Astros starting Keuchel in Game 1, Verlander in Game 2


The Yankees' hopes lie in keeping games close and turning them over to what is probably baseball's best bullpen.

Houston already advanced to the next round, and now are waiting for the victor of the game featuring the New York Yankees and the Cleveland Indians.

The Astros are playing in their first Championship Series since 2005, when they reached the World Series as a National League team.

The Yankees did crush a pitcher with a 1.80 ERA against them in Corey Kluber, but the advantage that Keuchel has over Kluber is that he had previously faced and beaten the Yankees in postseason. I expect the Los Angeles Dodgers to play the Cleveland Indians in the World Series.

These pitchers will face two of the best hitters in the majors in Houston's Jose Altuve and NY rookie Aaron Judge. Young players will have to make like Severino and adjust to the postseason atmosphere if they want to help their teams move on to the final round. Had they won, Cleveland would have had Kluber for the opener of the ALCS.

The Yankees went 2-5 against the Astros this season, so perhaps we could look to that for some inspiration as to how the series might play out. "I think certain veterans on the team steer them in the right direction, too, like CC Sabathia".

In Game 5, the Yankees again did something that might have seemed impossible at an earlier point in the game's evolution: Their hitters struck out 16 times in a 5-2 win - making them the first team in history to win a nine-inning postseason game in which they whiffed that many times.

It was a comforting reminder that none of us has any clue what is going to happen next.

One key stat to know: There's no effective way to pitch Altuve, which is why he rates as the AL MVP frontrunner. The rest of the lineup is no joke, either, as it's hard outs up and down the lineup. Postseason baseball is here and if you are a fan of offense, then this is the postseason for you. NY led all of Major League Baseball in home runs (241), although this was only three ahead of of the Astros' mark. And a big-swinging Aaron Judge would be a good place to start.

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The most important thing of the night: Will the Judge be back in session? While the clutch stat doesn't offer much in the way of predictive power, the fact that he struggled mightily in the ALDS might at least raise some eyebrows about his ability to hit as a rookie in his first postseason appearance. He got a win as a starter and one in relief against Boston, giving up three runs in 8 2/3 innings.

Unlike the pitcher, manager A.J. Hinch didn't shy away from singing Keuchel's praises for his work against the Yankees.

It's a great time to be the Houston Astros, who topped the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS and are fully rested and ready to go against a New York Yankees team that is depleted after coming back from a 2-0 deficit against the Cleveland Indians. The Astros took five of those matchups, including a comeback victory at home on July 1. The Indians will come back for the second year in a row, and also lose for the second year in a row.

Tanaka pitched a stellar outing in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Indians when the Yankees were facing elimination. Process that for a moment, it's ridiculous. They make a lot of quality pitches and you've just got to tip your cap.

With all that being said, I now have the Astros facing the Indians for the American League, and the Cubs facing the Dodgers for the National League. As we see it, the time has arrived for these built-to-win Astros. But that could also mean that they're ripe for a Game 1 letdown.

The manager that clearly figured the best strategy out and used the "starter-in-relief" idea most efficiently was Indians skipper Terry Francona. David Robertson throws 2.2 innings of scoreless relief in that same game. In the DBacks-Dodgers series, Kenta Maeda pitched scoreless innings in Games 2 and 3, racking up four strikeouts. "I think they're in a good state mentally". Altuve is the Astros biggest threat, with 32 swipes this season.

The Astros are going with 12 pitchers and 13 position players for the best-of-seven series that starts Friday at Minute Maid Park. So there's a narrative there worth rooting for.

Of course, the series won't just be decided by the stars on each roster. That being said, and while the teams are fairly evenly matched in a lot of ways, Houston still looks to have a slight edge in the series.