The Yankees and Astros meet Thursday for the final two times this regular season, in one last preview of what could be a terrific ALCS matchup. The AL’s top two teams get started in the early afternoon at Minute Maid Park, resuming a series that started in June after being knocked out of place by the lockout. Cristian Javier takes the mound against the Yankees less than a month after he tossed the bulk of a combined no-hitter in Yankee Stadium, while New York will pick from the middle of their rotation as the Astros avoid Gerrit Cole.
Let’s take a look at starting lineups, betting odds, and predictions for Thursday’s matchup.
New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros Betting Odds
The Astros enter as slight favorites at -126 on the moneyline, with the over/under set at 8 runs. Houston is a rare team to have real success against the Yankees this season, splitting a four-game series back in June before winning a standalone makeup game the following week. The pinnacle of that success was Javier’s seven no-hit innings in June, which tell us why the over/under is so low. These two are also playing the first game out of all-star break, so Aaron Boone and Dusty Baker might not put some of their stars in the lineup for both games.
New York Yankees Starting Lineup
J. Montgomery L
3-2 3.26 ERA
1B D.J. LeMahieu R
CF A. Judge R
DH A. Rizzo L
RF G. Stanton R
3B J. Donaldson R
2B G. Torres R
LF A. Hicks S
SS I. Kiner-Falefa R
C J. Trevino R
New York Yankees vs. Cristian Javier
The Yankees would like to forget what happened the last time they faced Cristian Javier. They kept his pitch count elevated, but that was about it – Javier struck out 13 batters across seven hitless innings. It was New York’s first time on the sour end of a no-hitter since 2003. Javier is averaging 10.5 strikeouts per start over his last four outings, including the Yankees start and a dominant one against the Angels, but he gave up a total of 8 ER over his last two starts before the break. Javier has a 3.22 ERA over 78.1 innings this season, with a strong 2.92 FIP, 1.05 WHIP, and 12.9 K/9.
The Yankees have one of baseball’s best offenses, but they’re middle of the pack when it comes to strikeouts. Their swing-and-miss tendency burned them last time they faced Javier and is a risk again, especially if Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are tired coming out of the break. I’d still have to think they’ll have better luck against Javier this time around. The Yankees walk more than any other team, which is good news against a pitcher with an elevated walk rate. Javier walked three in each of his final two starts before the break – if the power hitters can at least get on base with contact bats DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres well-rested, we should see some run production in Houston.
Houston Astros Starting Lineup
C. Javier R
6-5 3.22 ERA
2B Jose Altuve R
SS Jeremy Pena R
DH Y. Alvarez L
3B Alex Bregman R
RF Kyle Tucker L
1B Yuli Gurriel R
CF Jake Meyers R
LF Aledmys Diaz R
C M. Maldonado R
Houston Astros vs. Yankees Pitching
The Yankees are set to roll out one of Jameson Taillon, Jordan Montgomery, and Domingo German to open the doubleheader. Taillon is expected to get one of the two starts on normal rest, while German’s season debut after battling a shoulder injury in the first half is expected to come either Thursday or over the weekend. Houston would love to get a crack at Taillon, who struggled mightily over his last four starts before shutting down the Red Sox last Saturday. The Astros’ offense would also be an especially tough assignment for German, who likely won’t be able to give the Yankees too much length. The ultra-reliable Montgomery might be the toughest challenge of the three for Houston. The Astros’ OPS against lefties is just .714, and they have yet to get a look at Montgomery this season.
The Astros are surprisingly only 13th in runs/game, but they’re a high-walk, low-strikeout team without many weaknesses in the lineup. Houston is expected to get its most dangerous hitter back, as Yordan Alvarez is set to return Thursday after missing a week with a hand injury. Alvarez was struggling to play through the injury before he was finally placed on the IL, so his effectiveness is worth watching – this is a much different offense when he’s hot. The Astros badly need Alvarez’s bat after Alex Bregman, Kyle Tucker, and Jeremy Pena all struggled over the final two weeks of the first half. A surprising source of offense lately has been light-hitting catcher Martin Maldonado, who is batting .275 with 4 home runs since the start of July.
New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros Picks & Prediction
My pick: Yankees Moneyline / Over 7.5 Parlay (+260 on FanDuel)
Betting against the Yankees is a dangerous, dangerous game in 2022. New York came back down to earth in the week before the break, losing five of six at one point, but they exploded for 27 runs in two games against the Red Sox before taking the All-Star Game by storm. While I worry about all-star fatigue from the three hitters that made the trip, I’m less convinced this offense will let Cristian Javier have his way again. Look for both teams to score a few runs in Minute Maid Park, even if mostly via the home run. After losing in Houston last month, the Yankees should be able to even the season series before the nightcap.