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Game #31 Preview: Houston Astros vs. New York Yankees

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Here’s all you need to know for tonight’s 2017 ALCS rematch as Justin Verlander takes the mound for the Houston Astros.

MLB: ALCS-New York Yankees at Houston Astros Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Astros (20-10) vs. New York Yankees (18-10), May 1, 2018, 7:10 PM CDT

(No, this is not the game thread. Game Thread going live at 6:30 PM CDT)

TV: AT&T SportsNet-SW, MLB Network (out-of-market only)

Radio: KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM

Online: MLB.TV

Yankees SBNation Blog: Pinstripe Alley

Vegas Perspective

Opening Line: -170 (62.96% Implied Winning Prob.)

Our Model: 60.35%

FiveThirtyEight: 61%

Fangraphs: 59.3%

Last night the Astros squeaked out a 2-1 win in a highly entertaining ALCS rematch, featuring a pitching gem from Charles Morton and an effective high-leverage save for Ken Giles. The Astros snapped the Yankees nine-game winning streak, and they will try to make it four straight tonight as Justin Verlander faces off against Jordan Montgomery in Game 2 of the series.

Pitching Matchup

RHP Justin Verlander (4-0, 1.36 ERA, 48 SO) vs. LHP Jordan Montgomery (2-0, 3.76 ERA, 23 SO)

Tonight Houston will face the young lefty Jordan Montgomery. Montgomery looked good over 29 starts in his rookie season last year - he compiled a 3.76 ERA, a top 15 Sw-StrK% (12.2%) among starters, and a solid walk rate (7.9 BB%). Montgomery mixes in five pitches, featuring a 92 mph fastball and a whiff-heavy curveball.

Being a fly ball pitcher (40 career FB%), Montgomery does get in trouble playing in ballparks with similar dimensions to Yankee Stadium (shallow left-field), which bodes well for the right-handed batters in the Astros lineup. Montgomery has heavy career platoon splits (.305 lifetime wOBA vs righties, .256 wOBA vs lefties), which would otherwise play to his favor against the Astros lineup. With that said, it definitely comes as no surprise that Astros manager A.J. Hinch has stacked tonight’s lineup with right-handed hitters.

Justin Verlander gets the start for the Astros, as he battles to maintain custody of the Yankees lineup. Verlander was virtually unhittable in the ALCS last year, as he won both of his starts against New York, allowing just one run over 16 innings with 21 strikeouts. Verlander is looking just as sharp in 2018, with early season career bests in strikeout rate and walk-rate. He has not yet matched his out max velocity of last season, but his average velocities look on par with last year’s numbers, which is a very good sign considering his age. Tonight will be Verlander’s toughest test to date, and I expect him to be locked in and firing on all cylinders.

Today’s Lineups

New York Yankees Houston Astros
New York Yankees Houston Astros
Brett Gardner - LF George Springer - RF
Aaron Judge - RF Jose Altuve - 2B
Didi Gregorius - SS Carlos Correa - SS
Giancarlo Stanton - DH Yuli Gurriel - 1B
Gary Sanchez - C Alex Bregman - 3B
Aaron Hicks - CF Marwin Gonzalez - LF
Miguel Andujar - 3B Evan Gattis - DH
Tyler Austin - 1B Brian McCann - C
Gleyber Torres - 2B Jake Marisnick - CF
Jordan Montgomery - LHP Justin Verlander - RHP

Matchup to Watch: Justin Verlander vs. Gary Sanchez

Many might be wondering why we care so much about this matchup, but there is an interesting backstory between Justin Verlander and Gary Sanchez that dates back to Verlander’s days with the Detroit Tigers.

Back on August 24th, 2017, the Yankees and Tigers went back and forth in one of the ugliest bawls of this decade that included multiple fights, cheap shot punches, batters getting hit in the head, and even a fight between teammates. Teammates Justin Verlander and Victor Martinez argued in the dugout after Verlander saw Martinez having a friendly conversation on the side with Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, who earlier in the game had punched a defenseless Nicholas Castellanos who was laying down on the bottom of a pile.

Verlander took exception to Sanchez’s actions and the fact that his teammate would play nice with an opponent who committed such a cowardly act did not sit well. Since then, Verlander has faced Sanchez twice, in Games 2 and 6 of the ALCS, and Sanchez is 1-7 with two strikeouts against Verlander.

I’m not saying that these two guys have a beef right now, but I do think it’s fair to say that Verlander brings a little something extra when Sanchez steps into the box. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing the Yankees catcher and Astros ace square off tonight.