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By Joe Kazmar
For the Record 

Kaz's Korner

Bullpen prevents Astros 6-Game Big Apple sweep


Last updated 6/28/2022 at 6:10pm

When two great major league baseball teams face each other, one leading the majors in pitching and the other MLB's best hitting outfit, I always pick the team with the best pitching.

And that's the way the four-game series between New York's Pinstripers and the Houston Astros went last week at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx.

The Astros' starting pitching was superlative, completely quieting the mighty bats of the Yankees. Houston's bullpen, which is among the best in the MLB stumbled in two of the four games, while New York's superstar Aaron Judge personally prevented a Houston Astros four-game sweep by driving in the winning runs in both the first and last games of the series.

Ryan Pressly, the Astros superb closer who had saved 14 of 16 games, came into the opener in the bottom of the ninth inning Thursday night to protect Houston's 6-3 lead. The first two batters reached base and Aaron Hicks blasted a three-run homer to suddenly tie the score as thousands of Yankee fans scurried back into the stadium from the parking lot.

Pressly put two more runners on base without retiring anybody and manager Dusty Baker had seen enough and brought in Ryne Stanek, whose earned run average was under 1.00, who got two outs before giving up a game-winning single by Judge to take the first game 7-6. It ruined a quality start for Framber Valdez, preventing him from notching his eighth win against 3 losses.

Friday was an entirely different story as Astros' ace Justin Verlander took the mound at Yankee Stadium and had the Pinstripers eating out of his hand, scattering four hits including a solo homer by Giancarlo Stanton, posting his team-leading ninth victory against three losses and evening the series with Houston's 3-1 win.

On Saturday, the Astros carved out another notch in franchise history with a no-hitter in their 3-0 win as young Cristian Javier threw 115 pitches in his seven innings of mastery over the Yanks, followed by Hector Neris, who walked two in his eighth inning of work and a perfect ninth inning by Pressly, who redeemed himself by notching his 15th save of the season.

This was the 14th no-hitter in Astros' franchise history, with the last one thrown by Verlander on Sept. 1, 2019. The first one was fashioned by Don Nottebart on May 17, 1963.

The last time the Yankees failed to get a hit in nine innings was on June 11, 2003 and the team throwing the six-man no-hitter-Roy Oswalt, Pete Munro, Kirk Saarloos, Brad Lidge, Octavio Dotel and closer Billy Wagner--was none other than the Houston Astros who won the game 8-0.

The Yankees were bound and determined to salvage a split in the four-game series but couldn't muster a hit off Astros' starter Jose Urquidy Sunday until Stanton blasted a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning, narrowing Houston's lead to 3-1.

Beginning with the ninth inning of Friday's win, the Astros held the Yankees hitless for 16 consecutive innings, then came Saturday's no-hitter with Urquidy holding them without a hit until Stanton's seventh-inning blast Sunday. No team in MLB history has ever been no-hit in consecutive games, according to Monday's edition of the Houston Chronicle.

Urquidy finished the seventh inning with 100 pitches and Baker was hard-pressed to find fresh, quality relievers. He chose Phil Maton to protect the two-run lead in the eighth inning. Maton struck out two but gave up a single and then a two-run homer to D.J. Mahieu to tie the score 3-3.

Stanek pitched the ninth inning without giving up a run or a hit, sending the game into extra innings. Houston loaded the bases with one out in the top of the 10th innings, but Kyle Tucker and Yuli Gurriel failed to deliver.

Baker turned to rookie J.J. Martinez-who hadn't given up an earned run in his 17-inning young career-- to pitch the bottom of the 10th inning and the Rule 5 pick got two outs but gave up a walk and a single when Judge came to the plate. Baker decided not to intentionally walk him which turned out to be a bad decision by the Astros' skipper.

Judge parked a three-run homer over the left-field wall to win another game for the Yankees, 6-3 and give his team the series split it most desperately needed. Baker said after the game that he didn't want to intentionally walk Judge and then lose the game on a bases-loaded walk by the young reliever.

The Astros began the six games against the two Big Apple teams when they swept the two-game series from the red-hot New York Mets earlier last week at Minute Maid Park before venturing to Yankee Stadium Thursday.

Houston played the Yankees last night in a make-up game that was canceled during the first week of the season because of the strike.

KWICKIES...Congrats to the Ole Miss Rebels for winning the 2022 NCAA College World Series in Omaha Sunday 4-2 over Oklahoma. Mississippi scored three times in the bottom of the eighth inning, with two runs coming on wild pitches. It was a mistake-riddled game as the Sooners had a run taken off the scoreboard on what appeared to be a successful squeeze bunt. But the runner was declared out when he failed to stay within the box up the first base line and the scored runner was ordered back to third. Ole Miss won the first game of the best-of-three championship series 10-3 Saturday.

The big talk around college football fans--especially those favoring the Texas Longhorns--is the verbal agreement young high school quarterback Arch Manning gave to attend the University of Texas when he completes high school next year. Manning is the grandson of Archie Manning and is the nephew of Peyton and Eli Manning. But he can't sign any letter-of-intent until Dec. 11.

Xander Schauffele won the PGA Tour Travelers Championship with a birdie on the 72nd hole after temporary leader Sahith Theegala double-bogeyed the final hole. Schauffele began the final round a stroke ahead and finished with a two-under par 68 at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn.

The hearing by the NFL on Deshaun Watson's future with the Cleveland Browns began yesterday, with the league wanting to suspend the former Houston Texan quarterback for the entire 2022 season for conduct detrimental to the league's policy. The NFLPA union is trying to get Watson off without a suspension or fine.

Last week's announced retirement of Tampa Bay tight end Rob Gronkowski will probably last until Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady says the team needs him. The two have been together during Gronk's entire 11-year career.

JUST BETWEEN US...The Seattle Mariners and the LA Angels engaged in a full-team brawl in the second inning Sunday after two days of inside pitches boiled over. Both managers and six players were ejected after the brouhaha which stopped and started twice before Angels' closer Raisel Iglesias came back out to the empty field and threw a tub of sunflower seeds and another bucket of gum onto the field. The melee lasted nearly 20 minutes before order was finally restored. The Angels won the game over Seattle 2-1.


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