The Astros are up in the seven game ALCS series 2-1 after Tuesday’s 4-1 win in New York behind the seven inning shutout by Gerrit Cole.
The Astros have to feel a little bit fortunate to be in this situation, having only scored seven runs and gotten only 17 hits in the first three games of the series. The Astros’ team OPS during the ALCS is just .591. The Yankees are only a little better, hitting .668 for the series.
In Game 3 the Yankees failed to score against Cole despite his career high five walks. The Yankees were 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position, and hit several fly balls outs to the warning track in key situations.
Meanwhile, the Astros made their long fly balls go over the fence, one by Jose Altuve in the first inning, and another by Josh Reddick in the second. The Astros scored two more in the seventh with a little help from a wild pitch by Zack Britton.
Tonight is a rematch of Game 1 of the series, pitting Masahiro Tanaka against Zack Greinke. In that game, Greinke went six innings, allowing three runs on seven hits. Tanaka baffled the Astros, throwing six shutout innings while surrendering only one hit.
Comparing season stats for these two pitchers, the advantage clearly runs Astros. Greinke has a season 2.93 ERA, a 3.22 FIP and 5.4 fWAR. For much of the season Tanaka has struggled, with a 4.45 ERA, 4.27 FIP and 3.3 fWAR.
But since August, when Greinke came to the Astros, Tanaka has shown improvement, lowering his ERA to 3.75 and FIP to 3.72. Meanwhile, with the Astros Greinke has been steady but not spectacular, with a 3.02 ERA and 3.28 FIP, mostly against lower echelon opponents.
Both bullpens have held up well for far in the series, althought the Yankees have a slight advantage there. Their pen has allowed four earned runs in 15.1 innings, whereas the Astros’ have allowed five runs in 9.1 innings.
Each team has concern for one of their bullpen mainstays. For the Yankees that is Adam Ottavino, who in 3.1 innings has allowed three runs. For the Astros the concern is with All Star Ryan Pressly, recently returned from late season knee surgery. He has allowed two runs and five hits in 2/3’s of an inning. These two teams demand better performance from their regular season stalwarts.
Both teams are having trouble getting consistent run production so far in the series, but each team also has one hot hand. For the Astros that is Jose Altuve, with an OPS of 1.128 and a homer so far in the series. For the Yankees, Gleyber Torres continues where he left off against Minnesota in the ALDS, with a 1.500 OPS, two homers and six RBI.
No one else for the Astros with more than four ABs has even a .700 OPS, although contributing nicely for the Yankees are Aaron Judge and DJ LeMahieu, each over .850 OPS.
So far in dreadful slumps for the Astros are George Springer (OPS .548), Yuli Gurriel (OPS .245 despite strong contact), and Yordan Alvarez (no hits, OPS .167) For the Yankees starters Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorious and Gary Sanchez are all below the .400 mark.
Something tells me some of these hitters named above are not going to stay mired in a slump. Who breaks out? The answer to that question could determine the fate of the series.
TV and Radio
TV: Thurs., Oct. 17 Astros vs. Yankees Game 4 7:08, CDT, FS1
Radio: KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM, ESPN Radio