After being the tenth team in baseball history to come back from a 0-2 series deficit in the ALDS, the New York Yankees punched their ticket to Houston to battle the dangerous Astros. The Astros completed a 3-1 series win against the Boston Red Sox while looking to be in control since the first pitch of game one. 

This series has the potential to be the most entertaining of this year’s postseason: pure superstars, dominant starting pitching, stingy bullpen arms, and spectacular defensive play that’ll surely fill up any highlight reel. 


 

Biggest Questions:

NYY: Will the bats of Sanchez and Judge awaken for this series?

HOU: Can the bullpen rise to the occasion?

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The New York Yankees have taken down the World Series-favorited Cleveland Indians in a stunning come-from-behind upset, clinching a spot in the American League Championship Series. But, the challenge will not lessen against the Houston Astros, particularly due to their star-studded offense.

The Yankees offense has done an outstanding job supporting their pitching staff. Didi Gregorius, “The unsung hero” of the Yankees, according to the Aaron Judge, had a huge game 5 of the ALDS, clubbing two clutch home runs and collecting three RBI’s that gave his team lift it so desperately needed to advance to the next round. Aaron Hicks has been outstanding with the bat in his hands as well, posting a .316 AVG, driving in four RBI’s, and smacking six hits, and he leads the Yankees in each of those categories. Greg Bird hit two huge home runs that put his team in great position to win each game. One was hit off of Andrew Miller, a moonshot that soared through the New York sky and into the second deck, providing the only offense that the Yankees needed to win in game three. Aaron Judge, however, had a series to forget. He struck out 16 times while only collecting one hit in 20 at-bats. Gary Sanchez has only been slightly better, driving in three RBI’s and smacking two home runs while striking out a total of 10 times. He could only muster just four hits in 23 at-bats. Even without the usual production from their two best and most productive hitters, the Yankees have managed to knock in 29 runs. This leads all other teams in the postseason thus far. But, if the Yankees want to clinch a spot in the Fall Classic, Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge need to have more fruitful at-bats while driving in more runs.

As far as New York’s pitching, few complaints are to be had. Aside from Sonny Gray’s poor start in game one and a fluke in game two, their staff has been lights-out. This not only includes their loaded bullpen, but their starters as well. Masahiro Tanaka took the ball in a must-win game three, and he rose to the occasion. Tanaka threw seven shutout innings while striking out seven. Luis Severino tossed seven innings of shutout ball in game 4, as he struck out 10. Also, their bullpen has been unbelievable, from the superstars like Chapman down to the unknowns like Tommy Kahnle. Aroldis Chapman threw four complete innings while not allowing a single run and sitting down 10 Indians. Tommy Kahnle did not let anyone reach base in 2.2 innings of masterful work. David Robertson only relinquished one earned run on one hit (solo HR by Jay Bruce). The bullpen of this team has done a wonderful job of keeping traffic off of the base paths, and when they’re brought into situations with runners already occupying the bases, they slam the door. The best and most profitable surprise for the Yankees this postseason has been 37-year-old left-hander CC Sabathia. While throwing in 9.2 innings total, he struck out an AL playoff-leading 14 batters. He has surely found a way to be just as effective as he was in his younger days with the Tribe and the Brewers, developing a devastating cutter while learning how to truly be a “pitcher”, and not just a guy who throws hard. If this pitching staff of the Yankees continues to make quality pitches and keeps the walks to a minimum, it will be difficult for the Astros to counter and put runs on the board.

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The Astros’ offense has put up 24 runs in only four games (6 per game), due in large part to Jose Altuve. He hit .533, laced three home runs, and earned an OBP of .632 in the divisional round. Rookie first-baseman Yuli Gurriel quietly put together a better series than anyone, collecting a team-leading nine hits while only striking out once. George Springer batted .412 while amassing seven hits. Carlos Correa led the charge for Houston with six total RBI’s. There’s not really much else to say, as the Astros offense has been productive all year, leading the entire league most categories during the regular season. It will be a true joy for any baseball fan to witness this offense match up against a scorching-hot Yankee pitching staff.

The bullpen for this Houston team has been rather inconsistent, combining for an ERA of 5.93 during the ALDS. The lone bright spots have been Luke Gregerson and Will Harris, combining for 2.2 innings of work while surrendering just three hits and zero runs. As strange as this sounds, the starting pitching has, in fact, supported the offense. Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander were themselves in the ALDS: commanding. In two appearances (one start and one bullpen stint), Verlander threw 8.2 innings, giving up three earned-runs while earning wins in both games. Keuchel tossed 5.2 innings of seven-strikeout, one-run ball. Lance McCullers still seems to be battling an injury, as he could only complete three innings while giving up two runs. The Astros have done enough to win the ALDS regarding their pitching, but the real question still remains: Can their bullpen slow down the streaking Yankees?

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You can practically throw the regular season statistics out of the window at this point of the postseason. Each team is coming into this game off of impressive wins in their respective series. I believe that the Yankees not only have the better starting rotation, but a better and deeper bullpen as well. But, Houston’s offense has been a well-oiled machine the entire season, finding production in each of the nine spots in their lineup.

Mark my words, this will be the best and most exciting series of the postseason.

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Prediction: The Yankees defeat the Astros in game six to advance to the World Series. Their starting pitching has already proven themselves in big games this season, and this will be no different. Aaron Judge, along with Gary Sanchez, will find their rhythms at the plate, as each of them will club two home runs. Houston’s pitching will not be able to support their offense this time around. “The Bronx Bombers” will reach the World Series for the 41st time in franchise history.

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