Jun 23, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (27) hits a double in the sixth inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

No one can ruin a New York Yankees season better than the Houston Astros, who have done it three times in recent years by eliminating the Yanks in the 2015 American League wild-card game and in the American League Championship Series in 2017 and 2019.

And as great as the Yankees have been this season, the Astros offered a vivid reminder over the weekend that there’s a good chance they’ll be lurking again in October.

The teams split a four-game series in the Bronx, but not before the Astros showed how scary they can be in a short series. Aaron Judge of the Yankees bookended the series with walk-off hits, but without the late-inning heroics, it could have been a Houston sweep.

On Friday, Astros ace Justin Verlander held the Yankees to a run in seven innings as Houston ended the Yankees’ 15-game home winning streak. On Saturday, Cristian Javier struck out 13 in seven innings and combined with two relievers to no-hit the Bombers. On Sunday, Jose Urquidy pitched another 6 1/3 hitless innings, putting the Yankees eight outs away from back-to-back no-hitters, before giving up a home run to Giancarlo Stanton in a game the Yankees eventually tied on D.J. LeMahieu’s eighth-inning two-run homer and then won on Judge’s three-run blast in the 10th.

The Astros offense has not produced at its customary level this season — Houston ranks 18th in runs per game (4.29) after leading the majors last season (5.34) — but Yordan Alvarez has emerged as one of the game’s most prolific hitters, leading MLB this month with a slash line of .411/.494/.822/1.316. Also, shortstop Jeremy Pena, who leads American League rookies in OPS (.804), returned Sunday after missing two weeks with a thumb injury, and there’s always Yankees killer Jose Altuve, who had a great series in New York with five hits, including two leadoff home runs.

Combine that with the majors’ most dominant bullpen (though it faltered twice against the Yankees) and a rotation that can match up with anyone in a short series (overall, Houston ranks third in runs against at 3.43 per game), and you can see why the Astros have the potential to ruin another October in the Bronx. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman still seethes over what he considers Houston’s theft of the 2017 ALCS during its trash-can, sign-stealing scandal, and Yankees fans are unrelenting in the abuse they heap upon Altuve, who seems impervious to it all.

This was playoff-level baseball in June, and both teams have the expectation that they’ll be seeing each other again in the postseason.

 “They’re obviously a complete team,” Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, who was on the losing end of Saturday’s no-hitter, told reporters. “We all know that good pitching and defense wins a lot of games in October. Obviously, you’re gonna have to have clutch hitting and magical offense as well, but there’s just not a lot of weaknesses over there.”

MLB Power Rankings

Rankings are determined by staff vote

Records and statistics are through June 26

1. New York Yankees (53-20, Last week: 1): Though they were no-hit by the Astros on Saturday, the Yankees mash like no other team, leading the majors in home runs (121) and walk-off wins (10). Their pitching is exceptional as they’ve given up fewer runs than anyone. And wouldn’t you know, they’re terrific at catching the ball, too. Since May 25, they’ve gone 30 games without allowing an unearned run, matching the longest such streak in franchise history.

2. New York Mets (47-27, LW: 2): Rehabbing Max Scherzer can’t return fast enough for the Mets, who watched in dismay as Carlos Carrasco, the stand-in ace for Scherzer and Jacob DeGrom, left Wednesday’s start early with lower-back tightness. In addition to DeGrom and Scherzer, the Mets’ injury list also includes Tylor Megill and Joey Lucchesi (Tommy John surgery). DeGrom is expected back after the All-Star break.

3. Houston Astros (45-27, LW: 3): Martin Maldonado became the first catcher in MLB history to catch multiple combined no-hitters. He was behind the plate when four Astros pitchers no-hit the Mariners in 2019.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers (45-26, LW: 4): Walker Buehler (forearm strain, bone spur surgery) is expected to be out until September, but the early returns suggest the starting rotation is well-equipped to handle his absence. Dodgers starters were 5-0 with a 1.74 ERA (9 ER/46.2 IP) and 44 strikeouts against 11 walks in their first eight games after Buehler went down.

5. San Diego Padres (45-30, LW: 6): Shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. is taking low-intensity swings with a fungo bat as he slowly makes his way back from a fractured wrist. The Pads continue to win without him; they have six walk-off victories this season, second only to the Yankees’ 10.

6. Boston Red Sox (42-31, LW: 12): They have a big series this week against the Blue Jays in Toronto. The Red Sox, who have won seven straight, will be without reliever Tanner Houck and exciting rookie center fielder Jarren Duran because neither player has been vaccinated. Chris Sale remains unvaccinated, too, so there’s no chance his rehab stint will be shortened. Last year, Boston beat out the Jays by a single game for a wild-card spot, so it’s not as if these games are unimportant.

7. Atlanta Braves (42-32, LW: 5): Matt Olson heated up just before Freddie Freeman made his return to Atlanta, hitting two homers last Tuesday against the Giants for his first multi-homer game with the Braves. Here’s the tale of the tape from the weekend when the two first basemen went head-to-head at Truist Park: Olson went 3-for-10 with two RBIs, including a game-tying RBI in the 10th inning on Sunday in a rubber match the Braves lost in 11; Freeman went 4-for-12 with two runs and an RBI.


Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Josh Hader, right, high-fives manager Craig Counsell after their win over the Toronto Blue Jays in a baseball game Saturday, June 25, 2022, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jon Durr)

8. Milwaukee Brewers (42-33, LW: 13): Since Josh Hader blew a save on June 7 when he gave up home runs to Alec Bohm and Matt Vierling of the Phillies — the only home runs he has allowed this season — he has made four appearances and recorded saves in all of them. Opponents are batting .117 (9 for 77) against the left-hander this season.

9. Toronto Blue Jays (40-32, LW: 7): Catcher Alejandro Kirk comes into the showdown with the Red Sox swinging a hot bat. He is batting .450 (9 for 20) with four home runs in his last five games.

10t. St. Louis Cardinals (41-34, LW: 11): Rookie Brendan Donovan, who tripled and homered Sunday, has 32 hits in June, the first Cards rookie with 30 or more hits in the month since Albert Pujols had 32 in June 2001. Red Schoendienst has the club record of 44 set in 1945.

10t. Tampa Bay Rays (40-32, LW: 15): Isaac Paredes left his mark all over the Rays record book last week. He became the first Rays player to hit a home run in four consecutive at-bats and the first player to homer in four straight at-bats against the Yankees since Bo Jackson, who did it over the span of four seasons. Paredes accomplished it in two days, hitting three home runs against the Yanks last Tuesday. The 23-year-old infielder became the fifth player born in Mexico to hit three home runs in a game, joining Bobby Avila, Vinny Castilla, Erubiel Durazo and Christian Villanueva. Paredes then had a walk-off hit on Saturday.

12. Minnesota Twins (41-33, LW: 9): Any questions why the Twins signed Carlos Correa? In the first game after relinquishing their AL Central lead to Cleveland, Correa homered in his first two at-bats. Still, that wasn’t enough for the Twins, who blew a three-run lead in the ninth against the Guardians and gave back all of the 7 1/2-game lead they once held. Correa had three hits in the series finale, which was won 1-0 by Minnesota on a home run by Nick Gordon. The Twins then took two of three from the Rockies while the Guardians got swept by Boston to reclaim a two-game division lead before the AL Central rivals meet again for a five-game set in Cleveland.

13. San Francisco Giants (39-33, LW: 8): Remember Yermin Mercedes, the White Sox outfielder who last season incurred the wrath of manager Tony La Russa after hitting a home run on a 3-and-0 pitch at the end of a blowout win? Mercedes wound up getting demoted by the White Sox, but he resurfaced Sunday with the Giants, just in time to face La Russa and the White Sox this weekend.

14. Cleveland Guardians (36-32, LW: 10): The Guardians got a reality check at home over the weekend, losing three straight to Boston. Cleveland led for a total of just three innings during the series, one in which they were outscored 18-8. Since overtaking Minnesota in the AL Central, the Guardian have lost four in a row and now trail the Twins by two games in advance of a five-game series with Minnesota that begins Monday night at Progressive Field.

15. Philadelphia Phillies (39-35, LW: 14): The Phillies are awaiting the results of more tests to determine how long they will be without Bryce Harper, whose left thumb was fractured by a 97-mph fastball from San Diego’s Blake Snell on Saturday. Harper’s absence is likely to be a game changer. The reigning National League MVP was the catalyst to the Phillies’ recovery from a dreadful start, and without him, they aren’t nearly the same team. Vice president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski noted that the Braves won the World Series last season without Ronald Acuna Jr., but that was only because Alex Anthopoulos made a series of midseason additions (Eddie Rosario, Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler, Adam Duvall) that all paid off in a big way. It would help if Nick Castellanos, who hasn’t homered in 25 games, heats up.


Texas Rangers' Adolis Garcia, left, follows through on a walkoff home run off Washington Nationals relief pitcher Kyle Finnegan as catcher Keibert Ruiz, center, and home plate umpire Laz Diaz, right, look on during the ninth inning of a baseball game Saturday, June 25, 2022, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

16. Texas Rangers (34-37, LW: 17): No such thing as a clutch hitter? Adolis García, who is tied with Corey Seager for the team lead with 15 home runs, might beg to differ. After his walk-off home run Saturday, he is batting .426/.453/.723/1.176 (20 for 47) with a major-league best nine extra-base hits in close and late situations, which are defined by STATS as plate appearances occurring in the seventh inning or later with a team ahead by a run, tied or with the tying run on base, at bat or on deck. Got that?

17. Chicago White Sox (34-37, LW: 19): They are scoring again, averaging 5.08 runs a game in June, but they’re still having trouble catching the ball. The White Sox’s .679 defensive efficiency and .980 fielding percentage rank last in the league. They also can’t keep healthy bodies on the field. In the span of an inning last Wednesday, they lost utilityman Danny Mendick to a torn ACL (out for the season) and outfielder Adam Engel to a strained hamstring (10-day IL). Currently, 10 players are on the IL. Just when it looked like they were climbing back into contention in the AL Central, the White Sox dropped a series to the Orioles, avoiding a four-game sweep with a win on Sunday.

