The connections between the Yankees and Astros reach from players and their families to the coaching staff and front office. Here’s a breakdown:
Brian McCann: The veteran catcher spent three years with the Yankees before they traded him to the Astros last November for prospects Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman. While there was no spot for him in The Bronx with the emergence of Gary Sanchez, McCann hit .241 with 18 home runs and 62 RBIs in 97 games with Houston.
Carlos Beltran: A reliable bat in the postseason, Beltran only got to the playoffs once during his 2 ¹/₂-year tenure with the Yankees. They traded him to the Rangers last summer (for a package of prospects including Dillon Tate) to help Texas’ playoff push before he signed with the Astros in the offseason. The ex-Mets outfielder is playing in his seventh postseason.
Tyler Clippard: On the departing end of arguably the Yankees’ best trade this season, Clippard was shipped to the White Sox in a package that returned Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson. Less than a month later, the reliever was traded to the Astros for a player to be named later or cash. He posted a 6.43 ERA with Houston and was left off the ALDS roster.
Lance McCullers Jr.: One of Houston’s 2017 All-Stars, McCullers has family ties to the Yankees. His dad, Lance McCullers Sr., pitched for the Yankees from 1989-90 during his seven-year MLB career. In pinstripes, McCullers Sr. went 5-3 with a 4.42 ERA over 63 appearances, all but one in relief. McCullers Jr. missed all of August this year with a back injury and has shifted to the bullpen for the playoffs.
Tony Pena: The Yankees’ first-base coach had a pair of stints with the Astros before landing in his current role. He played the final months of his career in Houston after getting traded midseason by the White Sox in 1997. Pena then began his major league coaching career as the Astros’ bench coach in 2002 before getting hired as the Royals manager that May. He’s been with the Yankees since 2006.
Roger Clemens: In his third year as a special assistant to the general manager for the Astros, Clemens works with the organization’s pitchers and spends time in uniform during spring training. The Rocket won a Cy Young with both the Yankees and the Astros, pitching three seasons in Houston and six in The Bronx.
Five things to know
1. Only four Astros remain from the 2013 club that went 51-111, and each of them has been a huge piece to the puzzle: Jose Altuve, Marwin Gonzalez, Dallas Keuchel and Brad Peacock. Altuve is a hitting machine, the first player in MLB history to lead his league in hits for four straight seasons. Gonzalez has reached career highs with a .303 average, 23 home runs and 90 RBIs while playing six different positions. And Keuchel and Peacock have combined for 27 wins and a 2.95 ERA.
2. UConn product George Springer has been a sparkplug atop the Astros’ lineup. He crushed nine leadoff home runs during the regular season. Four came in the Astros’ first nine games. He also accomplished the feat in both games of a May 14 doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. The final three all came in the month of June. For good measure, Springer also has the Astros’ only walk-off home run this season.
3. Speaking of quick starts, the Astros pounced on the Red Sox early in each of their four ALDS games, scoring a total of eight runs in the first inning. Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve hit back-to-back home runs in Game 1. Correa blasted a two-run shot in both Game 2 and Game 3. And then they went the unconventional route in Game 4 as Springer hit a leadoff double and eventually scored on an Altuve double play.
4. While Cleveland, the Yankees’ ALDS foe, was hunting for its first World Series title in 69 years — the longest drought in MLB — the Astros are chasing their first championship in franchise history. They entered the league as an expansion team in 1962 (as the Houston Colt .45s) and have made 11 postseason appearances since, winning three different divisions: the NL West, NL Central and AL West.
5. The Astros haven’t won a championship in the big leagues, but they have been building toward one with minor league titles over the past five years. Their Fresno Grizzlies won the Triple-A championship in 2015, the High-A Lancaster JetHawks won the California League in 2014 and both their Single-A and Short-Season A affiliates won their leagues in 2013.
We meet again
This marks only the second postseason meeting between the Yankees and Astros, the first coming in the 2015 wild-card game. Here’s a look at their two series from this season as well as that playoff game:
May 11-14 in New York
The clubs played a four-game set, with the Astros winning three, though the actual series might have been overshadowed by Derek Jeter’s number retirement ceremony before Sunday night’s game. Dallas Keuchel out-dueled Michael Pineda in the Astros’ 3-2 win in the opener. In Game 2, ex-Bomber Brian McCann went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and the Yankees couldn’t touch Lance McCullers Jr. in a 5-1 loss. The lone Yankees win that weekend came in the first game of a Sunday doubleheader, when they torched the Houston bullpen for seven runs in a comeback 11-6 win. But the Astros had the last laugh when they shelled Masahiro Tanaka for eight runs in a 10-7 win in the nightcap.
June 30-July 2 in Houston
The Astros won this series, too, with the Yankees squeezing out one victory. It came in the opener as the Bombers pounded out 13 runs on 14 hits, with a big spark from Brett Gardner (3-for-6, six RBIs, three runs) in Pineda’s second-to-last start of the season. The Yankees nearly won the second game before the Astros scored four runs off Dellin Betances in the bottom of the eighth to win it 7-6. The Astros kept the runs coming in the finale as they got to Luis Severino for six runs — Carlos Correa went 4-for-5 with three RBIs — while Mike Fiers and the bullpen combined for a six-hitter.
2015 AL Wild Card Game
Stifled by Keuchel in The Bronx, the Yankees went one-and-done. Keuchel tossed six shutout innings of three-hit ball, striking out seven. Tanaka countered by allowing two runs on four hits and three walks over five innings, which wasn’t enough. Colby Rasmus got the Astros on the board with a solo home run to lead off the second inning and Carlos Gomez added a solo shot to lead off the fourth. The Astros bullpen didn’t allow a hit as the Yankees went down quietly 3-0.
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