NEW YORK -- Even in the wake of Sunday’s crushing loss to the Yankees, which ended with an Aaron Judge walk-off homer in the 10th inning, the Astros were able take a step back and accept standing toe-to-toe with the team that has the best record in baseball over four epic games at Yankee Stadium.
Realistically, the Astros probably should have swept the series, losing Thursday’s game on a walk-off single by Judge after blowing a three-run lead in the ninth inning and dropping the finale Sunday by squandering a two-run lead in the eighth. Judge’s three-run blast off Seth Martinez sent the Yankees to a 6-3 win and a split of the series.
“Boy, Judge got us twice,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “Ended up Judge two, us two. That’s a bad feeling. Imagine the same feeling they had yesterday. It’s a game of emotions and it hurt a lot because we played them tough.”
After the Yankees scored four runs in the ninth inning Thursday to extend their home winning streak to 15 games, the Astros responded with a 3-1 win on Friday before throwing a combined no-hitter in a 3-0 win on Saturday. On Sunday, Astros starter José Urquidy carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning before Giancarlo Stanton ended it with with a tape-measure homer.
The Yankees were held without a hit for 16 consecutive innings by the Astros, which tied for the longest such streak in the expansion era (since 1961) with the 1981 Dodgers (vs. the Astros) and 1973 A’s (vs. the Rangers and Twins).
“I feel good about the way we’re playing. I don’t feel great at the moment,” Baker said. “You always think about what could have been. Easily could have been three out of four [wins], or possibly four [out of four].”
If the four games in the Bronx were any indication, the Astros-Yankees rivalry is alive and well, with three regular-season meetings remaining in Houston. The teams could be headed toward another October showdown, as well. The Astros have eliminated the Yankees from the playoffs three times since 2015, including ALCS triumphs in ‘17 and ‘19.
"These two teams, we're going to be seeing each other a lot down the road,” Judge said. “We've seen each other a lot in years past in the postseason. Any time we play, it's always going to be a good ballgame. You look forward to these weekends, playing good teams and just kind of seeing where you stack up."
The next head-to-head meeting comes Thursday, with a makeup game at Minute Maid Park. The Astros are 4-2 during a stretch in which they play the Mets and Yankees for nine consecutive games, with games at Citi Field looming on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“We had a legitimate chance to win all four,” Astros catcher Jason Castro said. “We put ourselves in a good position to do that. I think that says a lot about this team. The Yankees have the best record in baseball coming off a really long winning streak. We came into New York and we played really well, I thought. Obviously, that’s 2-2 here; that’s good. If you would have said beforehand, going 2-2, we would have been 'OK,' but we had a chance to realistically win all four. We’re not satisfied with 2-2. We would have liked to have taken all four.”
The Astros outscored the Yankees, who lead the AL in runs scored, homers and OPS, by a margin of 15-14 in the series and had twice as many hits (30-15). Houston pitchers held the Yankees to a .123 batting average and .530 OPS in the four games, with all but one run New York scored in the series coming off home runs.
"I think it's a big win because this is one of the better teams we've faced this year,” said Yankees third baseman DJ LeMahieu, who tied Sunday’s game with a two-run homer in the eighth. “You could tell they were coming at us with everything they had. I don't think we played our best this series, but to split with them, I think we did enough to win."