Posted on October 13, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The showdown between the Houston Astros and the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS we all expected is not going to happen. The New York Yankees played spoiler with three outstanding wins in a row to come back and beat the Indians in the Division Series. The Bronx Bombers have won four games in the postseason, and all have been in elimination games. That has earned them the right to face the Astros in the ALCS, beginning with Game 1 Friday night.
Aaron Judge is the clear frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, as well as a candidate for MVP, but he had all kinds of problems against the Indians during the Division Series. It’s actually amazing that the Yankees were able to win the series without him, as Judge was just 1 for 20 with 16 strikeouts. But the Yankees are definitely going to need Judge to be a frequent contributor to beat the Astros. Cleveland’s pitchers attacked Judge with breaking balls almost non-stop, and it’s a safe bet that Houston’s pitchers will do the same. It’s now up to Judge to make an adjustment so he can get back on track.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch has chosen Dallas Keuchel as his Game 1 starter. Two years ago, Keuchel tossed six shutout innings against the Yankees in the Wild Card Game. He was nearly as good when facing the Yankees in May, striking out nine and giving up just one unearned run over six innings. The Astros can only hope he’ll continue to be that effective against the Bronx Bombers on Friday. In Game 2 against the Red Sox, Keuchel struck out seven and allowed one run over 5.2 innings, making him 3-0 in four postseason appearances.
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The Yankees will counter with Masahiro Tanaka, who opposed Keuchel in the Wild Card Game in 2015 but took the loss. Of course, by no stretch did Tanaka pitch poorly in that game. He also pitched quite well in Game 3 against the Indians, tossing seven scoreless innings and helping the Yankees stay alive. It’s worth noting that Tanaka got knocked around by the Astros back in May, giving up eight runs over 1.2 innings. However, the Tanaka of the second half of the season was much better than the Tanaka who struggled early in the year, so take that troubling start against the Astros with a grain of salt.
Jose Altuve has been Houston’s biggest star in the postseason thus far, hitting .533 with three home runs. But don’t sleep on George Springer heading into this series. As Houston’s leadoff hitter, he was the catalyst for much of the team’s success in the ALDS. He was 7 for 17 with two doubles and a home run against the Red Sox, and that was after he went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts in Game 1, so he’s swinging a hot bat. On top of that, he has a great history against Tanaka, going 4 for 9 with two home runs. If Springer can stay hot, he has a chance to give the Astros an early lead in Game 1 and every other game in the ALCS.
After an offense-happy divisional round throughout baseball, the pitching finally takes over now that we’ve reached the League Championship Series. Keuchel and Tanaka will put on a great pitchers duel. But the Astros have more hitters with a good history against Tanaka than the Yankees have guys who have hit Keuchel in the past. Houston will eventually take a lead that the Yankees won’t be able to erase. Astros win 4-1.