Unsurprisingly, the New York Yankees and Houston Astros are set to face-off in the American League Championship Series with four wins between them and the World Series. These were the two best teams in the AL all season long so it’s fitting they’ll meet up in a rematch of the 2017 ALCS. Can Houston get the better of the Bronx Bombers again or will the Yankees get payback in route to their first World Series appearance in a decade?
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- Date and Time: Game 1 slated for Saturday, October 12, 2019
- Location: Minute Maid Park and Yankee Stadium
- 2019 MLB Betting Odds at Betcris: (Check Back Later)
- Yankees vs. Astros 2019 MLB TV Coverage: FS1 and FOX
Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke are as strong a top-three in a rotation as you will find and that’s what the Yankees’ offense will have to contend with in this series. Fortunately for New York, however, the Astros had to use Verlander and Cole in Games 4 and 5 of the ALDS so they will be pushed back to start Games 2 and 3 of the ALCS. Greinke gets Game 1.
Greinke is an elite starter who may end up in the Hall of Fame when its all said and done. He’s got 205 career wins, 71.7 career WAR and a 3.35 career ERA. Those are impressive numbers.
He’s been amazing since joining the Astros. In 10 regular season games, he pitched to an 8-1 record with a 3.02 ERA and 1.069 WHIP, tossing 62.2 innings. He came really close to a no-hitter as well. Combined with his Arizona numbers, Greinke had a 18-5 record and 2.93 ERA in 208.2 innings.
The right-hander threw five good innings against New York earlier this season, too, but is coming off a rough start in the ALDS when he went just 3.2 innings and gave up six runs to the Rays. His postseason resume is a bit troubled overall as he’s got a 4.58 postseason ERA in 12 starts. He’s had some good postseason outings, but some clunkers, too. He’s coming off a clunker but was throwing well down the stretch.
Verlander was lights-out in his Game 1 start in the ALDS. He went seven scoreless innings in the start, allowing one hit and three walks while striking out eight. His second start, on short rest in Game 4, wasn’t as good as he went 3.2 innings and allowed four runs. He’ll be on regular rest in Game 2 of the ALCS as he faces a Yankees team that he has a 3.55 career ERA against.
This season, Verlander put up another Cy Young quality season, going 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA and 0.803 WHIP in 223 innings. He reached 300 strikeouts for the first time in his career and led baseball with a 7.14 K:BB.
Perhaps the only pitcher able to come close to those season stats is Cole. He and Verlander could very well be the top two Cy Young Award finishers this year.
Cole struck out 326 batters this year in 212.1 innings, giving him a 13.8 K:9 ratio, that’s more than half of his outs coming on strikeouts.
The 28-year old free-agent-to-be was 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA and 0.895 WHIP. He had a 2.64 FIP thanks in part to that strikeout rate along with a strong walk and homer-against rate.
Cole threw 15.2 innings in the ALDS spread over two games. He won both games and allowed just one runs on six hits and three walks in those innings. He also struck out 25 batters, the second most of any pitcher in a single postseason series in baseball history.
After those three, the Astros will have to find a fourth starter. It’s likely to be Jose Urquidy given how much Wade Miley struggled down the stretch this season.
Urquidy is a rookie with just 41 innings pitched in nine games, seven starts. The 24-year old, however, pitched well in that limited sample with a 3.95 ERA and 1.098 WHIP and a 3.68 FIP. He showed excellent command despite the young age. It’ll be interesting to see how well he pitches given the long gap between starts. He did pitch out of the pen in the ALDS, however, going 1.2 innings and striking out three. He did allow three hits and a walk but worked around them to avoid damage.
Like Houston, New York will need to find a fourth starter for this series after using just three in their three-game sweep of the Twins.
J.A. Happ is a likely choice for the fourth game though Chad Green is another option as an opener. He thrived in that role in the regular season. Even if that happens, Happ may be asked to give some length. C.C. Sabathia is another option if he makes the roster.
