Astros, Yankees to Battle for AL World Series Berth
The stage is finally set for the American League Championship Series. Friday night, the Yankees will travel to Houston to take on the Astros in Game 1 of the ALCS. This best-of-seven series will determine the American League representative in this year’s World Series. With the firepower still remaining in this year’s playoffs, baseball fans should surely expect two entertaining Championship Series and a World Series that could very well go seven games, yet again.
Here is how Houston and New York reached the ALCS.
Astros Dominate Red Sox, Win DS 3-1
Boston’s Pitching Woes
If there was a pitching staff that most thought could slow down the power bats of the Houston Astros, it would be the Boston Red Sox. In the regular season, the Red Sox pitching staff had the fourth best team ERA in the MLB (3.70). With names like Sale, Kimbrel, Price, Porcello, and others, many thought that Houston’s batters would have a difficult time putting up runs.
Unfortunately for Boston, the expectation and the reality were not quite the same thing. In four games, the Boston pitchers allowed the Astros to put up 24 runs, losing the series three games to one. Chris Sale made his much-anticipated postseason debut in Game 1. What he and Boston fans did not count on was Jose Altuve having a three-homerun game. Altuve hit two of his three homeruns against Sale, ensuring that Boston’s ace would not go deep into the ballgame. Sale appeared in two games this postseason, posting an 0-2 record while pitching a total of 9 and 2/3 innings, allowing nine runs on 13 hits, including four homeruns. The Boston pitching staff would post a 6.35 ERA in the ALDS, allowing eight homeruns in the process.
Altuve Powers Astros
Houston’s high-powered offense showed up in grand fashion against Boston. Hitting a team average of 0.333 in the series, smashing 8 homeruns, and plating 24 runs, Houston steamrolled over Boston in just four games. Leading the way for the Astros, and adding to his MVP resume, was second baseman Jose Altuve. Altuve is having an unbelievable postseason so far, posting a line of 0.533/0.632/1.133 while hitting three homeruns and batting in four runs in four games. Altuve’s OPS is a whopping 1.765. At this rate, Altuve could end up having one of the greatest postseasons in history.
The Astros also benefited from some solid pitching. While the 4.63 team ERA in the ALDS isn’t spectacular, it was just enough to hold off the Boston offense. Houston’s key trade deadline acquisition, Justin Verlander, was a man on a mission in this series. In two games Verlander posted a 2-0 record, pitching 8 and 2/3 innings allowing only seven hits and three earned runs. If Houston can get more solid performances from Keuchel and McCullers as well, Houston will be very formidable in the coming weeks.
Yankees Stun Indians, Forcing and Winning Game 5
Indians Take 2-0 Lead
At first, it seemed as if Cleveland would get their chance to rectify their 2016 World Series heartbreak. The Indians took Game 1 with little trouble. In Cleveland’s 4-0 win, Trevor Bauer was masterful. Throwing 6 and 2/3 scoreless innings, Bauer only allowed two hits, striking out eight batters while only walking one.
In Game 2, New York stormed to an 8-3 lead after five innings of play. The momentum of the series seemed to be swinging towards the Yankees. It seemed that way until the bottom of the sixth inning. With the bases loaded, Francisco Lindor hit a grand slam to cut the Yankees’ lead to only one. Two innings later, Jay Bruce hit the big fly that would tie the game 8-8. No one would score again until the bottom of the 13th inning, when Yan Gomes hit the walk-off RBI single giving the Indians a 2-0 series lead.
With such an improbable win and a commanding lead, it seemed as if the Indians were going to sprint to the World Series, yet again. At least it seemed that way.
The Series Changes in a New York Minute
Games 3 and 4 were scheduled to be played in New York. Of course, Game 4 would only be played if necessary. If Games 1 and 2 were any indication, Game 4 probably wouldn’t be necessary.
Not if the Yankees had anything to say about it.
Masahiro Tanaka pitched seven scoreless innings, shutting down Cleveland’s offense. Tanaka struck out seven and only allowed one walk and three hits. Later that same inning, Yankees’ first baseman Greg Bird hit the solo homerun that would end up being the only run scored by either team the entire game. Yankees cut the Indians’ series lead to 2-1. At least they wouldn’t be swept. Game 4 would end up being played after all.
