Houston Astros (20-12) vs. New York Yankees (20-10), May 3, 2018, 1:10 PM CDT
Radio: KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Yankees SBNation Blog: Pinstripe Alley
Opening Line: Astros -127 (55.95%)
Our Model: 57.51%
The Astros are looking to bounce back to take the series after getting blanked 4-0 last night by the Yankees pitching. The bats have been anemic as of late, and they’ll need to put together some run support for the fiery Lance McCullers Jr. this afternoon.
RHP Lance McCullers Jr. (4-1, 3.71 ERA, 44 SO) vs. RHP Masahiro Tanaka (4-2, 4.37 ERA, 37 SO)
Lance McCullers Jr. is manning the rubber for Houston this afternoon, as he looks to make it two straight quality starts for the Astros. Last week, I suggested McCullers may actually be overusing the curveball, and that if he put himself in a better position in counts consistently his numbers would naturally improve and may finally regress to his real ‘peripherals’. Somehow, he got the message.
Last Saturday against Oakland, McCullers went with the fastball more than the curveball (45% to 37%) for the first time this season, and also used the changeup more than in any other start (18%). The results? He didn’t surrender a walk, his first start to do that since June 2017, and he finished the day allowing just two hits and no runs on seven strikeouts.
Tanaka will be facing off against McCullers, as he looks to avoid the long ball at all costs. Home runs have likely etched themselves into Tanaka’s nightmares at this point, as he gave up a whopping 35 of them last year, and has already allowed six through six starts this season.
Things won’t be much easier for Tanaka at Minute Maid, which has similar park dimension to Yankee Stadium, but he’ll still try to recreate what worked for him last year. Tanaka made an adjustment last season that made his home-run rate at least tolerable - he kept his heat down in the zone, and relied more heavily on his fantastic secondary stuff, particularly his slider.
It will be an interesting matchup, as both pitchers have elite stuff, but their stats have never quiet aligned with their peripherals. McCullers should continue to look to limit free baserunners, and pitch from a count advantage more often, while the name of the game for Tanaka is to limit home run damage.
|New York Yankees||Houston Astros|
|New York Yankees||Houston Astros|
|Brett Gardner - CF||George Springer - RF|
|Aaron Judge - RF||Jose Altuve - 2B|
|Didi Gregorius - SS||Carlos Correa - SS|
|Giancarlo Stanton - LF||Yuli Gurriel - DH|
|Gary Sanchez - C||Josh Reddick - LF|
|Neil Walker - 1B||Alex Bregman - 3B|
|Miguel Andujar - DH||Marwin Gonzalez - 1B|
|Ronald Torreyes - 3B||Brian McCann - C|
|Gleyber Torres - 2B||Jake Marisnick - CF|
|Masahiro Tanaka - RHP||Lance McCullers Jr. - RHP|
Matchup to Watch: Masahiro Tanaka vs. Carlos Correa
Over his five-year major league career, not many hitters have been able to say that they’ve had success against Masahiro Tanaka. The right-hander has come over from Japan and made an immediate impact for the New York Yankees, helping them reach the postseason in multiple years and becoming a proven frontline starter in a quality rotation.
However, young Astros star shortstop Carlos Correa has been one of the few hitters who has had success against Tanaka as he has gone 5 for 10 with two home runs, five runs batted in, and a walk.
This matchup with Tanaka may be just what the doctor ordered for Correa, as the Astros shortstop is 4-22 with five strikeouts and only 1 extra-base hit in his last six games. As the club’s third hitter, the Astros depend on Correa to drive in the likes of Jose Altuve and George Springer as well as to get on base for middle-of-the-order hitters behind him. It will be interesting to see if a tough pitcher like Tanaka actually can help Correa get out of a mini slump.