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2017 ALCS Game 4 Preview: Houston Astros vs. New York Yankees

Lance McCullers to the rescue.

League Championship Series - Houston Astros v New York Yankees - Game Three Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

2017 American League Championship Series, Game 4

Houston Astros (2-1) vs. New York Yankees (1-2), Oct. 17, 2017, 4:08 p.m. CDT

Location: Yankee Stadium, The Bronx, New York
TV: FS1
Radio: Streaming on MLB At Bat app, 790 KBME AM, ESPN Deportes 1230
Online: MLB.TV, Fox Sports Go
Yankees SBNation Blog: Pinstripe Alley

Pitching Matchup

RHP Lance McCullers Jr. (7-4, 4.25 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, .330 BABIP, 3.17 xFIP) vs. RHP Sonny Gray (10-12, 3.55 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, .269 BABIP, 3.76 xFIP)


Preview

Baseball is a weird sport. Somedays pitching and defense is enough to win ballgames. Other every bit of contact finds green earth and tough pitches get knocked out for home runs.

The playoffs weren’t going to be easy. The SI cover didn’t mean the the Astros were going to automatically win the World Series. It only meant that the Astros had set themselves up to be success in 2017 and clearly have. It is not time to panic after one game. Of course, the Yankees could be saying the same thing.

But the Astros could get one win away from the World Series and setup themselves up Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander in Game 5 and Game 6 if needed. The Astros are still in the driver’s seat.

The team just needs a strong outing from Lance McCullers. McCullers has struggled after the All-Star break while dealing with lower back discomfort that sent him to the disabled list multiple times. He was only able to make six starts and was 0-2 with a 8.23 ERA.

McCullers appeared once out of the bullpen during the ALDS against the Red Sox, allowing two earned runs on three hits over three innings. Overall, the Astros righty is 0-0 with a 3.86 ERA in two career playoff games.

McCullers last pitched as a starter on September 30, allowing five runs on six hits over 4 1⁄3 innings against Boston.

McCullers has had plenty of success against the Yankees. He is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in three career starts over his three major league seasons. He is 2-0 with 2.38 ERA in two starts in 2017, allowing three earned runs on 10 hits hits over 11 13 innings.

The Astros will face a familiar foe for the Yankees. Sonny Gray makes his second playoff start for the Yankees in 2017 after being the biggest addition for New York at the trade deadline. Gray allowed three runs on three hits over 3 13 innings in his one outing against the Indians.

Gray is 4-3 with a 3.09 ERA in nine career starts against the Astros. He is has only face Houston twice since 2015, allowing 6 earned runs over 10 innings while striking out 10. Continuing with his career stats, Gray is 2-3 with a 5.30 ERA in six career starts at Yankee Stadium.

Hitting trends

Gray, a former member of the Athletics, has a long track record against many of the Astros. Jose Altuve is 11-for-30 with four strikeouts. George Springer is 4-for-16 with a home run and Carlos Beltran is 4-for-11 with two doubles.

Astros career stats against Sonny Gray

BATTER AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS
BATTER AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS
Jose Altuve 30 11 1 0 0 1 0 4 0.367 0.367 0.400 0.767
Carlos Beltran 11 4 2 0 0 2 1 1 0.364 0.417 0.545 0.962
Brian McCann 12 4 1 0 1 3 2 2 0.333 0.429 0.667 1.095
George Springer 16 4 0 0 1 2 3 1 0.250 0.368 0.438 0.806
Evan Gattis 15 3 0 0 0 1 2 4 0.200 0.294 0.200 0.494
Alex Bregman 1 1 0 0 0 2 1 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000
Juan Centeno 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.333 0.333 0.667 1.000
Carlos Correa 14 1 0 0 0 1 1 3 0.071 0.125 0.071 0.196
Yuli Gurriel 3 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 0.333 0.333 0.667 1.000
Josh Reddick 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 0.500 0.667 0.500 1.167
Preston Tucker 9 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 0.111 0.111 0.111 0.222

Only one Yankee has hit McCullers well with a larger sample of career at-bats. Didi Gregorius is 5-for-8 with a double and one strikeout. Brett Gardner is 3-for-9 with a double and two strikeouts. Aaron Judge is 2-for-4 with a double.

Yankees career stats against Lance McCullers

BATTER AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS
BATTER AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS
Didi Gregorius 8 5 1 0 0 1 0 1 0.625 0.625 0.750 1.375
Brett Gardner 9 3 1 0 0 0 0 2 0.333 0.333 0.444 0.778
Aaron Judge 4 2 1 0 0 0 1 1 0.500 0.600 0.750 1.350
Ronald Torreyes 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.500 2.500
Aaron Hicks 7 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 0.143 0.143 0.143 0.286
Austin Romine 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 0.500 0.667 0.500 1.167
Starlin Castro 5 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.000 0.167 0.000 0.167
Jacoby Ellsbury 8 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 0.000 0.111 0.000 0.111
Chase Headley 7 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
Matt Holliday 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
Gary Sanchez 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000

Keys to success

Lance McCullers

This is obvious. But McCullers must have a strong start to get the Astros a stranglehold on this series. McCullers hasn’t been “right” on the mound for a while. A long rest could be exactly what the doctor order in order use him for one or two more starts.

Bullpen

Collin McHugh saved the Astros bullpen in game three. Chris Devenski and Ken Giles will again have to be strong to help close out the game if called upon.

Josh Reddick

Jose Altuve is going to do his thing or the Yankees will put him. Josh Reddick has to make the Yankees pay for it in the No. 2 spot of the lineup. Reddick is batting .158 (12x76) with 14 strikeouts in 26 career games at Yankee Stadium.