The American League Championship Series opens up tonight in Houston, where the Astros will host the Yankees in an always-important Game 1 of seven.
New York had to expend a little more energy to eliminate the Cleveland Indians in five games but is riding a wave of momentum after climbing out of an 0–2 hole to win, 3–2. The Yankees had a day off on Thursday to travel to Houston before the series starts tonight. They have named Masahiro Tanaka as their Game 1 starter to face Dallas Keuchel.
Tanaka has been impossible to figure out from a distance this season. He had a rough first two months of the season, settled down in the middle and looked like something just below an ace in the middle and then looked terrible in September.
That was until he struck out 15 Toronto Blue Jays over seven innings in his final start of the season on the 29th of September and posted an 86 Game Score. He carried that performance into the playoffs when he saved New York’s season by out-dueling Carlos Carrasco in Game 3 at Yankee Stadium. Like his start against Toronto, Tanaka went seven and gave up just three hits. He earned the win in a 1–0 Yankee triumph to extend the series.
It isn’t so much a question of what makes Tanaka great (the answer is when is splitter is splitting) but how to know when it will occur. To that question, I have no answer but I can firmly tell you that it didn’t happen the only time Tanaka pitched against the Astros this season. That start came at Yankee Stadium, where Tanaka exited after recording just five outs and allowing eight runs, including four homers.
Houston can hit just about anything but especially the ball down in the zone. Now, hitting a ball at the knees is something different from swinging over a tumbler in the dirt but the point is that Tanaka pounds everything in the lower portion of the zone, which is where Houston looks for the ball. Joe Girardi won’t let his starting pitcher give up four home runs tonight but it’s far from a guarantee that whoever enters the game after Tanaka will shut Houston down, especially at Minute Maid Park where the Astros lit up Sale, Drew Pomeranz and everybody else who the Red Sox threw at them, save David Price.
Keuchel pitched effectively in his Game 2 spot in the DS against Boston. He came out out away from getting through six innings, giving up three hits and a run in an eventual 8–2 win. He gave up all three of those hits, plus two walks, in the first two innings, however, and Boston failed to score more than a single run. From there, he set down 13 batters in a row before walking one with two outs in the sixth and giving way to Chris Devenski.
That was the low point for Boston’s offense. The Yankees come into this one with some confidence and, quite frankly, a lot more offense talent than Boston. New York has major home run threats and a whole bunch of guys who work the count and make it hard on the opposing pitcher, something Boston did rarely ever. I also have a feeling that if there’s anybody Aaron Judge is going to get on the Houston staff, it’s Keuchel because I’m not sure he can get a fastball by him.
My idea is that either pitcher could get lit up tonight; so I’m going to take the over. Eight isn’t such a big number considering the overall offensive prowess of Houston and the way the Yankees are playing as a team. If it’s going to go over, however, it will probably hit early. Look for multiple runs in the first three innings from either side.
Free Pick: Over 8.0 (-120)