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2019 ALCS Preview: Houston Astros vs New York Yankees

The two Big Bads from the regular season finally meet to determine who will represent the American League in the World Series

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

The Narrative

Well, here we are. After a season where it looked like these two teams were on a collision course, a term I’ve heard a thousand times in the last couple of days, they will get to prove who is really the best in the AL. This series will be a rematch of the 2017 ALCS where the Astros were able to fend off the then-Wild Card winning Yankees in 7 games on their way to a World Series crown. Both teams have improved though, to the point that this series is expected to produce the World Series favorite once it’s all said and done. The Astros did win the 2019 season series against the Yankees, but it was only by one game so hardly domination.

Yankees

MLB: ALDS-New York Yankees at Minnesota Twins David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees are no longer the upstart wild card winner who was supposed to be in the beginning phases of a rebuild like they were in 2017. Instead, they are the juggernauts of the AL East who won 100+ games and easily feasted on the Twins in the ALDS, another 100+ win team. They come to Houston after 4 days of rest and are hoping that that can give them an advantage in this series.

New York’s preferred method of attack this season has been to overrun opposing pitchers with power and they were able to do more of the same with 5 bombs against the Twins in their short series. They didn’t do it all with homers though as they were also able to hang 23 total runs on the Twins in those three games. They’ll have a tougher go of it against Astros’ pitching though, but I expect that there will be fireworks at some point.

Gleyber Torres was a big part of the Yankees’ offensive outburst against the Twins and really has been doing it all year. He’s joined the ranks of Aaron Judge, and DJ LeMahieu as the Yankees’ best hitters this season, all of whom had excellent ALDS performances along with Edwin Encarnacion. Catcher Gary Sanchez, whose face bothers me for some reason, was also really good this year but was pretty awful in the ALDS.

On top of a lineup to be feared, the Yankees also sport one of the best bullpens in the game right now. They stifled the Twins with a back end that is anchored by Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton, and elite closer Aroldis Chapman. Britton and Ottavino have been absolute filth all year, with each owning a sub-2 ERA in over 60 innings this season. Chapman is hardly worse at only a 2.21 ERA in 57 innings.

Tommy Kahnle and Chad Green are probably the best options remaining for the Yankees’ bullpen and more likely to receive high leverage innings. Kahnle has had a good year with a 1.06 WHIP in 61.1 innings to go with a 3.67 ERA. Green has been less so with a few meltdowns under his belt in 2019, but has been pitching really well down the stretch. He’s also served as a Yankees’ opener a few times this season, so could be in line for that role if any shenanigans commence in this series.

Astros

MLB: ALDS-Tampa Bay Rays at Houston Astros Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, the Astros have improved as well since 2017 by becoming the top seed in all of baseball and assembling a rotation anchored by two of the best pitchers on the planet. Though they did get pushed to the brink by a Tampa Bay team that looked hungry for respect, they were able to deploy a buzz saw in the form of Gerrit Cole in Game 5 to clinch and set up this rematch.

The Astros also have a world beaters offense when you look at the regular season, one that consistently ranked in the top 3 for almost any offensive stat you can name, usually at the very top. There were many favorable comparisons to the 1927 Yankees’ murderers row, but they were somewhat stifled against elite Rays pitching. They also had difficulty at the Trop in Tampa Bay, something that has plagued the team for years now. Even so, they were able to find it in Game 5 and jump on Tyler Glasnow early before cruising to their ALCS berth.

Jose Altuve has been the big hero in the Astros’ dugout during the DS, having popped 3 homers to take over the postseason record for most by a second baseman. Bregman has been right behind him, hitting for a high average and getting on base, but not as much in the power department. Yordan Alvarez also had a good ALDS, going 6-for-17 with 3 doubles, but has yet to hit his first postseason home run.

Unfortunately for Houston things sort of dried up after that, though there were signs of life near the end of the series. Springer and Brantley both looked good at the close of the DS, and hopefully can carry that into the ALCS and break out in this series. Gurriel has also been hitting well but without much power.

As for the bullpen, it was up and down during the division series when it was employed. Though it didn’t see much work while in Houston, the bullpen was deployed for more than a few innings in Tampa. They did have issues at the beginning of the series, but closed strong, holding the Rays scoreless for 4 innings in Game 4 and Osuna with a perfect inning in Game 5.

Hinch seems to be holding to his regular season plan for the back end of the pen with Pressly and Osuna both getting the ball late in games. While both had good appearances in the DS, they did also look shaky at other times. Will Harris remains Hinch’s troubleshooter, and you can expect him to come in as needed in random high leverage situations. He could also be in line to take over as closer should Osuna look ineffective early in the series.

Urquidy and Miley remain the long / swing men out of the pen, and I expect that one or the other will start Game 4, assuming that they both make the LCS roster. That seems more guaranteed for the righty Urquidy as the Yankees’ lineup is very right-handed heavy, and also because he looked much more effective than Miley in Game 4.

Pitching Match Ups

MLB: ALDS-Houston Astros at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Game 1: Masahiro Tanaka, RHP (11-9, 4.45 ERA) vs Zack Greinke, RHP (18-5, 2.93 ERA)

Masahiro Tanaka is a pitcher who has the ability to kick it up an extra notch when the month turns to October. Though he had a ho-hum regular season with more than its fair share of clunkers, he owns a rather impressive 1.54 ERA in 35 innings of postseason work as a Yankee. His 0.80 WHIP in that time suggests that that number is not a fluke and certainly goes a long way in explaining why he’s the #1 starter in the ALCS for the Yanks. His ALDS start was more of the same, going 5 innings against the Twins and only giving up 1 run while striking out 7.

