There is no greater crucible in sports than baseball’s 162-game schedule, and the New York Yankees are running roughshod on their opponents this season. Today — and for the past two months — the Yankees have the best record in the game. At 64-30 they have a comfortable twelve-game lead in the American League East and are all but assured of winning the deepest division in baseball and advancing to the playoffs. All season long, they’ve just been better than anyone else.
Anyone else but the Houston Astros.
The Yankees and Astros completed their regular season series last night, with the Astros sweeping a double header in Houston and beating the Yankees for the fifth time in seven games.
Were it not for Aaron Judge and his walk-off heroics that saved two games in New York, the Yankees would have lost all seven contests with the Astros. In fact, those two swings by Judge were the only moments in a week’s worth of games against their arch rivals (sorry, Red Sox) that the Yankees enjoyed a lead. It’s been that bleak. (Judge did his best to rescue his team again on Thursday night, rocking a massive three-run homer to left to cut a five-run lead to two, but it wasn’t quite enough.)
The mightiest offense in baseball was repeatedly humbled by Houston pitching. The Astros threw a combined no-hitter against them in New York and opened the following game with six more hitless innings, and Houston pitchers, both starters and bullpen, were generally in control in all seven games. The Yankees scored 22 runs in seven games, including a disturbing two runs or fewer in four of the seven.
Not surprisingly, acorns are falling on everyone’s heads. Should the Yankees fall into mediocrity and go 36-32 the rest of the way, they’ll still finish with 100 wins and a division crown, but there are those who will tell you that the season is over. That this team cannot beat the Astros.
I understand this point of view because I carry the same scars you do, but regardless of what happened in this year’s seven-game sample, I’m comfortable saying that right now the Yankees of 2022 are better than the versions that watched their seasons end at the hands of the Astros in 2017 and 2019, and that the Astros of 2022 are weaker. If Brian Cashman decides to spend some capital to add Luís Castillo or gut the farm system to land Juan Sóto, the Yankee advantage over the Astros will only widen.
Let me say this again — the Yankees are better than the Astros. If you refuse to believe this because of that 2-5 season record or because of how listless the Yankees looked in so many of those games, I’ll ask if you also believe that the Cincinnati Reds (who handled the Yankees last week) are better than the 64-30 Bronx Bombers.
Yes, the seven games against the Astros were difficult, but sometimes baseball is like that. Everything’s going to be okay.