The New York Yankees finished a poor trip in strong fashion as they return home to face two fourth-place teams.
The Houston Astros, however, may not be pushovers thanks to the production of major league batting leader Jose Altuve and slugger Chris Carter.
Chris Capuano is still searching for his first win with the Yankees as he gets the ball Tuesday night in this three-game series opener.
New York (63-59) ended a season-high five-game slide by winning 3-2 on Saturday at Tampa Bay before taking Sunday’s finale 4-2 to cap a 2-3 trip that began with two defeats to AL East-leading Baltimore.
"Well it’s not what we wanted but it’s better than it looked as of Friday night as of 10:30, that’s for sure at 0-3," manager Joe Girardi said. "Hopefully this carries over and we get on another good roll when we get back home."
The Yankees are trying to hang in a wild-card race in which three teams ahead of them are all at least 10 games above .500. This homestand represents a good chance to pile up victories against Houston and the Chicago White Sox although Jacoby Ellsbury is in a 1-for-20 slump and Carlos Beltran a 1-for-25 slide.
New York hasn’t scored more than four runs in any of its last seven games and that may not be good enough against Houston.
The Astros (52-73) are averaging an AL-best 4.6 runs since the All-Star break with the Yankees well behind them at 3.8.
Houston has been led by Altuve, who is hitting .339 and is four hits shy of his career-high total of 177 set last year. The second baseman is 15 for 35 in his last eight games, posting his major league-best 53rd multihit effort with four hits including his first career grand slam in Sunday’s 8-1 rout at Boston.
"I’ll tell you, he’s been doing it all year," manager Bo Porter said. "There’s no surprise to us, you grow accustomed to feeling like if he (doesn’t) get two hits, something’s wrong."
Carter leads the majors with 29 RBIs since the All-Star break to go with an AL-best 10 homers in that span. He’s batting .341 with seven home runs and 16 RBIs in his last 11 games.
Capuano (1-3, 4.13 ERA) has made 12 career starts against the Astros, but doesn’t have much experience against hitters on this youthful club with a notable exception in Dexter Fowler, who is 5 for 17 versus him and has posted three straight two-hit efforts.
Altuve 1 for 3 against Capuano, who has never faced Carter.
The left-hander is 0-2 with a 4.13 ERA in four starts with New York, allowing four runs in six innings last Monday in an 11-3 defeat to the Orioles.
The Astros will also start a southpaw in Brett Oberholtzer (4-8, 3.87), who is 0-2 with a 4.09 ERA in two career starts against the Yankees heading into his first in the Bronx.
Oberholtzer is 2-1 with a 2.63 ERA in his last six outings, with the Astros winning five straight before he surrendered one run in seven innings of Wednesday’s 3-1 defeat to Minnesota.
Houston won two of three over New York to open the season after losing 13 of 15 previous meetings.