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Yankees Sweep Astros To Begin Season

When the New York Yankees found out that they would be playing AT the Houston Astros to begin the 2024 MLB season, their fans would have been happy to split the series at least. The Astros have been the Yankees’ kryptonite for several years now and beating them at Minute Maid Park in Houston has been a tall order. Although, the Yankees have now won seven in a row there, after sweeping a three-game set last September.

After trading for superstar slugger Juan Soto this offseason, the Yankees started the season clicking on all cylinders. The offense did what it should do while the pitching did what it had to do to keep the lineup in the game. After sweeping the Astros, the Bombers are 4-0 for the first time in 21 years and it is the 12th time overall they have started with that record. It is also their first-ever four-game sweep of the Astros. While it is still very early, starting this hot against a team you have struggled to beat in the past is a good sign. Let’s break down the biggest takeaways from the 4-0 start for the Yankees. 

Childish Bambino Earns His Pinstripes

Not once, but twice did Soto bare his teeth and come up clutch for the Yankees in this series. On Saturday, with the game tied at three in the seventh inning, the Childish Bambino crushed a solo homer to give the Bombers the lead. Then on Sunday, the 25-year-old came up with the game tied at three just like the day prior, this time in the ninth inning and with Gleyber Torres on base. After Torres stole second, Soto ripped a go-ahead RBI single to left field off of Josh Hader. The hit was his third of the game as he went 9-for-17 (.529) in the series while also walking three times and scoring two runs. Soto has been as advertised for the Yankees and their fans and gives their lineup the exact extra layer they have needed. 

Fellow new Yankee Alex Verdugo gave a headlining and very quotable description of Soto after the series final on Sunday, saying, “He’s a dawg. Just put it like that, he’s a dawg bro. I can’t say anything else. We’re dawgs out here.” 

Put it on a shirt, RotoWear. Got that dawg in ‘em.

Where’s Oswaldo? On Base (Or Rounding Them)

After a pretty abysmal 2023 offensively, Oswaldo Cabrera has come on very strong to start 2024. While he is the same age as Soto at 25, Cabrera only just made his debut at the end of the 2022 season while Soto has been in the league for seven years. The Venezuelan-born super utilityman has a lot of development remaining and has shown off his potential in the early going. Despite the Yankees trading for Jon Berti before Opening Day, Cabrera has gotten his chance to start which is helped by his ability to play nearly every position on the field. 

On Saturday, Cabrera smashed a tying two-run homer in the seventh inning right before Soto snagged the lead a few batters later. He also hit a home run on Opening Day, a game-tying shot in the sixth inning. Cabrera went hitless on Easter Sunday as the shortstop but did walk and went 7-for-16 overall with 14 total bases. That included a 4-for-5 day on Friday with three RBI. 

Bend Don’t Break Pitching

The starting rotation without reigning Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole is middling, to say the least. But over the first series, the starters did what they could to keep the Yankees offense in the game. The Yankees got behind in the first three games before coming back to win. Nestor Cortes Jr. was shaky on Opening Day as he was trounced for three runs in the first inning and then another in the second.

But, Cortes settled in and limited the damage to those four runs over five runnings while striking out five. That allowed the Yankees to work their way back, as Soto got them on the board in the fifth. A hit-by-pitch and a walk later that inning drove in two runs to bring it within one run. Then after the Cabrera tying bomb in the sixth, Verdugo drove in the deciding run in the seventh on a sac fly. 

In the second game, Carlos Rodón allowed a run in the first inning but that would be all he allowed over 4 1/3 innings. He still wasn’t great, as he also walked three, but he struck out four and grinded out an okay start to keep the Yankees in the game. It took until the seventh for the Bombers to break through, with Cabrera tying it up with an RBI single in the seventh. The Yankees then blew up for six more runs to win 7-1. The nail in the coffin for the Astros was Giancarlo Stanton blasting a solo homer to center in the ninth. 

The Yankees once again got behind early on Saturday, with their newest starter Marcus Stroman allowing two runs in the second inning. However, both were unearned after a throwing error by Carbera earlier in the inning. Stroman was solid in the start as he allowed just one other run which was also unearned and went six innings while striking out four. That kept the Yankees in the game to open the door for Cabrera to tie it and Soto to take the lead. 

The Yankees grabbed the lead first on Sunday, the only time they did that in the series. Jose Trevino drove in the first run in the second inning but Clarke Schmidt surrendered a tying homer to Jose Altuve in the third. However, the fly ball off the bat of Altuve only would’ve been a long ball in one other ballpark, Fenway Park. The Yankees took the lead back in the fourth inning as Berti recorded his first hit as a Yankee and drove in Anthony Rizzo.

After extending the lead to 3-1 in the fifth on an Aaron Judge sac fly, Schmidt surrendered two runs and the lead in the sixth. But Schmidt just bent and didn’t break as he kept the damage there while going 5 1/3 innings and striking out five. With the bullpen holding it there, Soto was set up to take the lead back in the ninth. 

No Matter the Names, Bullpen Remains Filthy

One of the biggest strengths of the Yankees over the last several years has been their bullpen, no matter who is running out of the bullpen doors. That was no different over the opening weekend as the Yankees bullpen didn’t allow a single run over 15 1/3 innings while striking out nine and walking five. Clay Holmes picked up the save in three of the four wins, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Ian Hamilton showed off tremendous stuff as a backend guy as he allowed just one hit in three innings over his two appearances while striking out three.

The Yankees bullpen held it down for 4 2/3 innings on Friday after Rodón was knocked out of the game, with right-handers Nick Burdi (2/3 IP), Luke Weaver (1 1/3 IP) and Clayton Beeter (1 IP), as well as left-handers Victor González (1/3 IP) and Caleb Ferguson (1 1/3 IP) combining to allow just two hits. Every name there is a new pitcher for the Yankees bullpen this year. Beeter was the return the Yankees got for Joey Gallo at the 2022 trade deadline. The former Dodgers prospect only needed three pitches in his debut to set the Astros down, but was sent down to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after the game. The move corresponded with New York calling up left-hander Tanner Tully who was available to give length after the Yankees breezed through several pitchers. 

Ferguson, who the Yankees acquired from the Dodgers for left-hander Matt Gage and right-hander Christian Zazueta in February, only allowed two walks and struck out two in his two appearances. Burdi also had two appearances in which he struck out two and walked one. With the magic that is pitching coach Matt Blake, it seems that the Yankees can create something with any number of relievers that they wind up with. After the game on Sunday, they acquired right-hander Jake Cousins, the cousin of NFL quarterback Kirk Cousins, from the Chicago White Sox for cash considerations. He could very well turn into another weapon for the bullpen this season. 

Offense Not At Full Potential Yet

The Bombers swept the Astros despite the entire offense not clicking yet. It will be scary if the rest of the lineup can start clicking like they have the potential to do. Judge has struggled out of the gate as he only recorded two hits in 16 at-bats in the first four games while striking out six times. Gleyber Torres has also gotten off to a slow start as he has just two hits in 15 at-bats with four strikeouts. Verdugo also only had three hits in 15 at-bats but provided strong defense in left, which included a sliding catch to seal the win on Sunday. While Stanton hit a homer on Friday, he had just three hits overall in 14 at-bats but looked comfortable at the plate. If the lineup can stay healthy, they will be very dangerous. DJ LeMahieu and Oswald Peraza have started the season on the injured list, so once they return the Yankees will have even more depth. 

The Yankees travel to Arizona to play the Diamondbacks for a three-game set starting tonight before they have their home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday.

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