HOUSTON — Fine time to play the Astros.
A bruised and beaten-up Yankees club — mentally and physically beaten up — arrived here at about 5 a.m. Friday from Chicago and got to its hotel a little after 6.
And if lack of rest, a frustrating defeat and the loss of a player who suffered a horrific knee injury in his major-league debut weren’t enough to deal with, they faced a weekend series against a Houston club that has been the best team in the American League pretty much all season.
“It’s a big series for us. Obviously, we’re playing against the best team,” Dellin Betances said in the clubhouse three hours before the series opener. “We come up here and win this series, it would be huge for us.”
Rookie Tyler Wade said it’s a challenge that the staggering Yankees, losers of 12 of their last 16 games coming in but still 42-35 overall, are “excited” to take on.
“I think it’s a good series for us,” said Wade, who started in rightfield on Friday night after getting starts in leftfield and at second base in Chicago after his call-up earlier in the week. “I think we’re hungry for this. It’s going to be fun.”
Few teams have had as much fun as the Astros (54-26), a club that has had solid starting pitching and mostly has bludgeoned the opposition.
The Astros, who took three of four from the Yankees in New York in mid-May, came into Friday ranked first in the AL in runs (445), homers (128), and OPS (.834). (The Yankees, it should be noted, ranked second in those three.)
Houston has gotten contributions from the young (shortstop Carlos Correa), the not-as-young (second baseman Jose Altuve and centerfielder George Springer) and the elder statesmen (most notably former Yankees Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran).
“Very deep lineup; 1-9 they’ve got guys who can hit it out of the ballpark,” Betances said. “Very exciting young players and a presence of veterans as well with McCann and Beltran and [Josh] Reddick and a plethora of superstars with Correa, Altuve, Springer. This is a really good team.”
The Yankees have taken a season’s worth of hits this week alone as Aaron Hicks, Starlin Castro and Matt Holliday went to the disabled list. So did outfield prospect Dustin Fowler, who suffered an ugly knee injury in the first inning of his big-league debut Thursday night in a 4-3 loss to the White Sox, a game whose start was delayed nearly three hours by rain.
“This is a game and this is what we do, but this is a microcosm of life,” Joe Girardi said. “Life goes on and you have to move on. Do our hearts not go out to a Fowler? Yes, absolutely . . . but we have a job to do. You have to go on and you have to find a way. In life, you have to find a way to fight.”
Notes & quotes: Holliday (viral infection) hasn’t shown any signs of improvement. “Still moments where he feels pretty good and moments where he feels like he’s wiped out,’’ Girardi said, “so they’re [doctors] continuing to do [tests].” . . . Girardi said Tyler Clippard, who struck out the side Thursday night, was at his grandmother’s funeral Friday but is expected to rejoin the Yankees on Saturday . . . Before the game, infielder Miguel Andujar, who went 3-for-4 with four RBIs on Wednesday night and was optioned back to the minors Thursday, was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Right hander Bryan Mitchell also was recalled. Fowler was placed on the 10-day DL and righthander Ronald Herrera was optioned to Triple-A as corresponding moves. Of bringing up outfield prospect Clint Frazier, Girardi said, “It’s been talked about.” According to the YES Network, Frazier is ‘‘likely” to join the Yankees on Saturday . . . Girardi said CC Sabathia (hamstring strain) will be ready to return to the rotation early next week.