After a seemingly endless string of seemingly endless games, the American League has finally arrived at the start of their championship series. One combatant was fairly predictable, but the other? Well, they’re here a little ahead of schedule.
American League Championship Series
Houston Astros (101-61, AL #2 seed) vs New York Yankees (91-71, AL Wild Card seed)
Game 1: Dallas Keuchel (HOU) vs Masahiro Tanaka (NYY)
Game 2: Justin Verlander (HOU) vs Luis Severino (NYY)
Game 3: TBD (HOU) vs CC Sabathia (NYY)
Game 4: TBD (HOU) vs Sonny Gray (NYY)
Games 5-7: Starters TBD *if necessary
“Everyone hates the Yankees, except for Yankee fans”. Okay, guilty. But I’m going to try to be as neutral as possible here. The Bronx Bombers arrive in the ALCS a bit ahead of schedule on the arc of a rebuild that has seen the club excel on the back of an influx of young talent. You know who’s leading the way, but we’ll give you the run down anyway. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorious will lead the charge on the offensive side, while the rotation will span the age spectrum with sure starts going to both 23 year old Luis Severino and 37 year old CC Sabathia.
After lighting the baseball world on fire in the first half, Judge has been a bit up and down in the second, and had a terrible ALDS that saw him strike out something like a billion times. Gregorious had a bigger part than anyone though in eliminating the AL #1 seed Indians, so consider the slack picked up. The Yankees will likely need Judge to do more though, if they’re going to keep this train rolling. Their bullpen has been amazing, and that could play a huge part in this series.
Turning our attention to the Astros now, and this club is all about the offense. They finished second in all of baseball in home runs (the Yankees were first), but they paced all of MLB in runs scored, hits, team batting average, OBP, slugging and OPS. Oh, and they struck out the least too. This offense is real, real good. Jose Altuve leads the charge, but on any given day there’s barely a weak spot in the line up. Altuve, George Springer, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, yada yada. They can all hurt you and they likely will.
Now here’s where things get a little… I won’t say dicey, but perhaps, unsure? The Astros 1-2 punch of Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel are top notch and if they’re both on they could easily carry this team to the World Series. But behind them? It’s unclear. The ‘Stros have several candidates to start games 3, 4 and beyond and many are okay, but uninspiring. Charlie Morton pitched admirably in his ALDS start against Boston, and Lance McCullers and Brad Peacock both had very solid seasons in their own right. It’s unclear at this point where exactly Houston skipper AJ Hinch will turn when this series heads to the Bronx.
Generally I feel like pitching wins in October. Problem here is, I don’t really trust either pitching staff TOO much. The Yankees might have more rotational depth, and a better bullpen, but outside of Sabathia and (maybe?) Tanaka, their starters can be a little unpredictable. Both offenses are good, but Houston’s is deeper and less prone to slump as they don’t rely nearly as much on the long ball as the Yankees do.
So, what’s the conclusion? We’re going to be seeing a ton of the Yankees in October in the years to come as their rebuild is well ahead of schedule, but they’re not quite there just yet. Verlander and Keuchel deal and the overall depth and versatility of the Houston offense proves to be too much. The Yankees are playing great baseball right now though, so it’s not going to be easy.
Houston wins 4-2, advances to World Series
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