ANAHEIM, Calif. — Aaron Boone said there’s sure to be a little extra “jolt” for players when the Yankees start a four-game series Monday night in Houston, for all the obvious reasons.
First and foremost, the Yankees led last year’s ALCS against the eventual world champion Astros before losing Games 6 and 7 in Houston, scoring a total of one run in the two games.
“Do I think there’s extra juice? Maybe, because we understand how good of a club they are and these guys went through such an epic series with them,” Boone said before Sunday night’s game against the Angels. “But . . . we realize it’s April.”
The Astros (19-10) are two games ahead of the second-place Mariners in the AL West standings. Adding pitcher Gerrit Cole, a Yankees trade target, in the offseason improved an already stellar rotation.
“Oh, man, they’re really, really good,” Boone said. “They pitch so well. Their whole rotation are guys who can shut you down on any given night. Defending world champs, but in a lot of ways they feel like they might even be a better club than last year. So they’re a load.”
The Astros are ranked first in the AL in ERA (2.54), creating an intriguing matchup against a Yankees offense that entered Sunday night leading the majors in homers (40), total bases (426) and slugging percentage (.472), to name a few categories.
“You look forward to those games against elite competition like that, which we’re in a stretch of,” Boone said.
After four against the Astros, the Yankees return home for three games against the Indians, whom they beat in five games in the Division Series. The AL East-leading Red Sox come in next for three games.
When he became manager of the Yankees, Boone knew he was getting a top-shelf player in Didi Gregorius. What he didn’t know, Boone said Sunday, was about his “toughness.”
“There’s never any complaining,” Boone said. “I think in a way he’s gotten beat up this year, like that 14-inning game with the play at the plate [April 6 vs. Baltimore]. He just likes to play. You say, ‘How are you doing?’ ‘I’m good.’ He’s just a gamer. Fortunately, we have a lot of those guys, but Didi is one of those guys who really sticks out. It’s something maybe I didn’t necessarily know as well as I do now.”
On the mend
Clint Frazier, in his fourth rehab game with high Class A Tampa on Sunday, went 2-for-4 with a homer. “Everything’s moving along really well there,” Boone said.
Brandon Drury (migraines, blurred vision) played both games of a doubleheader for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and went 1-for-3 with a double in each game. Tommy Kahnle (right shoulder tendinitis) played catch for the first time Sunday. Greg Bird (right ankle surgery) took full batting practice Saturday and ran sprints. “He’s progressing how we hoped,” Boone said.