This series of Astros-Yankees is supposed to be slobbery.

The Yankees have done a lot this year but haven’t played the Astros yet.

With the exception of the Red Sox, games against the Astros are undoubtedly the hottest on the Yankees’ schedule. As the Yankees were returning home in the middle of the night after their last game in Tampa, manager Aaron Boone was asked if the sight of the Astros could spur the team after their overnight trip.

“One of the cool things about Yankee Stadium, especially this year, is that we had this juice,” Boon said. “I certainly expect that after the trip we will take a walk tonight and they will be very energetic.”

The Astros have established themselves as the second best team in the American League. In a typical year, their 43-25 record would probably be enough to put them in first place in the AL. But the Yankees were playing a baseball the Bronx hadn’t seen since the powerful 1998 team won 114 games, going 11-2 in the postseason en route to a World Series championship.

This series of Yankees-Astros, especially since this is their first meeting in 2022, will be very competitive. Boone and his troops, riddled with great matches and a few worthy All-Stars in both dugouts, are ready for war.

“They’re ready,” the Boone Astros estimated. “They have outstanding depth in the bullpen, a really good kickoff, they catch the ball, they are athletic. They are probably as complete a team as we used to play. You know it will be a challenge.”

Houston’s 43 wins, plus 61 mileage differentials, 114 wRC+ and 3.04 collective ERA, all rank second in the American League behind the Yankees. The Astros’ position players have combined 12.9 wins over substitutions (the Yankees’ 14.8 makes them the only AL team with more), and their pitching staff is registering 9.1 WAR, second only to the Yankees’ 11.4 on the American League leaderboard.

Of course, with the Astros and Yankees, the elephant in the room is always the 2017 and 2019 American League Championship Series. The one in 2017, which was before Boone took over, is also overshadowed by the Astros cheating scandal. Boone was asked if this adds any significance to the series, even if it’s only four regular season games in June.

“For me, that’s the past,” Boone said. “I think it’s a shot at a series of hands on a hard stretch. The rivalry, which certainly exists, has something to do with some past things. I think our guys are looking forward to it and love to play on the big stages against the best teams.”

SCHMIDT TO SCRANTON

Clark Schmidt returned to Triple-A on Thursday morning.

Albert Abreu, a former Yankee who rejoined the team after being asked to waive by Kansas City on Tuesday, has returned to the active roster. Fellow right-hander reliever David McKay was traded to Tampa Bay for cash after being named to the assignment on Tuesday. Boon spoke about the decision-making process to demote Schmidt.

“I think there is a lot of value in a house that breaks down and starts,” he began. “Maybe he can drop for three or four weeks and get a few starts and also, in the long run, build up some volume moving forward if he is going to be a starter for us this year or in the future.

“As for staying on [big league] line-up, he showed that he belongs and deserves to be here,” Boon added. “I think he has made huge strides compared to last year. I feel like he’s a much better pitcher.”

Schmidt, who owns a 3.00 ERA in 24 innings this season, made the Yankees’ Opening Day roster but fluctuated between the minors and the majors for most of the year. While the overall numbers look decent, Schmidt still hasn’t given up his habit of walking. A problem that has plagued him on his journey to the minor leagues as well, Schmidt has given free passes to 12.2% of the hitters he faced in 2022.

If he can straighten up, Schmidt’s stuff will make him an intriguing hand, especially with Chad Green missing the rest of the year with an injury. The same can be said for Abreu, who played 28 games for the Bombers in 2021.

“Hopefully we can bring him back to what we saw in the second half of last year where the guy was incredibly good at throwing the ball,” Boon said of Abreu. “If you remember, last year we offered him some big points and he did his job.”

TREVIN-DA

In a world where hitting has become optional for most MLB catchers, Jose Trevino came up with the tricky All-Star case.

In his last 25 games, the surprise quarterback is hitting .353/.408/.662. During that time, eight of his 24 hits came in extra bases, including six homers and one of 12 treys by a catcher this year. Trevino this season second among AL catchers in victories over replacements. He is second only to Toronto’s Alejandro Kirk, who played 15 more games.

Not bad for someone who replaced Ben Rortvedt on the Yankees depth chart.

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