New York Yankees Right field Aaron Judge drives the ball deep.

New York Yankees Right field Aaron Judge drives a ball deep. (Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)

The New York Yankees will go head to head with the Houston Astros in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series that begins Saturday, October 12. It’s a rematch of a memorable 2017 ALCS that the Astros took in seven games en route to their first World Series title. Let’s see how the two clubs stack up this time around.

Starting Pitching

The Astros have an imposing advantage in starting pitching, as they boast arguably the most feared trio in baseballJustin Verlander (21-6, 2.58 ERA), Gerrit Cole (20-5, 2.50 ERA) and Zack Greinke (18-5, 2.93 ERA). With Verlander and Cole likely needing rest after starts in Game 4 and Game 5 of their ALDS against the Rays, Greinke (more on him later) is the likely candidate to start Game 1.

No Yankees starter went further than five innings in their ALDS against the Twins. Masahiro Tanaka had a 5.26 ERA in 14 outings following the All-Star break but delivered against Minnesota in Game 2, when he allowed one run on three hits and struck out seven. The Bombers need efforts like that from James Paxton (15-6, 3.82 ERA) and Luis Severino (1-1, 1.50 ERA), who were shaky in their ALDS appearances, so their bullpen doesn’t get overworked.

Edge: Astros

Bullpen

Baseball fans have been hearing about the Yankees’ vaunted bullpen for a few years now, but they could actually have the inferior unit in this matchup. Houston recorded a 3.75 bullpen ERA during the regular season, second in the majors, while New York was ninth at 4.08.

The Astros have long men like Wade Miley and Josh James set to eat innings, with Will Harris and closer Roberto Osuna at the back of the bullpen. The Yankees have a similar setup, with Chad Green and J.A. Happ capable of pitching multiple innings and Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino and Aroldis Chapman on the back end.

New York may have more quality arms to turn to, but they’ll be exposed over time if their starters don’t deliver.

Edge: Astros

Lineup

It’s seldom a good idea to overreact to small sample sizes, but the Yankees certainly looked like the better offensive team in their ALDS. Second baseman Gleyber Torres had a team-high 1.378 OPS, and shortstop Didi Gregorius was close behind at 1.200. Outfielders Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton were kept relatively quiet, if only because the Twins seemed scared to pitch to them. Each slugger drew four walks in three games.

The Astros got great performances from infielders Jose Altuve (1.281 OPS) and Alex Bregman (1.097 OPS) and rookie outfielder Yordan Alvarez (.824 OPS) in their ALDS, but guys like shortstop Carlos Correa (3-for-19) and outfielder Josh Reddick (1-for-10) faded into the background. It will take a team effort to outshine the Yankees’ homer-happy lineup.

Edge: Yankees

X-factor: Zack Greinke

Greinke will need to bounce back from a rough outing against the Rays, in which he served up six runs on five hits (including three home runs) and a walk in 3 2/3 innings. That fiasco raised his all-time postseason ERA to 4.58 (70 2/3 innings). However, in his last three starts against the Yankees, Greinke is 2-0, with a 2.81 ERA and 5.25 strikeout/walk ratio. We’ll see which version of Greinke will show up in this seriesHouston’s fate could be in his hands.

Betting trends

The Yankees went 6-13 as road underdogs this season and are just 3-10 in their last 13 postseason road games. The Astros have won 40 of their last 52 home games and are 21-3 in their last 24 games following a day off.

Prediction: Astros in six games


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