New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros Pick – ALCS Game 2
New York Yankees (107-59) vs. Houston Astros (110-58)
When: 8:07 p.m., Saturday, October 12
Where: Minute Maid Park, Houston
Moneyline: NYY +152/HOU -162
Runline: Yankees +1.5/Astros -1.5
Starting Pitchers: James Paxton (15-6, 3.82 ERA, 1.28 WHIP regular season; 0-0, 5.79 ERA, 1.29 WHIP postsea-son) vs. Justin Verlander (21-6, 2.58 ERA, 0.90 WHIP regular season; 1-1, 3.38 ERA, 1.31 WHIP postseason)
Ace in the Hole
Justin Verlander has been nothing short of fantastic in the postseason as long as he’s been pitching on normal rest. Now he’s back on his normal rest; he’s been the biggest Yankee killer there is in the playoffs. For his career, he’s 4-0 with a 2.33 ERA against New York in the postseason, but most of the Yankees’ offense hasn’t seen Verlander in the playoffs before, as that mark goes all the way back to 2006.
Verlander has been outstanding, but his explanation for why he got knocked around in his last outing is a bit worrisome. Rather than blame the short rest and say his decision to ask A.J. Hinch for the ball didn’t work out, he instead blamed his slider, which could be a sign of a more serious problem. Verlander is a great power pitcher, but every power pitcher needs his other pitches to be working along with the heat to keep hitters off-balance. If the slider and control aren’t there again, the Yankees will be up 2-0 going to the Bronx.
The Yankees did their job on this trip already, and in the process, they did something that nobody did in the 2017 ALCS: win a game in the other team’s ballpark. Now New York knows that all it has to do is win all three games in the Bronx, and it will return to the World Series for the first time in 10 years. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long, but New York hasn’t seen the World Series since 2009. However, they’ve got the momentum now, and their offense looked outstanding in the series opener.
Whether they can keep that going in Game 2 is another matter. To do it, they’ll need James Paxton to keep up his mastery of Houston that he’s shown in the regular season. Paxton has made 14 starts against the Astros and owns an 8-4 record with a 3.24 ERA, not Verlander-numbers by any means, but good enough to keep the Yankees in the game and allow them to turn the game over to their bullpen. With the Yankees’ offense being what it is, all New York needs to do is keep this close through seven innings, and it has a shot.
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Back to the Wall?
This stat should really scare the Astros: no team has ever won the League Championship Series in either the American or National League after losing the first two games at home. 0-2 comebacks occur about once every five years or so, and there’s even been an 0-3 comeback when the Red Sox beat the Yankees in 2004, but all of those series started on the road, giving the other team a shot to come back when they got to host. A loss here for the Astros, however, would force them to win two games in Yankee Stadium just to get this back to Houston. It’s a pressure situation and one that Houston needs to show that it’s up for.
Home field held serve for all seven games two years ago, but that’s already gone down the drain with the Yankees winning the opener. Now that we’ve seen that, historically, the seven-game series is likely to end up going five or six, even more than it is seven. The Yankees would prefer to do it in five, while the Astros want to extend this series long enough to get at least one more game at home.
- The Yankees have won Paxton’s past six road starts.
- The Yankees are 1-8 in their past nine ALCS road games.
- The Astros are 21-5 in their past 26 Sunday games.
- The Astros are 1-6 against teams above a .600 win percentage.
- The over is 5-2 in the past seven meetings.
- The over is 8-3 in Verlander’s last 11 Sunday starts.
Temperatures creep back up slightly, hitting 59 degrees at first pitch and likely leaving the roof open.
Can the Yankees do it again? They’ve got the offense to get the job done, but they’re facing perhaps the best hurler in the game on normal rest now, and there’s no guarantee that Verlander’s slider problems will pop up again in this matchup.
Verlander isn’t invincible, but he is the strongest pitcher on either team and has a lot to prove to himself after a poor outing against Tampa Bay. Plus, while the Yankees get all the headlines for their hitting, the Astros are a team that hits the ball and hits it well, and that combined with Verlander could be too much for the Yankees to overcome.
This just feels a lot safer than Game 4 did. I like that the Yankees are confident going into this game, but the Astros were the best in the AL for a reason. The Astros need to have this game, and I think that they’re going to find a way to get it done and get this series with the Bronx tied at 1.
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