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

Houston sends Keuchel to hill in ALCS Game 1 vs. Yankees

Houston sends Keuchel to hill in ALCS Game 1 vs. Yankees

The New York Yankees tabbed right-hander Masahiro Tanaka to start Friday's opener of the American League Championship Series against the host Houston Astros. Masahiro Tanaka will pitch for NY, which is in the championship series for the first time since 2012.

It's a grind for any team, but by the time they arrived in Houston, the ALDS was behind the Yankees.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch sent Justin Verlander to the mound for Game 1 of an ALDS win over the Red Sox, but southpaw Dallas Keuchel will get the first crack against NY. Although he didn't take any bases in the ALDS, New York should probably keep an eye on him in this series if he keeps getting on base as much as he has. But he was quick to point out that Keuchel's success certainly hasn't been limited to games against NY.

"They've got high-end velocity", Hinch said. "And to be honest with you, when Dallas is right, he's confident against anybody". "I thought (Indians pitchers) just made a ton of good pitches on him". Games 1 and 2 will be played at Minute Maid Park. Counting the AL Wild Card game, the Yankees have survived elimination in four games. "I don't really care who we're facing, it's going to be that order. They went about their business and got it done".

Hinch sees Keuchel and Verlander as 1A and 1B in his rotation, so who pitched first wasn't that big of a deal to him.

"I have been trying to hit it the other way so it felt good", said Bellinger. "So I have all the confidence in the world".

Tanaka was 13-12 with a 4.74 ERA in 30 regular-season starts. In the DBacks-Dodgers series, Kenta Maeda pitched scoreless innings in Games 2 and 3, racking up four strikeouts. Sabathia, Luis Severino and Tanaka combined to give up seven runs in 23 ²/₃ innings before handing the ball over to a bullpen that dominated the final three games of the series.

Verlander's performance afforded the bullpen a five-run edge entering the seventh, which proved to be all the breathing room the home team needed.

The stakes: The Yankees haven't played in the ALCS since 2012, an eternity when measured in Steinbrenner Years. Not only is Keuchel 3-1 with a 2.28 ERA over his past four starts, including a win over Boston in Game 2, but he is also arguably the most prolific Yankee-slayer among starting pitchers in modern times. Then, in another show of emerging trends, he came in for over 2 innings of relief in Houston's Game 4 clincher and despite allowing a two-run homer, still ended up as the winning pitcher of record.

"It's a complete lineup throughout", Yankees Manager Joe Girardi said of the Astros.

"It's good to watch, it's very refreshing to watch", said Beltran, who was sent from NY to Texas at the trade deadline last summer and then returned to Houston in free agency. Judge, the top rookie and MVP candidate, had one hit in 20 at-bats with two walks and 16 strikeouts. But when you you look at the fact that the Yankees scored 5.9 runs per game on average against 6.1 for the Astros and you see that we're going to have to dig deeper than their season records. "So just keep playing my game, keep having fun. just contribute any way I can".

The Yankees begin that challenge Friday night with the start of the ALCS after rallying from an 0-2 deficit against the heavily favored Indians. Left-hander CC Sabathia will start Game 3 when the series moves to NY, and right-hander Sonny Gray will pitch Game 4.

Game 7 @ Houston, Saturday, Oct. 21, Time TBD.

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