Posted on October 21, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine

Houston Astros Justini Verlander

Image via washingtonpost.com

There’s nothing quite like a winner-take-all Game 7, and we should be in for a doozy Saturday night in Houston. The way the Yankees and Astros have duked it out all series, it’s only fitting that this series go to a Game 7. With all due respect to the Yankees, after Justin Verlander’s performance in Game 6, his second brilliant outing of the series, it would have been unjust for that not to lead to a Game 7. That’s exactly what will get, with a spot in the World Series on the line and the Los Angeles Dodgers waiting.

Counter Punch

After losing three straight games, the Astros finally landed a counter punch in Game 6. At first, the game looked like another brilliant pitchers duel, with Luis Severino matching 0’s with Verlander. But Houston’s bats finally woke up, with none other than Jose Altuve providing the hit that broke the game open. From there, the Astros cruised to victory behind Verlander, with several more players coming through with big hits the Astros hope will get their entire offense going heading into Game 7. Not only did the Astros get to Severino, but they also got to David Robertson and forced Chad Green to throw multiple innings, perhaps weakening New York’s bullpen heading into the final game of the series.

Pitching Matchup

Game 7 brings a rematch of Game 3 starters, with C.C. Sabathia taking the mound for the Yankees. Sabathia was solid if unspectacular during the ALDS, but he was fantastic in Game 3 against the Astros, helping to reverse the momentum of the series in New York’s favor. Despite walking four, Sabathia tossed six shutout innings against the Astros, something few pitchers have been able to do all season. Replicating that will be difficult, but very few Astros hitters have had much career success against Sabathia. Plus, it’ll be all hands on deck in the bullpen, so even if Sabathia can give the Yankees four or five good innings, they’ll be pleased.

Meanwhile, the Astros will go back to Charlie Morton in Game 7. Morton’s performance in Game 3 was a little better than the results indicate. Nevertheless, he gave up a home run to Todd Frazier in the 2nd inning and got into more trouble in the 4th that sunk the Astros in Game 3. The good news for Morton is that he’ll be back home in Game 7. He was 10-3 with a 3.34 ERA at home this season and not nearly as good on the road. Obviously, his postseason numbers aren’t pretty, but he’s very capable of producing a quality start, and this is his chance to do that for the Astros in a big spot.

X-Factor

With concerns about Morton, Houston’s bullpen will be the biggest X-factor in Game 7. The Yankees have confidence that their bullpen can protect a lead late in the game, but that’s not necessarily the case with the Astros. The silver lining for the Astros is that they only needed two innings from their bullpen last night, so everyone should be fresh and available for Game 7. The key guy could be Collin McHugh, who tossed four shutout innings of relief earlier this series and could be Plan B if Morton struggles. Aside from McHugh, the Astros hope they can rely on Luke Gregerson and Ken Giles at the back end of the bullpen. Dallas Keuchel will also be available out of the bullpen and may be called upon in a big spot.

Prediction

Both the starting and relief pitching in this game point heavily in favor of the Yankees. But the Astros have stolen back some of the momentum and started to get their offense going in Game 6. Remember, the Yankees have scored just three total runs during the three games played in Houston. Also, the home team has won every game this series, and that will continue. Houston wins 4-1.

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