The Houston Astros might not know yet who they'll play in the American League Championship Series, but they do know who'll be on the mound when the series begins. And when they meet in the American League Championship Series, beginning Friday night at Minute Maid Park, it may be the most extreme collision of power versus power the sport has ever seen. Masahiro Tanaka will pitch for NY, which is in the championship series for the first time since 2012.
"For that win in the wild-card game, it wasn't just special for me and the validation, it was special for everybody to go into NY and play that well", he said.
Alex Bregman and Altuve went back-to-back off Red Sox starter Chris Sale in the first inning, and that was just the start of a rude awakening for the AL Cy Young Award candidate in his first career postseason start.
There was the champagne party after the big Game 5 win in Cleveland the night before, the flight from OH to Texa and the process of coming down from the drama of winning three in a row while facing elimination against the Indians.
On the NL side, Nationals center fielder Michael A. Taylor hit a big grand slam in Game 4 and followed up with a two-run shot in Game 5 against the Cubs. They also will hand a series lead to ace Justin Verlander in Game 2. Indians' 25-year-old Jose Ramirez went a quiet 2-for-20 in the ALDS, striking out seven times in five games.
He had one hit and 16 strikeouts against the Indians.
Andrew Benintendi hit a game-tying two-run homer in the fifth inning and Xander Bogaerts smacked his first career playoff homer, a solo blast in the first, for the Red Sox. Had they won, Cleveland would have had Kluber for the opener of the ALCS. "And that should be no surprise to anyone". Often, their first pinch-hitter off the bench is Carlos Beltran, a future Hall-of-Famer with 435 career homers.
"Extremely talented offensively", Girardi said of the Astros. They make a lot of quality pitches and you've just got to tip your cap. "But I think it's just a coincidence that my command and location have been better than what it usually is against them". The rate of missed swings against those pitches was 27 percent, second-highest in Major League Baseball.
The ALCS is going to be close, but if the Astros can start strong behind Keuchel and Verlander, they could be able to take one game from Yankee Stadium and come home with a chance to clinch a World Series berth in Game 6. Not only is Keuchel 3-1 with a 2.28 ERA over his past four starts, including a win over Boston in Game 2, but he is also arguably the most prolific Yankee-slayer among starting pitchers in modern times.
"It's just been a culmination of command, location, maybe a little more confidence", Keuchel said of his success. When I thought of the Yankees coming into this postseason, I thought of a dominant offense. Judge, the 6-foot-7 rookie right fielder, hit an AL-best 52 homers this year.
After Keuchel and Tanaka meet on Friday, Verlander and Luis Severino will pitch in Game 2 on Saturday in Houston. The Yankees' hopes lie in keeping games close and turning them over to what is probably baseball's best bullpen.
Brandon Liebhaber: I know it's talked about a lot, but the way that pitching staffs are used now is staggering to me. In particular, it will bear watching how a Yankees bullpen loaded with hard-throwing relievers fares against an Astros offense that mashed heaters to the tune of.301/.373/.525 during the regular season.
Girardi's subtle message to the umpires aside, just how Judge responds could go a long way to deciding this series. Adam Eaton ranks first (.426). We're about to find out.
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