The Yankees once again find themselves up against it, but at least it’s a familiar situation. After dropping a pair of one-run games down in Houston, the Yankees will look to get back into their series with the Astros on Monday night when they host Game 3. Wily veteran C.C. Sabathia will take the hill for New York opposite Astros right-hander Charlie Morton.
This isn’t a must-win scenario for the Yankees, but it’s not far off. Only one team in the history of baseball has come back to win a best-of-seven series after falling into an 0-3 hole, and the Yankees just so happen to have been on the wrong side of that one. Losing tonight’s game would essentially be a death knell for their season.
Sabathia pitched in the do-or-die Game 5 against the Indians last week and fared quite well. The burly left-hander lasted just 4.1 innings, but he held Cleveland to just two runs on five hits while striking out nine in that time. It wasn’t a perfect outing, but it was enough to where Joe Girardi could comfortably hand the game over to his lights-out bullpen.
It’s safe to say Sabathia won’t strike out nine guys again tonight. The Astros are baseball’s best team in terms of getting lumber on the baseball, as they struck out just 16.7 percent of the time against southpaws during the regular season. In fact, these two teams have been just about polar opposites in that category in this series. The Yankees have struck out 96 times in the postseason, while Houston has whiffed just 39 times.
Sabathia’s numbers at Yankee Stadium were a bit worse than they were on the road this year, too. The 37-year-old had a 7-2 record with a 4.20 ERA at Yankee Stadium compared to a 7-3 mark and a 3.18 ERA in away starts.
The Yankee hitters will have to deal with Morton, who has been arguably the most under-appreciated Astros pitcher all season long. Morton tinkered with his mechanics in the offseason, which allowed him to discover some newfound velocity. As a result, Morton has transformed from a heavy groundball pitcher into one that misses bats.
Morton’s 26.4% strikeout rate was the highest mark of his career by a good margin, though he still generates a good number of grounders (51.8%), as well. The Yankees know first-hand what kind of stuff Morton brings to the table. In his lone outing against New York in the Bronx back in May, Morton whiffed 10 Yankees over the course of just 5.2 innings of work.
The Yankees obviously need this game more than the Astros do. New York has to win four of the next five games in order to advance, so getting a win in this spot is absolutely crucial. New York’s bullpen has been largely lights-out, but we’re also waiting for this Houston lineup to break out. They’ve scored just four runs in the first two games of this series, combined.
We think this is a bad matchup for Sabathia, which is why we love the Astros to pick up the win here at +117 on the moneyline. Morton is a tougher customer than Vegas is giving him credit for. We also think you can hit the over on 8.5 runs being scored in this one. We’re going to get a high-scoring shootout at some point before this series is over, so why not tonight?
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