NEW YORK YANKEES (98-75)
at HOUSTON ASTROS (106-65)
ALCS – Game 6 – Minute Maid Park – Houston, TX
First pitch: Friday, 8:05 p.m. ET
Line: New York +125, Cleveland -135, Total: 7.5
The Astros will be hoping to force a Game 7 with a victory over the Yankees in Houston on Friday.
Houston looked like it was going to cruise to a series victory after the first two games of this series, but New York has proven to be a resilient bunch. After falling behind 2-0 in the series, the Yankees came back to win all three of their games at Yankee Stadium here. Game 4 happened to be a ridiculous meeting between these teams, as Houston was up 4-0 in that game and ended up allowing New York to come back and win 6-4. One would think that the Yankees have all of the momentum on their side as this series heads back to Minute Maid Park, but the Tigers have to be pretty confident with who they have on the mound in this one. RHP Justin Verlander (3-0, 2.04 ERA, 16 K in postseason) is starting for the Astros and he has been insane for the team thus far. Starting for the Yankees, however, is stud RHP Luis Severino (1-0, 5.56 ERA, 9 K). Severino is more than capable of holding his own against Verlander when he has his stuff under control, but he is also capable of getting lit up on any given night.
The Yankees have a shot to close the series out on Friday and one would think that they will be eager to do so in Game 6. While it is going to be tough for New York to get to Verlander in this one, the team can’t possibly feel comfortable with the idea of playing a Game 7 in Houston. That game would strongly lean in the favor of the Astros, so the Yankees need to take care of business while they still have momentum. Severino will, however, need to pitch a solid game for them here. Ever since he struggled in the first inning of the Wild Card Game, the righty has settled down and been reliable for the Yankees. Over his past 11.0 innings of work, Severino has allowed just four earned runs and kept the Yankees in each of the two games he has started since the one against Minnesota. It’s just important that Severino does not hang too many pitches here. He has allowed five homers in 11.1 postseason innings and that is not a recipe for success. On offense, OF Aaron Judge and C Gary Sanchez should be able to help Severino out here. Both guys have woken up in this series and they’ll need to keep hitting moving forward.
The Astros seem to be folding right now, but Justin Verlander can stop the sledding on Friday. He was absolutely remarkable the last time he stepped on the mound against the Yankees, as he struck out 13 batters and allowed just one earned run in a complete game in Game 2. The Astros won that game and they would obviously be thrilled if he can give them something like that again here. It is, however, worth noting that the righty threw 124 pitches in that contest. It’s very possible that his arm is a bit tired, but this is a big game and he will be doing everything he can to gut out a good outing. As for Houston’s offense, the team needs some of its bats to wake up here. The Astros have not scored since holding a 4-0 lead in Game 4, and they need to snap that streak here. Expect 2B Jose Altuve and SS Carlos Correa to come through with their team on the brink of elimination.