Posted on October 14, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The ALCS between the New York Yankees and Houston Astros got off to a great start in Game 1. Both Dallas Keuchel and Masahiro Tanaka pitched gems, perhaps forecasting a true heavy-weight fight over the next six games. In the end, an outfield assist from Marwin Gonzalez, an infielder by trade, may have been the difference in the game, showing how tiny the margin between victory and defeat can be in the postseason.
The Yankee Killer
Keuchel is turning into a bonafide Yankee killer. He shut down the Bronx Bombers two years ago in the Wild Card Game and he did the same thing in Game 1 of the ALCS. Keuchel struck out 10 and allowed just four hits against the same team that had its way with Cy Young frontrunner Corey Kluber twice during the ALDS. Quite frankly, Keuchel is simply turning into a brilliant postseason pitcher. In five playoff appearances, four starts, Keuchel has tossed 26.2 innings, going 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA. Those are special stats. To make matters worse for the Yankees, they’re lined up to face him again, most likely in Game 5.
The Astros can only hope that Justin Verlander can be just as effective in Game 2 as Keuchel was in Game 1. Verlander got the win in Game 1 of the ALDS, giving up two runs over six innings against the Red Sox. He then he came back and threw 2.2 innings in Game 4 out of the bullpen to help the Astros close out the series. He did not face the Yankees this season, and so many of the young Yankees are yet to face the former Cy Young winner, including Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Greg Bird. That will create a unique challenge for Verlander, although he does have 17 previous postseason starts to draw upon.
The Yankees, meanwhile, will go back to Luis Severino in Game 2. Severino had a disastrous Wild Card Game, but he came back and pitched brilliantly in Game 4 of the ALDS. Despite giving up a couple home runs, Severino struck out nine over seven innings against the Indians. That start will no doubt give him a little more slack after he recorded just one out in the Wild Card Game. During the regular season, Severino faced the Astros twice, getting rocked for six runs over 5.2 innings at the end of May. However, he bounced back when he faced them again at the end of July, throwing six shutout innings.
Outside of Severino, Todd Frazier may be New York’s biggest X-factor in this game. Frazier is just 4 for 24 in the postseason, so the Yankees are getting much out of him. One also has to wonder if Joe Girardi will give Chase Headley an opportunity, although he’s 0 for 12 in the playoffs. Both players actually have good career numbers against Verlander. Frazier is 5 for 17 (.294) with two home runs, while Headley is 6 for 15 (.400) with a double, triple, and home run. Putting both in the lineup and seeing if either can provide a spark toward the bottom of the order is also an intriguing option for Girardi.
Despite a few Yankees having decent career numbers against Verlander, expect him to keep the Bronx Bombers in check. He won’t be as good as Keuchel was in Game 1, but he won’t need to be. The Astros will find their offensive groove against Severino in the middle innings and begin to tee off on him. Houston wins 7-3.