(Karen Warren / Houston Chronicle)
Tonight, the Astros and Yankees will kick off the 2017 American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park. Masahiro Tanaka, coming off an up-and-down season in which he especially struggled on the road (6.48 ERA with a .875 opponent OPS), will face off against Dallas Keuchel, who was extremely impressive at home in 2017 (2.26 ERA with a .556 opponent OPS). Though we could not agree on a single series MVP, the members of M-SABR have a consensus on who will come away on top. To prepare you for the series, here are our picks.
Game 1 – NYY: Tanaka (13-12, 4.74) HOU: Keuchel (14-5, 2.90)
Game 2 – NYY: Severino (14-6, 2.98) HOU: Verlander (15-8, 3.36)
Game 3 – HOU: TBD NYY: Sabathia (14-5, 3.69)
Game 4 – HOU: TBD NYY: Gray, S (10-12, 3.55)
Games 5/6/7 TBD
Consensus Pick: Astros in 6
The Astros have a ferocious lineup. Altuve, Springer, Correa, and Bregman are the highlights, and that’s just scratching the surface. Trade deadline stunner and ALCS legend Justin Verlander has already emerged as a leader of their rotation. Dallas Keuchel, Houston’s game 1 starter, is an ace in his own right. Meanwhile, Brad Peacock has been a huge surprise all year long, posting a 3.00 ERA in 132 innings, while Lance McCullers Jr., when healthy, has the nastiest curveball in the majors (sorry, Kershaw). Additionally, Houston is approaching the ALCS with a successful series against Boston under their belts, with Verlander notching two more wins over Chris Sale (one in relief because JV always finds a way). This is an extremely strong Astros that is hot.
Speaking of hot, these Yankees are on a roll. That is, excluding that one guy, the rookie who hit 50 HR or something like that this year… who had three golden sombreros in the ALDS. He set the record for strikeouts in a postseason series in his first postseason series ever. Yikes.
And yet… the Yankees are here.
The Yankees are on a roll. They have already won four do-or-die games in the postseason. Now, is that just because the Indians hate prosperity? Doubtful, but possible. More likely, however, is the fact that David Robertson, Aroldis Chapman, and the Yankees bullpen have been on fire, and the Yankees hitters have been absolutely clutch (besides, as mentioned, Aaron “Golden Sombrero” Judge). Didi Gregorius is batting .235 this postseason, yet his OPS is at 1.023! He’s making his hits count. The Yankees should win some games in this series. Aaron Judge can’t stay this cold forever, and it’s likely that either Tanaka, Severino, or Sabathia will shut down the Astros for a game. This is a hot, confident, and young Yankees team who just took down the Cleveland Indians. That in itself is a massive feat.
…Yet, that’s why we’re taking the Astros. It’s likely that one of the Yankees top three starters will shut down the Astros. It might not happen, though. Severino and Sabathia have already had some ugly moments this postseason (though, to be fair, which starter hasn’t?). The bullpen has seen very heavy usage to this point, as well, between the bullpenning of the Wildcard Game and Robertson and Chapman combining for 4.2 IP in game 5 on Wednesday night. The Astros haven’t been sitting around for that long, so they should be fresh, and the Yankees, who have really had to muscle their way to this point, will not arrive in Houston without fatigue. This series feels similar to the 2012 American League Championship Series, in a way, except this time, the Yankees are very young instead of very old. Either way, the last time the Yankees faced Justin Verlander in the ALCS, JV posted an incredible line of 8.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K. Look, the connection is a little loose, but hear us out: the Yankees just aren’t there yet. They’re close, but not quite there. They’ll challenge the Astros, but it’s very unlikely that they’ll come away with this series. The Astros will take the series in six.
Other Club Member Picks: Yankees in 7 (picked by our local Yankees fan), Astros in 4 (by a member very confident in the Astros lineup), Indians in 5 (by our Head of Public Relations, Joel Revo, who asks, “It’s not over yet, right?”)
This is where we couldn’t come to a consensus as a club. We have a lot of picks, so we’re really throwing a lot out there and hoping one sticks.
Justin Verlander (my pick): No one destroys the American League in the postseason quite like Justin Verlander. This will continue this series, as Verlander pitches two dominant starts against the young Yankees lineup.
Jose Altuve: No reason supplied because it’s just that bold of a pick.
George Springer: “He’s going to set the table all series long.”
Didi Gregorius: “Even though the Astros win in 5.”
Aaron Judge: “Because the strikeout is more valuable than the GIDP.”
Brad Peacock: “He’s throwing a no-hitter in game 3.”
And with that, the club has spoken. Stay tuned for our National League Championship Series predictions, which will be released Saturday.