Following their thrilling comeback series win over the Cleveland Indians, the New York Yankees head down to Houston to begin the American League Championship Series against the Astros. Houston has been off for a few days since disposing of the Boston Red Sox on Monday, while the Yanks had just a single day off between games.
New York will throw Masahiro Tanaka in Game 1. You could easily make the argument that Tanaka has thrown the best game of the entire playoffs to this point by a pitcher not named Stephen Strasburg. Tanaka got the ball in the do-or-die Game 3 for the Yankees, and he was up to the task. The 28-year-old veteran allowed just three hits over seven shutout innings against the Tribe in an eventual 1-0 victory.
Tanaka must be feeling pretty good at the moment. His final start of the regular season was even better than the aforementioned playoff outing. He allowed three hits in seven shutout innings along with a whopping 15 strikeouts back on September 29 against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Unfortunately for the Yanks, the Astros might see the ball out of Tanaka’s hand pretty well. He was battered around in his lone start against Houston this season back in mid-May. In that game, Tanaka was chased after coughing up eight runs on eight hits in just 1.2 innings of work. The right-hander allowed three homers in the first inning alone that night, including a grand slam to Alex Bregman.
As for Houston, they’ll be putting lefty Dallas Keuchel on the mound in this one. Keuchel had his fair share of ups-and-downs this season, but overall he went 14-5 with a 2.90 ERA in 23 starts. He was solid in his lone outing of these playoffs to this point, as well. The 2015 AL Cy Young winner allowed a run on three hits in 5.2 innings last week in a win over the Red Sox.
Keuchel also pitched six shutout innings against the Yanks in a game in May. This won’t be the first time the Yankees will have seen him in the playoffs, either. Keuchel dominated the 2015 American League Wild Card Game at Yankee Stadium. He struck out seven over six shutout innings in a 3-0 win that night.
The Yankees may carry some momentum into this one thanks to their three-game winning streak against the heavily-favored Indians. That said, the Astros have been able to relax for a few days at home and wait for that series to play out. Vegas is pretty confident in Houston in this one. The Astros are listed as a fairly heavy favorite at -184 on the moneyline. New York is listed at +159.
While these teams boast two of the deepest pitching staffs in all of baseball, let’s not forget that they were also the two best offenses. The Astros led Major League Baseball in runs scored (896) this season, while the Yankees finished second (858). These teams also finished 1-2 in home runs. The Yankees hit 241 as a club, while the Astros slugged 238.
The over/under of eight runs for this game seems a little low given the caliber of the two offenses going tonight. We trust Keuchel will be able to keep runs off the board while he’s in there, but the Yankees’ collectively patient approach could drive up his pitch count early.