MLB - The ALCS Preview
Baseball : The ALCS is on deck...
The New York Yankees pulled off the impossible by coming back from a 2-0 deficit to win their Division Series against the Cleveland Indians. This was no small feat as most writers, including myself, had the Indians pegged as their World Series favourites. In the other series, I was right on the money with my prediction, with Houston winning their series against Boston in four games.
So with the table set for the American League Championship Series, let’s dive in to the head-to-head match-ups.
This AL Championship is a best-of-seven game series, so the first team to four victories moves on to the World Series. Houston has home field advantage in this series, so the first two games will be in Houston, then move to New York for three more and then back to Houston for the final two games if necessary.
New York Offence vs. Houston Pitching
The Yankees won against Cleveland by getting to the Indians’ ace Corey Kluber early and often in games 2 & 5. It was a surprising turn of events because Kluber had been so dominant over the second half of the regular season. But strange things happen in the baseball playoffs and the Yankees’ five game series win certainly qualifies under this umbrella.
For Houston, their two aces will pitch in games 1 and 2, with sinker-baller Dallas Keuchel and power-pitcher Justin Verlander taking the mound. In the event this series goes six games, both pitchers should get two starts and this is a tremendous advantage for the Astros. With AL MVP candidate Aaron Judge’s struggles against the Indians starters, coupled with the emotionally draining Cleveland series, I don’t foresee the Yankees bats to be strong in this series.
New York Pitching vs. Houston Hitting
So the question is: If the Yankees won’t score many runs, how are they going to win? For the answer, may I refer you to the quality of the New York bullpen, one of the best in recent playoff memory. In game 3 of the ALDS against Cleveland, the Yankees won 1-0. This tide-turning win was solely due to the New York bullpen’s dominance in the latter innings. There are six legitimate closers in the New York pen and with the Yankee rotation pushed in all five games against Cleveland, I fully expect manager Joe Girardi to lean heavily on Aroldis Chapman and crew.
New York’s pitching will have to be terrific because it’s no secret that Houston’s offence is easily the strongest unit of the remaining playoff teams. Explosive and powerful throughout the lineup, the Astros can score runs easily via the home run or through manufacturing by stringing together base hits and a stolen base. They are electric and will dictate how this series is managed by Girardi.
I look for Houston to take both games at home, then for the Yankees to push for wins in games three & four. So with the series tied, look for Houston’s ability to start Keuchel and Verlander in the following two games, including a return to Houston to be the difference in game six. The Astros will take the series in six games and make their first World Series appearance since 2005.