It wasn't supposed to be this difficult, this three game series against the Houston Astros. Baseball is unpredictable and on any given day one team can beat any other. That's simply the reality of the game. Still, there are certain games or even certain series where a fan says, "This is one the [fill in the team] should win." Whether it's a lopsided pitching matchup or an anemic opposing offense, something about the game seems to indicate a win is in the offing.
In a long season, it would seem that players would make the same assumptions. Of course they would never admit to such a thing. That would be too blunt and forthcoming for today's modern athlete. Still, it's a little like the pitcher's spot in a National League game, everyone looks at it as a relatively easy out and a chance for everyone to catch their breath.
For the Yankees, coming off an April filled with a litany of injuries and having battled each of their A.L. East opponents at least once, the hapless Houston Astros were supposed to be that easy out. They weren't, though. The 7-18 Astros rolled into the Bronx on Monday night, having just been swept by the Boston Red Sox, and put an absolute bruising on Andy Pettitte, his first real clunker of the season. The Yankees never recovered from him giving up seven runs in 4.1 innings but, in game 2, although he had to work hard early, Kuroda settled in to get the win.
In the rubber game on Wednesday, David Phelps, filling in for the ineffective and injured Ivan Nova, showed an at times dominant repertoire coupled with a fearless demeanor out on the mound. He had one bad inning to give up the lead but never let the Astros get the go ahead run. The bullpen, including the maddeningly frustrating Boone Logan who got the win, took it from there and the Yankees eked out the game and a series victory.
A series win is a wonderful thing, whatever way you look at it but this one was a little unsettling. These were the Astros, who are projected to spend most of the season battling the Miami Marlins for the honor of being the worst team in the majors and who lead the league in strikeouts and are tied for most losses.
It just felt like it should have been easier. Instead, it was a reminder that, despite the feel good vibes around the Yankees who have thus far surpassed expectations with their 17-10 record, this is still an unconventional, heavily injured and largely unknown Yankees team. On the plus side, the team will only get healthier. On the negative side, until that happens, there just might not be any easy games. Not even against the likes of the Houston Astros.