Astros drop Bronx slugfest, await full lineup

Marisnick (twice), Bregman and Alvarez homer in opener with Yankees

June 21st, 2019

NEW YORK -- Even 's 21st long ball, 's fifth home run in nine big league games and a two-homer night for weren't quite enough to distract from what the Astros are missing.

Not when the Astros were sent to their season-high fifth straight loss in Thursday night's series opener against the Yankees, outslugged 10-6 by their powerhouse rivals.

Not when George Springer was 1,600 miles away in Corpus Christi, busy homering twice in a Double-A rehab game, his first since he went down with a left hamstring strain on May 24.

Not when Carlos Correa is 1,400 miles away in Houston, stuck doing rehab exercises as he works his way back from a fractured rib that will likely keep him out until after the All-Star break.

Still, it's impossible to watch those loud swings in the Bronx and not be excited at what this Houston lineup will look like at full strength.

"Oh, it's gonna be awesome," Bregman said. "We're getting Jose [Altuve] back now, he's gonna get on a roll. Springer hit two homers today in rehab -- he's coming soon. And then hopefully Correa heals quickly and he gets back.

"I think we're having a little rough stretch right now. But we'll be back."

Even after Thursday's rain-delayed loss to the Yankees, the Astros are still 20 games over .500 (48-28), with a 7 1/2-game lead in the American League West. And when these two teams meet, you can't help but think of October, and the potential of a star-studded playoff series.

A healthy Houston lineup rivals that of the Bronx Bombers, both in depth and star power. But the Astros are missing two of their biggest hitters in Springer and Correa -- though Springer could return as soon as the start of the Astros' next homestand on Tuesday -- and Altuve is just two games into his return after missing the previous 35.

In a weird way, the Yankees offer a parallel for the path the Astros have to take. When the clubs met in Houston in April -- a series the Astros swept -- the Yankees were the ones missing multiple stars, like Giancarlo Stanton and Didi Gregorius, and it only got worse when Aaron Judge was knocked out with a left oblique strain. But New York has kept winning, Judge is set to return Friday, and the Yankees now sit in first place in the AL East, the same way the Astros remain in first in the West.

"We know how well they've played without Judge and Stanton, and really a lot of guys -- a lot of their regular guys that are superstars," Bregman said. "They've had that next-man-up mentality, too, and they've been winning games. I think we've done a good job of doing the same thing, honestly. I think it's gonna be huge for us to get healthy, but in the meantime we've got to play good baseball."

In that meantime, Bregman is keeping pace with the league's top sluggers. In the AL, only Edwin Encarnacion, Gary Sanchez and Mike Trout -- the first two also went deep at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night -- have more home runs.

He's getting help from other Astros like Alvarez, 21 years old and ranked baseball's No. 11 prospect, who's been a powerful spark since his callup. Alvarez's homer against the Yankees had an exit velocity of 113.2 mph -- the Astros' hardest-hit home run of the year. And the only other player to hit five homers through nine career games at such a young age? Carlos Delgado.

When someone like Marisnick chips in, too -- his homers were his first since May 24, and Thursday marked his first multi-homer game since July 31, 2017 -- Houston can be a potent team with the roster they have.

Now they just need to start turning those homers back into W's.

"Paces are great," manager A.J. Hinch said, "but wins are better."