Great sports rivalries are often forged through a long history of competition. The Cubs and Cardinals, Dodgers and Giants, and Yankees and Red Sox were all built up through repeated matchups with division stakes, dramatic moments, and media eager to fuel the hype. Astros-Yankees, however, is something different. They aren’t division rivals or share territory. Until 2013, they didn’t even share a league. Rather, Astros-Yankees is a rivalry built on beef. Quickly prepared and perfectly seasoned beef.
The beef began simmering in 2017 when the eventual World Champ(*) Astros knocked the Bronx Bombers out in the ALCS. To make matters worse, Jose Altuve came away with what many Yankees fans believe should’ve been Aaron Judge‘s MVP award. Fast forward to 2019 and the same happened again only minus the MVP race. This time, Altuve directly sent the Yankees packing with a walk-off home run off of Aroldis Chapman.
Under normal circumstances, this is your typical playoff fun. It’s only natural that two competitive teams will have some competitive matchups and close awards races. Then the trash cans started banging and the whole dynamic changed. Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich dropped a bombshell article exposing the Astros’ sign-stealing operation, adding a new, bitter flavor profile to this beef. All of a sudden, the MVP race, the playoff battles, and everything in between was put into question. The Yankees, like many other teams in the league, felt cheated. Moreover, the 2020 pandemic assured the Astros safety from crowd retribution. It’s 2021 now and the Yankees are furious.
Astros-Yankees Is Petty, Bitter, and So Much Fun
The Yankees and Astros first met in May. With fans back in Yankee Stadium, there was nothing to protect the Houston club from the shower of boos. Every time a member of the 2017 team was announced, the jeers swelled in unison. Yankees fans eagerly showed that the pandemic season changed nothing. It was the Astros’ fate to face the wrath of New York.
The Yanks delivered too. They took two out of three in the series, keeping the Astros offense in check… until game three. Altuve, persona non grata in New York, launched a three-run bomb off of Chad Green in the eighth to take the lead and silence the Yankee faithful. A successful series for New York, sure, but Houston got the last laugh. The war was on.
The Astros-Yankees rivalry truly kicked off in Houston. Right before the All-Star break, the Bronx Bombers took a trip down to Texas to face their demons for the first time since losing the 2019 ALCS. This time, things got petty even before the games kicked off. The Astros announced special promotions for each of the games featuring a replica 2019 ALCS trophy, ring, and a free Altuve jersey.
So the @astros just announced their July fan promotions, and they’re doing 2019 American League champions ring and trophy giveaways during the first two games of the NYY series, followed by an Altuve jersey in the finale. Give that person a raise. #ForTheHhttps://t.co/A29juWDKoq— Ben DuBose (@BenDuBose) June 22, 2021
July’s Matchup in Houston Didn’t Disappoint
Once the games began, we were off to the races. First, we got a delightful home run trot from Judge in game one where he pulled his jersey shut in an apparent effort to mock Altuve’s buzzer controversy back in 2019. If you ask Judge, he’ll merely tell you it was cold in Minute Maid Park which is about as believable as the Astros saying those promos were a coincidence.
Aaron Judge closed his jersey while he was rounding third 👀 pic.twitter.com/K420eYcuYF— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) July 11, 2021
The big moment of the series, however, came when Altuve burned the Yankees once again. After dropping the first two games of the set again, the Astros came roaring back in the ninth of game three. With Green on the mound, this time in the ninth in 7-2 lead, Houston thumped him for three runs before Altuve once again came to the plate. Sure enough, because this is Astros-Yankees and nothing is assured or sacred, Altuve crushed a pitch deep into the stands at Minute Maid. Three-run bomb. Then the shirt came off. No buzzers there.
The Astros and Yankees are done playing for the year which is a shame given the fun moments of trolling and showmanship that make up some seriously competitive games. This new rivalry doesn’t have the history behind it of Yankees-Red Sox, but what it has is heart. Heart and genuine, seething hatred. I sincerely hope this Astros core sticks around for a bit if only because I yearn for more of the petty trolling and one-upmanship between these two American League powerhouses.