New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros
This matchup is the ultimate David vs. Goliath in terms of baseball’s past. The Yankees have the history, the success and the hatred attached to them. Literally no one is rooting for this team.
Houston, on the other hand, was a laughing stock four years ago (Like last year’s reigning champs, the Cubs), has been doubted almost all year, and has a city that really, really needs something to rally around after the events that transpired there this Summer.
In true baseball logic though, it couldn’t be more opposite. I think it’s pretty agreeable that Houston is better than New York, and that Houston has been the AL favorite all season. The Yankees, somehow, are actually the underdogs.
They should be. I thought the Yankees got quite lucky against Cleveland. Corey Kluber’s two sub-par outings came out of nowhere (He’s gonna win AL Cy Young). CC Sabathia was shot out of a time machine for Game 5, and was mowing Cleveland batters down like it was 2007. Andrew Miller wasn’t his normal self. A lot of things broke the Yankees’ way. That won’t happen against the Astros.
The postseason is all about pitching, but so far this October, even the best pitchers have struggled. Guys like Corey Kluber, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander all had rough outings in the Division Series. Only one of those pitchers remain, but Verlander’s team is good enough to bail him out.
The Yankees rotation has a tall task of not melting down versus this Astros lineup. It’s easily the scariest group left, with Jose Altuve, George Springer and Josh Reddick and Marwin Gonzalez all having massive series vs. Boston. New York got good outings out of Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka, but got poor ones out of their more trusted guys like Sonny Gray and Luis Severino. The script couldn’t be more flipped, and inconsistency is the last thing you want heading into the Pennant series.
Gray should rebound, but Severino’s shakiness has to be a concern. His lack of quality starts and inexperience has limited my trust in him this postseason. Thankfully the Yankees bullpen can enter early if needed.
Tanaka (who’s starting Game 1 tonight) and Sabathia have to be taken with a grain of salt. Tanaka’s Game 3 start vs. Cleveland was impressive, but can also be described as an outlier right away. Tanaka’s strike percentage actually increased throughout the game, an occurrence that is incredibly rare. It’s hard to say any other way: A performance like Tanaka’s in Game 3 will not happen again.
I don’t know what got into Sabathia in Game 5, but considering that his 8th best postseason outing ever (Based on the GameScore stat out of 21 appearances) came at age 37 against the reigning AL champions suggests that an outing like that won’t be seen again.
Houston’s rotation has much less concern revolving around it. Dallas Kuechel is awesome. Justin Verlander had his only bad start as an Astro in the ALDS. I’m not sure I totally trust Charlie Morton, but guys like Brad Peacock can provide a quality start or two. Plus, Lance McCullers’ Jr. could be back, and Houston has Colin McHugh likely coming out of the bullpen.
The Yankees have the bullpen advantage. No one can bring out Chad Green, David Robertson, Dellin Betances and then Aroldis Chapman is succession. It’s totally unmatched.
Houston’s batters though are the best left. The shear ferocity of their at-bats are terrifying. If men are on, you’re holding your breath hoping your pitchers’ fastball stays down, and even if it does, they’re still gonna hit it. They’re that good.
The Yankees have things going their way. Didi Gregorius is on fire, and they have a bullpen capable of making the game five innings. But Houston’s offense is clutch enough to get runs early. Against a Yankees rotation that has 1.5 starters I trust, the Astros shouldn’t struggle to get runs.
The Yankees have October’s spirit on their side. Most of the time, the World Series winner is a team that gets hot at the right time, usually has a couple big issues throughout the whole year, and is counted out all season. The Yankees are that team. October’s infamous for the best teams choking, but with Houston, the Cubs and LA Dodgers left, the Yankees are baseball’s only hope for a World Series shocker.
I’m not playing that card though. Houston’s more talented, more complete, and has been consistent all year. They deserve it.
Prediction: Astros in 5