had nine assists.

Edwin Diaz handled the front of the Astros lineup in the eighth inning, and in the bottom half Houston’s 2-3 hitter, shortstop Jeremy Peña and left fielder Yordan Alvarez collided as they chased a pop-up from Dom Smith. Both fell out at times, Alvarez had to be taken off the pitch. Both made moves at the clubhouse after the game, although manager Dusty Baker gave no insight into their terms.

Jason Castro went into the ninth inning this season with a .104 average and an RBI. But Houston’s catcher hit a two-run homer by Drew Smith, and the Mets fell 0-4 against Houston this year and were outplayed 24-6. The Mets have only been defeated twice this year, both in two-game series against the Astros. The Mets are now on their first three-game losing streak of 2022. The only team to have three more games lost this year is the Braves, who were within 3 1/2 games of the Mets — their smallest NL East lead since May 2 – ahead of their Wednesday night game in Philadelphia.

Scherzer’s return should help, but the offensive is also dormant. In June, the Mets have the eighth-worst batting average (.232) and seventh-worst OPS (.670) amid another swoon from Francisco Lindor (.202/.617).

The Astros’ fielding certainly worsened the Mets’ condition. In fact, Houston’s rotation has allowed 25 hits in 54 innings with a 1.50 ERA in the 6-2 New York, New York margin, including a multi-pitcher no-hitter by the Yankees on Saturday. Verlander, at 39 and having barely worked for the past two years, is producing results (first in MLB with 10 wins, 2.03 ERA) that scream like a Game 1 starter.

“I’m not going to lie, I’m definitely pleasantly surprised by the success,” said Verlander.

The success of his team cannot be overlooked either. The Astros, at least, have disrupted the good vibes of an otherwise magical New York baseball season.

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