BOSTON — The Yankees know the importance of elite starting pitching.
It’s why they tried to sign Justin Verlander in the offseason and attempted to trade for Luis Castillo before the deadline this month.
But Verlander ended up back with the Astros as part of their potent rotation. Castillo is now in Seattle, where he dominated the Yankees again earlier this week.
They may see both again in October, when rotations get shorter and aces are more available. That’s not a promising formula for an otherwise dynamic Yankees offense that hasn’t fared well against the game’s best pitchers.
Castillo is just one example.
In three starts (once with the Reds and twice following his trade to Seattle) — all Yankees losses — Castillo has allowed just four runs in 21 ⅔ innings. He’s limited the Yankees to 10 hits and nine walks while striking out 23 in those outings.
The Yankees tried to pry Castillo from the Reds, but they weren’t willing to give up prospect Anthony Volpe, and thus settled on landing Frankie Montas from the A’s.
Castillo’s new teammate in Seattle, former Cy Young winner Robbie Ray, also has stymied the Yankees, allowing just three hits — and two runs — in 6 ⅓ innings in the Mariners’ 4-3 win on Wednesday.
The matchups against Houston are worse. Verlander held the Yankees to four hits and one run over seven innings in his lone start against them. He is joined in the rotation by Luis Garcia, who has limited the Yankees to three runs in 10 ⅓ combined innings in a pair of starts; Cristian Javier, who has allowed just two hits and a run to the Yankees in 12 innings over two starts — including seven inn ings of no-hit ball; as well as Jose Urquidy (one run in seven innings).
Other potential playoff tormentors await, from Toronto’s Alek Manoah, who has given up only five runs and struck out 19 in three starts against the Yankees, to Tampa Bay’s Shane McClanahan, who has held them to three earned runs in 18 innings.
“Every team is going to have rough games against great pitchers, and they did a lot to improve their offense,’’ one NL scout said. “And in some ways, it’s been successful. But in a lot of ways, they’re still the all-or-nothing offense we’ve seen, and that’s cost them in the playoffs.”
There are exceptions. The Yankees got to White Sox ace Dylan Cease (1.98 ERA) for six runs in four innings. But the Yankees fate in October, will depend on how their lineup, which has come up short in previous postseasons, matches up against some of the best arms in the game.
And how they perform in close games. After dropping the last two games in Seattle by one run each and their past four one-run games overall, the Yankees are 7-13 in those situations since June 18, when they held a 14-4 edge in the category.
After the Mariners won for the fourth time in six games against the Yankees this season, Seattle manager Scott Servais noted how important it was for his team to have some success against the AL East leaders.
“I think I heard earlier that we hadn’t won a season series against the Yankees since 2002,’’ Servais said Wednesday. “So times are a-changing. And it’s great.”
A season series doesn’t always mean much. When the Astros knocked off the Yankees for the fifth time in seven games earlier this year, Aaron Boone noted that the Yankees won the season series last year and it got them nowhere. The Yankees’ difficulties against the Astros are well-documented and go back to Houston’s scandal-scarred 2017 World Series title run.
The Mariners, though, are a much different story. Seattle hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2001, when they lost the ALCS to the Yankees in five games. It’s the longest postseason drought in the top four leagues in American sports, and there’s no guarantee it ends this year.
But they are fairly well-situated, with a hold on the second AL wild card spot and talented rookie Julio Rodriguez due to come off the IL in the coming days after recovering from a right wrist injury.
“We’re gonna come back and play you guys in the postseason,” Rodriguez told Aaron Judge when the two met near home plate before the series finale on Wednesday.
Jasson Dominguez has gotten off to a promising start since being promoted from Low-A Tampa — where he posted an OPS of .814 in 75 games — to High-A Hudson Valley.
Through his first 17 games with Hudson Valley, the 19-year-old has an OPS of .823.
Another number that Dominguez has improved is the one at the gate.
According to Steve Gliner, president and GM of Hudson Valley, the Renegades have experienced a noticeable increase in attendance since Dominguez’s promotion. In the homestand prior to his arrival, they averaged 3,345 fans; since he’s been there, that figure has gone up to 3,863.
“When they announced he was coming up before the All-Star break, we got more sales,’’ Gliner said of the team that plays 60 miles north of The Bronx in Wappingers Falls.
“Fans have heard a lot about him, and it’s really the first time people in the metropolitan area can come see him play. It’s definitely added some excitement.”
Fun in the sun
The Dodgers have yet to lose since they traded for Joey Gallo.
The outfielder was never comfortable in The Bronx, almost immediately complaining about the traffic to and from games and his difficulty getting used to playing in the spotlight.
He repeatedly acknowledged his failure to produce in New York and knew his time with the Yankees was coming to an end when they traded for Andrew Benintendi.
Now in Los Angeles, Gallo, whose hitting has picked up since the move out West, has made his preference for a more relaxed environment clear.
So far, Gallo has complained about the Yankees facial hair policy: “It helps not having to shave all the time… I like having a beard usually, a little bit.”
And the rent in Manhattan: “I’m living by the beach right now, so that’s pretty nice compared to New York. No offense to New York, but I was living in a pretty small apartment for the same price. It’s nice to have some sand, the waves.”