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ALCS Game 1 Preview: New York Yankees vs Houston Astros

It's a rematch of the 2015 American League Wild Card Game as the Yankees and Astros get set to faceoff with a trip to the World Series on the line.

We are one step closer to the World Series as the New York Yankees and Houston Astros get set to battle it out in the American League Championship Series. 

The Yankees stunned the world by beating the Cleveland Indians in five games after falling behind 2-0. Houston is coming off a strong showing in the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox where they scored 24 runs in four games. Both teams were not expected to end up in the ALCS at the start of the season, but here we are as we should be in for a good one.

Pitching Matchup: Masahiro Tanaka (RHP) vs Dallas Keuchel (LHP)

Masahiro Tanaka’s regular season has been nothing short of inconsistent, but his ALDS Game 3 performance has given him the opportunity to start Game 1 in the ALCS for the Yankees. Tanaka’s last two starts have been outstanding. In 14 innings (including the postseason), Tanaka has not allowed a run while allowing seven baserunners in that span. Tanaka also struck out 22 batters over that stretch. One key thing to look at with Tanaka is that his numbers on the road have not been good. Tanaka has a 6.48 ERA on the road compared to a 3.22 ERA at home. In one start against Houston this year, Tanaka allowed eight runs in 1.2 innings in a start at Yankee Stadium in May. Five Astros players have a batting average over .300 against Tanaka. 

Dallas Keuchel owns the New York Yankees when he pitches. Fans remember the dominant performance in 2015 when Keuchel held the Yankees scoreless over six innings. Keuchel has a postseason ERA of 2.29 and struck out 7 Red Sox hitters in his first postseason start this year. In his last 10 games, Keuchel has a 2.83 ERA over 63.2 innings and was 6-3 during that span. In one start against the Yankees this year, Keuchel allowed just one run over six innings and struck out nine. Only two Yankees have a batting average over .250 and one of them is backup catcher Austin Romine, the other Chase Headley. 

Projected Starting Lineup

Yankees LineupHome RunsBatting AverageOn-Base Percentage
Brett Gardner, LF1.320.357
Aaron Judge, RF1.125.276
Didi Gregorius, SS3.250.444
Gary Sanchez, C2.222.222
Starlin Castro, 2B0.231.259
Greg Bird, 1B2.238.385
Aaron Hicks, CF1.318.375
Todd Frazier, 3B0.190.261
Chase Headley, DH0.000.077

*All stats are stats from the entire playoffs 

Astros LineupHome RunsBatting AverageOn-Base Percentage
George Springer, CF1.412.474
Josh Reddick, RF0.375.444
Jose Altuve, 2B3.533.533
Carlos Correa, SS2.235.316
Marwin Gonzalez, LF0.200.294
Alex Bregman, 3B2.222.222
Yuli Gurriel, 1B0.529.556
Evan Gattis, DH0.400.500
Brian McCann, C0.125.176

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

Jose Altuve has been on an absolute tear this postseason, hitting a whopping .533. Altuve is an AL MVP candidate for a reason and he has translated that regular season success into the playoffs. In his first game this postseason, Altuve hit three home runs off Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox. Altuve has a .364 batting average and one home run against Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka and has hit safely in seven of his last ten games, including the playoffs.

Didi Gregorius was the hero in the Yankees’ win in Game 5 of the ALDS with three RBIs and two home runs. Despite that success, Gregorius has only eight hits and a .222 batting average in his last 10 games. Gregorius has been a key member of the team’s offense all season where he hit over .300 until September and hit a franchise record 25 home runs as a shortstop. Along with his bat, Gregorius’ glove is also a major part of his game and can change the outcome of a game.

Brian McCann has gotten off to a slow start for the Astros in their first trip to the postseason since 2015. McCann has only recorded two hits in 17 at-bats this postseason but plays a major role behind the plate. 

The “Baby Bombers” had a rough go at the plate in Game 5 as Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Greg Bird struck out 10 times on the biggest stage. Judge struck out 16 times during the ALDS on some nasty breaking balls. If the Yankees want success in the ALCS they will need Judge, Bird, and Sanchez to produce.

Prediction: Yankees 3 Astros 2

Despite the success that Dallas Keuchel has had against the Yankees, the long layoff will play a major factor in Game 1. The Yankees will take advantage of having just one day off and the momentum from Game 5 will carry over into the ALCS. Masahiro Tanaka will continue his hot streak and give the Yankees length once again and they will get the early lead in the series. 

Where to Watch?

First pitch is scheduled for 8:00 PM EST and can be seen on FS1.

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Dominick Renna

Dominick is a junior at Canisius College studying Communications and Journalism. He is the creator of  the blog NYR Zone which covers the New York Rangers with in game updates, blogs, and podcasts. Dominick has covered the Canisius Griffins baseball team during the 2017 season, has done play by play for a little league game as well as coaching baseball for 5 years.

ALCS Game 1 Preview: New York Yankees vs Houston Astros

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