Greinke was not as fortunate in his ALDS start, getting roughed up by the Rays in Tampa. He surrendered 6 earned runs in just 3.2 innings during that one while getting crushed for 3 homers. Greinke had gone 11 days between starts, which is always an issue for a control pitcher such as himself. Greinke has also had his issues in the postseason, especially in recent years. He tends to struggle mostly with the long ball, having given up 8 in his last five postseason starts stretching back to 2015. Hopefully his outing in Tampa was enough to get a feel for his control back so that Greinke can give the home crowd something to cheer about against the Yankees right away.

Game 2: James Paxton, LHP (15-6, 3.82 ERA) vs Justin Verlander, RHP (21-6, 2.58 ERA)

Paxton came into October after a 2019 season that ended strong following a disappointing start for the Yankees’ big trade acquisition. Paxton did really well in the final two months of the season, dropping his ERA from 4.72 at the start of August all the way to 3.82 at the end of September. However, he did have a hiccup in his final start of the season, giving up 2 runs in just one inning against the Rangers, and did not look that sharp against the Twins in the DS. Paxton has also had issues against the Astros this year, getting roughed up for 5 runs in 4 innings back in April, though he would later have a 1-run 5-inning game against them in the Bronx.

Justin Verlander makes this start after a short-rest performance in Game 4 against the Rays that left a lot to be desired. JV was touched for 4 runs in 4 innings mainly due to a lack of fastball control and a flat slider that kept finding too much of the plate. Verlander refused to blame his performance on short rest, but I can tell you that I’m looking forward to a fully rested JV for this one. Like a good number of elite pitchers, Verlander has had his issues against the Yankees this season. Although he’s gone deep in both of the games he matched up against them, he also gave up 3 runs in each, something he did not do too often with anyone else this year.

Game 3: Gerrit Cole, RHP (20-5, 2.50 ERA) vs Luis Severino, RHP (1-1, 1.50 ERA)

The Astros will send Cole to the mound after his heroics in the ALDS helped to clinch their spot in this series. Cole has been pitching out of his mind the last couple of months and seems to be well on his way to stealing some poor team’s treasure over the offseason, hopefully the Astros’. He’s already tossed 15.2 innings this postseason and only surrendered 1 run during those frames. Cole has faced the Yankees just once this season back in April where he went 7 innings but, like Verlander, also surrendered 3 runs. Still, he’s pitching better now than he was then and this game certainly looks to stack in Houston’s favor.

The Yankees will counter with Severino, who was dropped into the rotation right at the end of the season after spending most of it on the IL. He only pitched 12 innings across 3 games in September before making his Game 3 start against the Twins. Though he went 4 innings of scoreless ball in that one, he never really looked sharp and had to wiggle out of a couple of jams before turning it over to the pen. While the velocity is mostly there, Severino is probably the biggest question mark for the Yankees in the first three games, and presents an opportunity for the Astros to maybe jump on a pitcher who is still regaining his form.

Game 4: TBD vs TBD

Game 5: TBD vs TBD

Game 6: TBD vs TBD

Game 7: TBD vs TBD

Game 4 is completely up in the air for both teams at this point. J.A. Happ has worked in the rotation for the Yankees all season but has also been pretty bad with an ERA just south of 5. C.C. Sabathia is also an option to make the ALCS roster, which would make him a candidate to start, but I wouldn’t expect him to go deep or be too much of a factor after pitching just 17 innings in the final two months of the season. Obviously there could be a short rest situation here for Tanaka as well if the Yanks’ backs are up against a wall.

As for Houston, this game will also probably get played by ear as they draw closer to the day. If the Astros are up 3-0 I could see them starting Urquidy here and hope to stitch together a win. Down 3-0 though and it could be a desperation move to try and stay alive. Miley would also be a possibility if he’s on the roster, but with how he’s played lately it’s hard to see him starting this game against a bunch of righties.

Fun Fact

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Saturday, October 12th @ 7:08 pm CDT
Listen: Yankees - WFAN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280, ESPN Radio / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM, ESPN Radio
Watch: FOX, FOX-INT

Game 2: Sunday, October 13th @ 7:08 pm CDT
Listen: Yankees - WFAN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280, ESPN Radio / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM, ESPN Radio
Watch: FS1, FS1-INT

Game 3: Tuesday, October 15th @ 3:08 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM, ESPN Radio / Yankees - WFAN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280, ESPN Radio
Watch: FS1, FS1-INT

Game 4: Wednesday, October 16th @ 7:08 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM, ESPN Radio / Rays - WDAE 620 AM/95.3 FM, ESPN Radio, WGES 680
Watch: FS1, FS1-INT

Game 5 (if necessary): Thursday, October 17th @ 7:08 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM, ESPN Radio / Rays - WDAE 620 AM/95.3 FM, ESPN Radio, WGES 680
Watch: FS1, FS1-INT

Game 6 (if necessary): Saturday, October 19th @ 3:08 pm CDT
Listen: Yankees - WFAN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280, ESPN Radio / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM, ESPN Radio
Watch: FOX, FOX-INT

Game 7 (if necessary): Sunday, October 20th @ 6:38 pm CDT
Listen: Yankees - WFAN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280, ESPN Radio / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM, ESPN Radio
Watch: FS1, FS1-INT

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Astros Sweep 4-0
    (7 votes)
  • 7%
    Astros Win 4-1
    (18 votes)
  • 37%
    Astros Win 4-2
    (85 votes)
  • 34%
    Astros Win 4-3
    (78 votes)
  • 3%
    Yankees Win 4-3
    (9 votes)
  • 9%
    Yankees Win 4-2
    (22 votes)
  • 3%
    Yankees Win 4-1
    (8 votes)
  • 0%
    Yankees Sweep 4-0
    (2 votes)
229 votes total Vote Now