Neither Happ nor Sabathia had a great year, both finished with an ERA just south of five and a FIP in the mid-5s. Both southpaws are home run prone with mediocre stuff at this point in their careers which doesn’t bode well against a powerful Houston lineup.
The other three starters in this series, however, are much more intriguing. James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and Luis Severino are expected to start the first three games in some order and be available in the final three games of the series should they be necessary.
Paxton started Game 1 of the ALDS but lasted just 4.2 innings in his postseason debut. He allowed three runs on five hits, but struck out eight, ultimately keeping New York in the game.
The 30-year old southpaw has been considered a top-of-the-rotation arm the last few years and showed how good he can be but had been injury prone most of his career. He missed a few starts for the Yankees this year, but still made 29 with a 15-6 record and 3.82 ERA. In 150.2 innings, he struck out 186 batters, walked 55 and allowed 23 home runs.
He pitched exceptionally well down the stretch, allowing two runs or fewer in his last seven regular season starts.
Moving on to Tanaka, he had a tale of two seasons. He was an All-Star but had a 5.26 second half ERA. He finished the year with a 100 ERA+, making him a league average pitcher. He was better at home, however, with a 3.10 ERA compared to a 6.05 mark on the road making him an excellent candidate to go in Game 3 rather than Game 2.
The right-hander is, however, also an excellent postseason pitcher regardless of venue. He started at home in the ALDS and five innings, allowing one run, but he has a 1.54 career ERA in postseason play through six starts and 35 innings.
Severino, meanwhile, has had an up-and-down postseason career through his first few seasons. The 25-year old right-hander was clobbered in his postseason debut, giving up three runs and getting just one out in the AL Wild Card Game in 2017. He had a rough go in the ALDS last year against Boston, too.
Other than that, however, he’s thrown well, including in the ALDS this year against Minnesota where he went four innings and allowed four hits and two walks. He was pulled despite not giving up a run more due to pitch count.
Severino made three regular season starts and had just 12 innings pitched this season due to injury. That means he’s fresh, but also not fully stretched out.
He’s looked good when he’s pitched but won’t be able to give too much length. Between Severino, Paxton, and Tanaka, it’s unlikely any go more than into the sixth inning in a start. With New York’s bullpen, the Yankees will take that provided all three throw well when they’re actually on the mound. They did just that in the ALDS.
Here is where the Yankees will attempt to make up for the lack of innings from their starting pitching and they certainly have the arms to do it.
New York’s bullpen ERA was worse this season than the Astros’, 4.08 to 3.75, but based on the names on paper for this series, New York would seem to have the edge here.
There are some health concerns around Aroldis Chapman and Zack Britton, but both figures to be ready to go for Game 1 of this series. Those two, along with Adam Ottavino, give the Yankees a trio of elite arms. Chapman’s 2.21 regular season ERA is the highest amongst the three.
Chapman has experience closing for a World Series champion, doing so for the Cubs a few years ago and he, along with Ottavino, give the Yankees plenty of swing and miss out of the pen. Tommy Kahnle and Chad Green are a couple other big strikeout relievers able to shutdown rallies by avoiding contact.
Britton, on the other hand, doesn’t have nearly the same strikeout rate. In fact, he’s struck out just 53 batters in 61.1 innings. Instead, he’s a ground ball machine with his power sinker and can induce double-plays with the best of them.
New York’s bullpen worked 13.1 innings in the ALDS against Minnesota—a strong offensive club—and allowed just one run while striking out 16. The hits were minimal, too, but the unit did walk seven batters, more than one every other inning which is a bit alarming, but Britton and Ottavino both walked their share in the regular season, too, but worked around that for sub-2 ERAs.
Based on regular season stats, Houston has a trio of relievers able to keep pace with Chapman, Britton and Ottavino in Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly, and Will Harris. The problem, however, is Pressly struggled in the ALDS and both he and Osuna slumped a big in the second half.
