Published: Fri, October 13, 2017
Sport | By Ellis Neal

Astros-Yankees: 5 things to watch in ALCS

Astros-Yankees: 5 things to watch in ALCS

Are the Houston Astros going to take down the New York Yankees in the ALCS and advance to the World Series?

None of New York's starters are quite at a Keuchel/Verlander level, but Luis Severino and Sonny Gray are capable of putting together ace-like starts, and the resurgent performances of C.C. Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka give the Yankees the back-end rotational advantage.

That result, with the Yankees winning 5-2 in Game 5 as plus-170 road underdogs, cashed my plus-145 series bet and salvaged what had started as a disastrous baseball playoffs for yours truly.

The Astros won the season series against the Yankees, 5-2, but those games were played from May 11-14 and June 30-July 2. In his 162.2 innings and 10-12 record this year, Gray put up a 3.54 ERA with 153 Ks. The Astros and Yankees ranked first and second in runs scored (896, 858) and home runs (238, 241) during the regular season. Keuchel had a 1.12 WHIP with 125 strikeouts in 145 2/3 innings in the regular season.

Verlander, an intense competitor, might have savored a shot to pitch Game 2 in Cleveland, where he is 0-6 with a 6.33 ERA in his last eight starts. Gardner had three hits, a run and a key RBI in the ninth on Wednesday in Game 5, but Judge came up empty 0-for-5 with four Ks.

Better yet, Judge was unable to hit a home run in this series. For the Astros, Jose Altuve hit three home runs in the series opener versus the Red Sox and was 8-for-15 plus four walks in the series. NY is also 6-2 in their last eight during game one of a series and 20-8 in their last 28 overall.

The Astros have an opponent for the American League Championship Series, and it's none other than the winningest and most recognizable franchise in baseball. Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman both had two home runs to help lead Houston to the series win.

Throw in Severino and Tanaka, both of whom are coming off of at least seven innings of masterful pitching in their last outings, and NY is sitting pretty with Sabathia available to throw big innings later in the series. With the Astros bullpen a plus unit and the defense being strong at almost every position, it's hard to find a flaw with Houston. Aaron Judge had one hit, a huge two-run double in Game 4, in the ALDS and set a record for most strikeouts in a postseason series with 16.

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