What a crazy Game 4 it was. The Indians would commit four errors in the game. That’s right, the best fielding team in the American League by fielding percentage committed four errors in one game. This allowed New York to score six unearned runs en route to a 7-3 victory, forcing a Game 5 in Cleveland.
New York’s Triumph, Cleveland’s Heartbreak (Again)
The Indians found themselves in another situation where they had lost two straight elimination games. In last year’s World Series, Cleveland had a 3-1 series lead and would end up losing three straight elimination games. There’s no way that they could let that happen again, at home, no less.
Didi Gregorius made sure that it would.
Gregorius would hit a solo homerun in the first, and then a two-run shot in the third inning to put the Yankees up 3-0 early. As it turned out, that was all the run support the Yankees pitching staff would need. Cleveland would put up two more runs in the fifth, but two more uncharacteristic errors by the Indians’ defense in the ninth allowed New York to add two more runs to their lead. Aroldis Chapman would close out the bottom of the ninth, giving New York the 5-2 victory, stunning the Indians.
For the second year in a row, the Indians blew a series lead and lost three straight elimination games. A franchise that has been marred by postseason heartbreak could not escape it yet again this year.
Meanwhile, the Yankees became the 8th team in history to erase a 2-0 series deficit to win the Division Series. Including the AL Wild Card game, all four of New York’s postseason wins have come in elimination games.
The Astros offense has been absolutely rolling all season long, and the postseason is no exception. Averaging six runs per game in the playoffs, the Astros are lead by Jose Altuve who (as mentioned earlier) is putting up insane numbers so far. Along with Altuve, the Astros have four other batters with an average of 0.400 or higher this postseason (Y. Gurriel, G. Springer, C. Beltran, E. Gattis).
The Astros also have some elite starting pitching. Justin Verlander was a welcome addition at the trade deadline, and he has thus far provided Houston a welcome boost to their rotation. If Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers can pitch to the level that they are capable of, the Astros could very well punch their ticket to the World Series.
In seven meetings with the Yankees this season, Houston holds the 5-2 edge.
Dallas Keuchel will get the ball for Houston in Game 1. In his three career playoff starts, Keuchel is 3-0 with a 2.29 ERA.
The Yankees have reached the ALCS for the first time since 2012. Aaron Judge (0.125 AVG this postseason) and Gary Sanchez (0.222 AVG this postseason) have been far from effective, combining for a total of 26 strikeouts between the two of them in just six postseason games (Judge: 16, Sanchez: 10). So how have the Yankees been able to score? Simply put, New York’s offense is far deeper than just Judge and Sanchez. Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, and Greg Bird have combined for 15 RBI this postseason, filling a void created by the slumps of Judge and Sanchez (7 combined RBI). Gregorius has been electric this postseason, tallying three homeruns and six runs batted in, with an OPS of 1.144.
The Yankees’ bullpen has been phenomenal this postseason, allowing only seven earned runs in 28 and 2/3 innings. That’s a bullpen ERA of 2.20. The starters haven’t been as solid. In 27 and 1/3 innings pitched, the starters have allowed 13 earned runs, which amounts to a combined ERA of 4.28. That’s not terrible in itself, but it may not get the job done against Houston.
The Yankees faced the Astros seven times in the regular season and dropped five of the seven games.
Masahiro Tanaka will get the start on the mound for New York in Game 1. In his two previous career playoff starts, Tanaka is 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA.
Full ALCS Schedule
|Gm 1||Fri, Oct 13||8:00 PM||Yankees @ Astros||Tanaka (13-12) at Keuchel (14-5)||FS1|
|Gm 2||Sat, Oct 14||4:00 PM||Yankees @ Astros||Severino (14-6) at Verlander (15-8)||FOX|
|Gm 3||Mon, Oct 16||8:00 PM||Astros @ Yankees||TBD at Sabathia (14-5)||FS1|
|Gm 4||Tue, Oct 17||TBD||Astros @ Yankees||TBD at Gray (10-12)||FOX / FS1|
|Gm 5*||Wed, Oct 18||TBD||Astros @ Yankees||TBD at TBD||FOX / FS1|
|Gm 6*||Fri, Oct 20||TBD||Yankees @ Astros||TBD at TBD||FOX / FS1|
|Gm 7*||Sat, Oct 21||TBD||Yankees @ Astros||TBD at TBD||FOX / FS1|
End of Regular Season Power Rankings
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