Well, we almost had our first match up of 100 game winners in the ALCS since the mid-70’s, but despite the Indians second straight year of choking with a 2-0 lead in a series, we still look to get a very solid, and probably higher scoring Championship Series. Houston is rolling and continues to hit and pitch like they did most all season, and it’s not like the Yankees backed in. In fact, except for Cleveland, they’ve looked as good as anyone the last month plus, and though they’re still clear underdogs, the gap looks much closer to the eye than on paper. One thing’s for sure: there’s no comparing the size or intensity of their fan bases, or confusing which team Fox and MLB want to win.
Houston Astros Vs. New York Yankees
Houston: The Astros are perfectly set up. Their pitching staff is rested and the starting rotation is in order. They have confidence after overpowering the Red Sox, and continue to be a dominant road team. They are also balanced, with eight(!) players with more than 60 RBI, good team speed and a decent defense. Few non-Texas based fans know their stars very well – beyond the huge late season acquisition Justin Verlander, that is – like (soon to be) MVP Jose Altuve, or know them at all, like closer Ken Giles. But after this year, expect those names, along with Springer, Marwin, Correa and Gurriel to be a lot more familiar.
New York: Well, that was a quick re-build. The Yankees weren’t supposed to be this good till at least next year, but now are just a few games away from another World Series appearance, thanks to soon to be named rookie of the Year Aaron Judge, slugging Catcher Gary Sanchez, a strong Post-Season from Brett Gardner and better than expected pitching. And they are very good on the base paths, including a high stolen base percentage. But without another surprise drink from the Fountain of Youth by CC Sabathia, another gem or two from Masahiro Tanaka and more consistency from Sonny Gray, their starters – two of whom will be pitching on short rest – their starting rotation looks like their Achilles Heel, which impacts on of their biggest strengths, closer extraordinaire Aroldis Chapman. Another big problem: N.Y. was under .500 on the road this year.
Prediction: Astros in six. It’s tough to see an area the Yankees are clearly better in, especially starting pitching, but their middle relief, talent, history and momentum will make this a competitive and fun series to watch. N.Y. wants this to be a slugfest, but even that doesn’t guarantee victory as Houston has just as much power and a much better team OPS. Tough to see the Yanks winning two in Houston, but unless they can go 3-0 in The Bronx against the best road team in baseball, that’s what it would take. Either way, it should be an exciting and high scoring series.