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5 Key Takeaways from the first three ALCS Games

Some good, some bad, some ugly. But up 2-1, mostly good.

MLB: ALCS-Houston Astros at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a rainout day. A good day to take a look at what we’ve seen in the first three games of the ALCS.

Astros are winning despite anemic hitting:

The Astros are 2-1 against the Yankees while mired in a deep hitting slump. In the ALCS the team OPS is only .591. That’s almost .300 below the season average. It’s even worse than the much-maligned ALDS hitting, where the Astros hit .700.

The only player with more than four AB’s with an OPS above .700 is Jose Altuve. As a team the Astros only have 15 hits in three games. In those games the Astros have only scored seven runs. With runners in scoring position the Astros are hitting 1-19.

Many gave credit to the Rays pitching for the weak Astros attack in the ALDS. Is the Yankees staff even better, or is it time to frankly admit the Astros bats are just in a funk?

There is a silver lining. They won the ALDS and are leading in the ALCS with such pitiful production. Given enough time, the resurgence of the bats is inevitable, hopefully in time to finish off the Yankees and attack the Washington Nationals.

How have the Astros been able to win with such poor offensive production? Clutch home runs by Jose Altuve, George Springer, Josh Reddick and, of course, the walk-off by Carlos Correa. These were all solo shots.

And winning because of superb pitching:

Justin Verlander held the Yankees to two runs in 6.2 innings pitched in Game 2. Gerrit Cole pitched another playoff shutout, holding the Yankees for seven innings in Game 3. Through the playoffs, Cole has allowed only one run in 22.1 IP. In the team’s two wins, the bullpen has allowed only one run in 6.1 innings.

Jose Altuve is carrying the offense:

If Gerrit Cole or Justin Verlander don’t end up with the Series MVP, so far the front-runner is Jose Altuve. His OPS is 1.128 for the series, and his first inning home run from the two-hole yesterday gave the Astros the early lead and stunned the Yankees crowd into relative quiet.

For the entire eight games of the post-season thus far, Altuve has four homers, a .375 BA and a 1.224 OPS. For the entire post-season, he and Alex Bregman have carried most of the offense.

Gerrit Cole has three of the five team wins in the playoffs:

Despite allowing five walks, Gerrit Cole shut out the Yankees for seven innings yesterday. He won two of the three games the Astros took from the Tampa Bay Rays and one of the two so far against the Yankees. He is on an historic run that began last May and so long as he pitches with normal rest, it’s hard to see why it would end.

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the Astro so dependent on so few players for their success in recent years. The under-performing players will need to wake up soon if the team expects to take its second World Title. Such as:

Yordan Alvarez has become an offensive black hole:

Alvarez is not the only slumping Astro, but slump is not a strong enough word for what has happened to Yordan. Going back to Game 5 of the NLDS, Yordan is 0 for 16 with three walks and seven strike outs.

Alvarez had mini-slumps like this during the season but corrected quickly. Can the rookie adjust in the heat of playoff pressure? How long will he be allowed to flail before A.J Hinch chooses another DH? Hopefully these are moot questions.

Poor Yankee fans

No excuse for the horrible behavior of way too many of them. But...

One can easily imagine the frustration of Yankee fans right now. They could easily have the struggling Astros down 3-0 if not for the walk-off heroics of an otherwise slumping Carlos Correa in Game 2, and with just a couple of timely hits against the wild Gerrit Cole in Game 3.

Baseball. Now the Yankees have to win three out of four games to take the series, with at least one of them in Houston, and if the series goes seven games, they’ll have to beat at least one of Verlander and Cole.

If Zack Greinke can win the rematch tomorrow against Masahiro Tanaka, and if Verlander can out-duel the Yankees bullpen on Friday, this series may not even go back to Houston, allowing AJ Hinch to set up his rotation just as he would wish for the World Series.