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
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)
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 1⁄3 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 1⁄3 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.
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
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
Keys to success
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.
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.
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.