18. Baltimore Orioles (34-40, LW: 20): The Orioles lost Sunday to the White Sox, but not before winning four straight for the first time since September of 2020. In those four games, Baltimore pitchers allowed just two earned runs in 33 innings.

19. Los Angeles Angels (35-40, LW: 16): What Shohei Ohtani did last week — two home runs and eight RBIs one night; two-hit, shutout pitching for eight innings the next; then a 462-foot home run at 118-mph exit velocity on Saturday night — is beyond comprehension. Makes it all the more lamentable that the Angels appear hell-bent on not qualifying for October baseball. Ohtani deserves the game’s biggest stage, like Mike Trout, and neither seem likely to get it.

20. Seattle Mariners (34-40, LW: 23): Their five-game winning streak, longest of the season, ended with a 2-1 loss to the Angels in Anaheim, but the Mariners have won five consecutive series and have a chance to climb back to .500 with series this week against the Orioles and Athletics.

21. Miami Marlins (33-38, LW: 22): Consider yourself a hard-core fan if you know that Marlins center fielder Jesus Sanchez’s 10 home runs have averaged 425 feet, the longest average distance of anyone not playing for the Rockies (Ryan McMahon, 427, C.J. Cron 426). Sanchez hit a 496-foot homer in Coors Field on May 30, the longest HR of the season to date in the big leagues.

22. Arizona Diamondbacks (33-41, LW: 18): Left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who was designated for assignment by the White Sox at the end of May, returned to the big leagues Sunday with a start for Arizona, where he was reunited with his former pitching coach in Houston, Brent Strom. Keuchel gave up six hits and four runs in 4 1/3 innings in an 11-7 win over the Tigers.

23. Colorado Rockies (31-42, LW: 21): Kris Bryant, the Rockies’ big offseason acquisition who has played just 17 games this season because of back issues, began a rehab assignment with Albuquerque, his first game action of any kind in a month. The Rockies are being very careful with Bryant, who originally was placed on the injured list in late April, then played just two games (May 21-22) before going back on the IL. Manager Bud Black said Bryant, who was 1-for-13 during his rehab, should be activated to play against the Dodgers this week.

24. Pittsburgh Pirates (29-43, LW: 24): The Pirates haven’t won a postseason series since the “We Are Family” bunch won the World Series in 1979, but at least they can boast the world’s tallest shortstop in 6-foot-7 Oneil Cruz. He is the first shortstop that tall ever to start a game in the big leagues. (In 2007, the Rays had a 6-7 utilityman named Joel Guzman who played a total of nine innings over three games at short without handling a chance.) Cruz wowed with a throw from the hole clocked at 96.7 mph, a velocity exceeded only by one infielder (Fernando Tatis Jr.) in the Statcast era.

25. Detroit Tigers (28-44, LW: 25): How bad is the Tigers’ offense? They’re averaging an MLB-worst 3.00 runs per game, and it took a seven spot to get there Sunday (and of course, they still lost). Since World War II, only eight teams have averaged fewer than three runs a game. The last was the 1972 Rangers, who averaged 2.99 and lost 100 games. Detroit is on pace to lose 99 games.

26. Chicago Cubs (28-45, LW: 26): Catcher Willson Contreras is headed back to the All-Star Game and almost certainly out of town as the Cubs’ most attractive trading chip. His 12 home runs this season are the most among major-league catchers, ahead of Salvador Pérez (11) and Will Smith (11).


Kansas City Royals' Bobby Witt Jr. (7) hits a home run during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, Calif., Tuesday, June 21, 2022. Andrew Benintendi also scored. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

27. Kansas City Royals (26-45, LW: 27): It’s hard to take your eyes off Bobby Witt Jr. The rookie shortstop/third baseman is on pace for 25 homers and 23 steals, which would make him only the fifth player in Royals history with a 20/20 season, previously done by Jeff Francoeur (2011), Carlos Beltrán (1999, 2001-03), Bo Jackson (1988-89) and Amos Otis (1978). Only three players in MLB history have recorded 20 HR and 20 steals in their first big-league season, and the last to do it was Minnesota’s Marty Cordova in 1995.

28. Washington Nationals (27-48, LW: 28): Juan Soto is still drawing his walks — 17 in his last 17 games, including four on Sunday — but the Nationals superstar is just 10-for-59 (.169) during that span with only three extra-base hits (a double and two home runs).

29. Cincinnati Reds (25-47, LW: 30): They should be happy to be done with the Dodgers, who swept Cincinnati four games in L.A. in April, then took three more in Great American Ball Park last week. The seven losses came by a combined score of 52-18. The Reds also were swept at home by Milwaukee last week, the first time since 1991 they had lost every game of a homestand lasting at least six games.

30. Oakland Athletics (25-49, LW: 29): Through June 26, Athletics hitters have posted a slash line of .259/.349/.386/.735. Sorry, that was 1992, when Rickey, Big Mac and Canseco roamed the earth. These A’s have a .602 OPS, worst in baseball, and June is even uglier: .206/.258/.331/.589.

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