The Yankees are who we thought they were

HOUSTON -- So, about the hype surrounding this year's New York Yankees?

Time to buy in.

With a nod to the late Dennis Green, these Bombers are proving they are who we thought they were before the season began.

That is to say, they are good -- real good. Even after their nine-game winning streak was snapped Monday when Houston Astros pitcher Charlie Morton turned in a dominant 10-strikeout start, the Yankees found a way to bounce back with dramatic, late-game heroics on Tuesday.

Yes, they had to survive Justin Verlander's 14-strikeout performance across eight scoreless innings to get the 4-0 win. But using the same ingredients that have made them so successful of late, the Yankees were able to overcome the defending champs -- in the same ballpark where their 2017 season ended a win shy of the World Series.

As the Yankees (19-10) take on the Astros in the third game of this key early-season series, here are few reasons New York appears to be gaining steam after a slow start:

A different hero every night

On April 20, the Yankees were at an even .500. Sitting in third place in the AL East with a 9-9 record, they were 7½ games behind the division-leading Boston Red Sox. Fresh off an 8-5 loss to second-place Toronto, New York seemed to be in a tailspin.

Save Didi Gregorius and Aaron Judge, very few hitters in the top and middle of the order had been hitting all that well. Gary Sanchez was only just coming out of a season-opening slump.

By the next day, April 21, the world around the Yankees began to change. The offense had come alive, and the wins started to come with it.

As the Yankees got their offense jump-started, they began getting game-changing production from a different player each night.

One game, it was Judge who delivered the home run that woke up the rest of the bats. The next, it was 23-year-old Miguel Andujar and his growing collection of extra-base hits. At one point over the past two weeks, Andujar was riding a seven-game extra-base-hit streak, joining Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle as the only players in Yankees history to post such a streak before their 24th birthdays.

Other nights, it has been Gregorius. A stretch of five homers in six games helped earn the shortstop his first Player of the Week honor. On Wednesday, he was named April's AL Player of the Month. Lately, on the days when Gregorius wasn't The Man, Sanchez, who has three game-deciding home runs in six games, has been.

"It's definitely important when you hit a home run like [Tuesday's go-ahead, ninth-inning homer] and you're able to win the game," Sanchez said. "It's important because you win the game, but the thing is that it's not just me doing this. You have all the guys on this team like Didi, anybody else that can do that. At the end of the day, it's a group effort."

Gettin' torrid with Torres

Something else has helped electrify the team: the arrival of Gleyber Torres, the Yankees' 21-year-old rookie second baseman and No. 1 prospect.

Indeed, in the 10 games since Torres' promotion from Triple-A Scranton, the Yankees have lost just once. Some of it is certainly coincidental (as Sanchez said, no one player can take credit for the Yankees' recent success), but there is no denying the young infielder has had a tangible impact in just a few games at the big league level.

Torres has played every game since his call-up, and has been a contributor both offensively and defensively.

At the plate, he has hit safely in all but three games. In the field, he has smoothly, almost effortlessly turned his share of double plays and come away with a series of backhanded catches, sliding grabs and long-throw outs. His play has been both energizing and galvanizing in the Yankees' clubhouse.

"He's shown to be obviously highly touted and he's come up here and played well offensively and defensively, but there's a confidence with which he plays the game," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "And for being only 21, he plays like more of an experienced player, and it shows up usually on a nightly basis so far.

"He's a good player, man."

They've been carried by the starters ... and the pen

The Yankees needed help from their bullpen a lot earlier than anticipated Tuesday night, but recently they've been getting their share of dominant outings from starting pitchers.

In 29 games this season, the Yankees have 15 quality starts. Eight of those belong to ace Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka, who have four apiece. Severino will be getting the ball Wednesday night as the Yankees continue their series in Houston.

Other than hiccups in Boston during the middle of last month, both pitchers have been strong this season. They've each carried their past two starts into the seventh inning.

And they haven't been alone. CC Sabathia made it out of the seventh in his latest outing, a one-run, five-hit, four-strikeout gem against an Angels team that has made an early entrance into the postseason conversation this year.

Sabathia's only decisions have come in his past two starts, both of which since the Yankees got red-hot. Prior to that, he spent one appearance easing back into the fold after missing time with a hip injury.

The kind of deep pitching the Yankees have mostly received of late has helped save the bullpen, allowing it to be fresh for nights like Tuesday. When Jordan Montgomery was forced from the game after one inning with an elbow injury, a rested bullpen lasted the remaining eight innings, striking out 13 batters and keeping a very good-hitting Astros team off the scoreboard in the process.

One relief appearance in particular kept the Yankees alive against a top-of-his-game Verlander.

"When you're facing a pitcher like that, you want to give your team a chance," said reliever Domingo German, who could fill Montgomery's spot in the rotation if his injury keeps him out for an extended period of time.

"That's what I wanted to do; hold the game there, give my team a chance and eventually, with the kind of lineup that we have, something was going to come up."

That something came up all right, with Sanchez's ninth-inning, go-ahead home run.

Next up: Timely reinforcements?

With the way they've been playing, it's hard to say the best is to come for these Yankees. But they could get a few timely boosts to their already potent team in the coming days and weeks.

They already have one in the form of first baseman Tyler Austin. A player with a propensity for clutch, go-ahead home runs, Austin missed four games heading into Tuesday night after being suspended for his role in a Boston brawl last month.

The player who entered the season on the depth chart ahead of Austin is coming back soon, too. Greg Bird (ankle surgery), injured late in spring training, is going through a rehab stint at the team facility in Tampa, Florida, with a targeted return to the big league club at some point this month. A power-hitting lefty, Bird's bat could help give New York more favorable matchups as the season progresses.

In addition to Bird, the Yankees appear close to getting back Brandon Drury (blurred vision), the third baseman whose bat general manager Brian Cashman believes is packed with potential. Whenever he does rejoin the team, Drury may have to alter his playing time as they try to keep Andujar's hot bat in the lineup.

Relievers such as Adam Warren (back lateral muscle) and Tommy Kahnle (shoulder) are possible upcoming returnees, and outfielder Clint Frazier (concussion) continues to progress in the minor leagues after missing nearly all of spring training.

And once reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton finally starts, well, being who the Yankees thought he was ... watch out.