Yankees rally past Astros, but is Houston the AL’s team to beat?

On Saturday, the Houston Astros no-hit the New York Yankees, On Sunday, they nearly did it again.

Giancarlo Stanton homered against Houston’s José Urquidy with one out in the seventh inning, ending the New York Yankees’ hitless drought at 16 1/3 innings and spoiling the Astros’ efforts to throw a second consecutive no-hitter in the Bronx.

Giancarlo Stanton puts an end to the Yankees’ hitless streak

Giancarlo Stanton puts an end to the Yankees' hitless streak

Giancarlo Stanton launched a home run on Sunday to snap the Yankees’ hitless streak.

Related: Houston Astros stun Yankees with combined no-hitter

A day after Cristian Javier and two relievers no-hit baseball’s best team, Urquidy was nearing history Sunday. No team has been no-hit in consecutive games, although the 1917 Chicago White Sox were no-hit on consecutive days by the St. Louis Browns. The second gem came in the second game of a doubleheader.

Stanton’s home run changed all that, and the Yankees eventually came back to win, 6-3 in 10 innings.

Aaron Judge launches walk-off home run

Aaron Judge launches walk-off home run

The New York Yankees defeated the Houston Astros in extra innings thanks to Aaron Judge’s walk-off, three-run home run in the 10th inning.

But that didn’t change the fact that the Astros went toe-to-toe with the team with the best record in the American League, a fact that has Ben Verlander declaring them as the team to beat in the AL.

He explained why on his podcast, “Flippin’ Bats.”

The biggest reason, Verlander said, is pitching.

“The pitching this year has been fantastic,” he said. “For me, a big part of this is the bullpen. The bullpen last year was as middle-of-the-pack as you can get. They were the 15th best in baseball. This year, they’ve been a top bullpen in baseball.”

According to Fangraphs, the Astros’ bullpen ranks eighth in MLB with a WAR of 2.6 so far this season.

And the rotation isn’t bad, either.

Justin Verlander has the most wins in baseball with eight. He is a year and a half removed from Tommy John surgery, and in his first season back boasts a 1.94 ERA, which is fifth in MLB.

“The Astros rotation has the third-most innings pitched in all of baseball. Third-most innings pitched from starters per game. Second-most quality starts and tied for wins in Major League Baseball from starters, with the Dodgers.”

On Saturday, the Astros threw a combined no-hitter against the best team in the AL record-wise, the Yankees, thanks to Christian Javier, Héctor Neris, and Ryan Pressly. Javier set career highs for strikeouts (13) and pitches (115) and matched his longest start with seven innings.

Pressly retired three straight batters in the ninth inning for his 15th save in 18 tries. After walking two batters in the eighth inning, Neris knocked off Joey Gallo and Aaron Judge.

“They have the fewest blown saves in all of baseball at three. The best save percentage. Their 66 runs are allowed the fewest in baseball,” Verlander added. “This is the bullpen only. The bullpen has allowed 66 runs, that’s the fewest in baseball. They have the second-fewest hits allowed and the second-fewest home runs allowed, and the lowest ERA.”

Verlander also focused that the Astros have built a winning formula over the past several years, and have the added advantage of possessing one of the game’s best hitters in Yordan Alvarez, who sported a 1.015 OPS entering Sunday’s action.

Whether the Astros end up as the AL’s best team will be proven over time, but for Verlander, there is plenty of evidence already there.

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