NEW YORK YANKEES (95-73)
at HOUSTON ASTROS (104-62)
ALCS Ė Game 1 Ė Minute Maid Park Ė Houston, TX
First pitch: Friday, 7:05 p.m. ET
Line: New York +165, Cleveland -175, Total: 8.5
The American League Championship Series begins with the Yankees taking on the Astros in Houston on Friday.
New York trailed Cleveland 2-0 in the ALDS, but the team battled all the way back and ended up winning at Progressive Field in a dramatic Game 5. The Yankees have surprised pretty much everybody by making it to this point, but they feel like they arenít done yet. They have some explosive bats in the lineup, a number of reliable starters and also the best bullpen in baseball. Thatís a good recipe for success in the postseason. Houston, however, is a whole other animal. The Astros just might have the most dangerous lineup in Major League Baseball and they also have two legitimate studs in their rotation. This series should be a good one, but it was rather lopsided during the regular season. The Astros were the team that dominated this one, as they were 5-2 against the Yankees during the year. New York has, however, made significant improvements over the past few months, so the team wonít be too concerned with that. The starters in this Friday night matchup are going to be RHP Masahiro Tanaka (13-12, 4.74 ERA, 194 K) for the Yankees and LHP Dallas Keuchel (14-5, 2.90 ERA, 125 K) for the Astros. One trend that stands out when looking at this game is the fact that New York is 32-15 against the money line after two straight games without an error this season.
The Yankees have a chance to make it to the World Series, which didnít seem possible when they were down two games against the Indians last series. They are, however, hot at the right time and should be feeling incredible coming into this series. They also have the right guy on the mound on Friday, as Tanaka has looked like his former self as of late. Over his past two starts, Tanaka has allowed no earned runs in 14.0 innings of work. He struck out 22 batters over those two starts, and one of those dominant outings came against the Indians last series. The biggest difference for the righty is that his splitter is now insanely effective once again. It was absolutely unhittable against the Indians last game and it will need to be working against Houston on Friday. On offense, the two guys that stepped it up last series were OF Brett Gardner and SS Didi Gregorius. Itíd be big if they can come up with some big hits here, but New York will also need OF Aaron Judge and C Gary Sanchez to show up in this series. Both superstars were miserable against Cleveland, but the Yankees canít afford for them to not show up here.
Dallas Keuchel will be starting for the Astros on Friday and the lefty pitched well in his only appearance against the Red Sox last series. He allowed just one earned run in 5.2 innings of work and struck out seven batters in that one. If he brings the same stuff against the Yankees then the Astros will have a very good chance of winning on Friday. Itís worth noting that in Keuchelís only start against the Yankees this season, the lefty struckout nine batters in six shutout innings. He has had New Yorkís number over the past few seasons and will be looking forward to facing this team here. As for the Houston offense, the team will be excited to see Tanaka on the mound on Friday. The Astros have hit the righty extremely hard in his career, but nobody has tormented Tanaka like SS Carlos Correa has. Correa is 5-for-10 with two homers and five RBI against Tanaka and it would not be surprising if he were to go yard here. The rest of the team has combined for five homers against Tanaka, too. So it really can be anybody that steps up here.