Major League Baseball

Red-hot Yanks look to pull off sweep of struggling Astros

ASTROS (48-30) AT YANKEES (49-27)

The New York Yankees and Houston Astros are both leading their divisions, but the difference between them lies in how they’re playing of late.

Heading into Sunday’s finale of a four-game series at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees are on an eight-game winning streak, while the Astros are struggling to produce consistently in clutch situations, resulting in a seven-game losing streak.

Justin Verlander will pitch for the Astros while J.A. Happ starts for the Yankees in a game that will take place after newly elected Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera attends his first Old-Timers’ Day.

After Rivera’s appearance, the Yankees will attempt to keep their longest streak going by hitting a homer for a team-record 26th straight game. The Yankees tied the team record set from June 1-29, 1941, and moved within two of the all-time mark set by the Texas Rangers from Aug. 11-Sept. 9, 2002, when Gio Urshela and Austin Romine homered in Saturday’s 7-5 win.

During their winning streak, the Yankees are outscoring opponents 60-23 while batting .289 (77-for-266) with 17 homers. Amidst the offensive onslaught have been the additions of Edwin Encarnacion in a trade and sluggers Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in their returns from lengthy stints on the injured list.

“Just a lot of capable guys,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “You’ve seen our depth. You’ve seen a lot of guys step up and I think as a group they do a really good job of making it difficult on the pitcher — even when he’s having his way with us a time or two through the order. I think guys have been really disciplined and focused on the approach and the plan as a group, and it’s allowed us to consistently score runs.”

Houston is on its longest skid since also dropping seven straight from June 4-10, 2015. The Astros last dropped eight straight when they endured a 15-game skid from Sept. 14-29, 2013.

The Astros have scored 12 runs and produced 30 hits in the series but have negated those totals by going 4-for-30 with runners in scoring position and 7-for-43 in the past seven games.

On Saturday, the Astros wasted a one-run lead after rookie Yordan Alvarez hit a three-run homer. Houston’s bullpen has allowed 10 runs in 9 2/3 innings in the series.

“You feel a little snakebitten when everything seems to have to be perfect for us to piece it together,” Houston manager AJ Hinch said. “We played together today offensively. We made a couple of mistakes on defense that are unlike us. There’s some frustrations that (are) building just because losing it (stinks) and we’re not putting things together for an entire game to get a win.”

Verlander makes his fourth attempt at reaching double-digit wins for the fourth straight year and 13th time in his career. Verlander is 0-1 with a 4.43 ERA in his last three starts after allowing four runs on six hits in seven innings of Tuesday’s 4-3 loss in Cincinnati.

He is 7-7 with a 3.54 ERA in 21 regular-season starts against the Yankees. Including two wins over the Yankees in the 2017 ALCS, Verlander is 4-0 with a 1.25 ERA in his last six starts against New York.

Happ is 6-0 with a 4.29 ERA in his last eight starts, and Sunday will mark his 300th career start.

Happ last pitched in Tuesday’s 6-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays when he allowed two runs on seven hits in five innings.

Happ is 5-2 with a 3.46 ERA in nine career starts against Houston, which he played for from 2010 to 2012.

–Field Level Media

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