Nevertheless, both are still excellent pitchers with strong stuff and should be positive factors in this series. Houston will also have Hector Rondon, Josh James, and Joe Smith.
Both bullpens have depth and options for their respective managers. The bigger names are in New York and the better recent results, too, but Houston’s pen is much better than it was when the Astros topped the Yankees in the ALCS a couple years ago.
This is what makes this matchup so fun. These are two teams full of power hitters, average hitters, and generally tough outs.
New York outscored the world in the regular season, but Houston led the way in runs scored in the second half. Both mashed more than their share of home runs and each had an impressive team OPS with Houston at .848 and New York at .829. Both were even better in the second half. The two teams had a combined 594 home runs.
Even with the strong pitching staffs in this one, we could see some fireworks with the epic fire power on both sides.
New York has a, mostly, healthy lineup. Giancarlo Stanton had just 72 regular season plate appearances, but he’s in the lineup, though he didn’t swing all that well against Minnesota. Aaron Judge, Edwin Encarnacion, D.J. LeMahieu, and Didi Gregorius, however, did. That just speaks to the depth of this lineup.
Through a ton of injuries, seemingly regardless of who the Yankees turn to, they’re getting production. This team put Gio Urshela in the No.9 hole in the ALDS and he ended the regular season with a .314 average and 21 homers in 132 games.
From Gleybar Torres at second to LeMahieu at first to even Brett Gardner in centerfield, this team has a dangerous hitter one through nine.
Interestingly, the only team that can match the depth of the Yankees’ lineup is Houston’s. New York may be deeper in average or better hitters, but Houston has a ton of top-end guys with seven batters posting a 125 OPS+, that’s seven players at least 25-percent better than league average.
Alex Bregman, George Springer, Yuli Gurriel, and Jose Altuve have all hit 31 or more home runs while Carlos Correa belted 21 in just 280 at bats and Yordan Alvarez has 27 in 313. That’s some legitimate power.
Bregman is a top candidate for MVP with his 1.015 OPS which ranks second on the team to Alvarez’s 1.067. The team also has nine players with at least 200 at bats and an OBP of at least .340, eight of whom are starters.
When you consider these lineups top to bottom, it’s hard to pick a favorite, but both can flat out hit.
Odds Analysis and Recent Trends
The Yankees blew through the Twins, sweeping the AL Central champions while Houston went five games against the Rays in their ALDS series.
The extra rest helps New York on the pitching front to set their rotation for this series while Houston used both Verlander and Cole twice in the ALDS, thus pushing them back. In that case, the extra time off is nice, but baseball is a sport were players are used to playing everyday and too much down time could be a bad thing, too. It’ll be interesting to see if New York comes out of the gate with any rust.
Down the stretch in the regular season, Houston finished a bit stronger as the Yankees lose four of their last five games, all on the road. New York is a much better home team than road team with a .704 home winning percentage and .568 mark on the road. Houston finished the year winning three-straight and 12 of 14 but had similar home/road splits to New York.
Home field advantage could be the difference maker here. After all, in seven head-to-head matchups this year, the home team won six. Houston was 4-3 against New York on the year, including a three-game home sweep.
These are two elite teams going head-to-head so the smallest edge could be the difference from a win and a loss in the Baseball series.
Look for this set to go the distance as the two teams battle it out in epic fashion, similar to what they did back in 2017.
Houston getting four games at home—including the last two should this series go the distance—is a huge advantage. So is the superior starting pitching. Houston’s bullpen, meanwhile, is good enough to close the door if the team can get the lead to them.
Look for plenty of power, plenty of runs, but also some key pitching performances in this series.
The depth of this Astros’ rotation and ultimately finishing the series at home should be enough to get Houston the win and push them back to the Fall Classic for the second time in the last three years.
New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros Series Pick: These are clearly the two best teams in the AL going head-to-head, but the Astros’ edge in the starting pitching department should win out.
New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros Series Prediction: Astros in Seven