It’s baseball playoffs time! Are you excited? I’m excited. How wonderful is it to not have an ulcer slowly forming in your stomach because your team is about to be in the playoffs for the first time in forever and only has a one game wild card chance to get into the mix to compete for the World Series? Pretty goddamn wonderful.
Guess who isn’t feeling that awesome? The Yankees and the Astros. Tonight (TONIGHT!!) the Yankees and the Astros face off in New York in an elimination game that sends the winner to face the Royals on Thursday in the American League Division Series (ALDS) and the loser home, to their couch, to watch while they eat copious amounts of Reeses.
Let’s take a quick look at the two teams:
The Yankees finished the season 87-75. They secretly made their way into and maintained their playoff position throughout the second half of the season. Seriously, everyone forgot they even existed. They finally clinched their playoff berth during the final weekend of regular season baseball.
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Masahiro Tanaka, the pitcher the Yankees paid through the nose to import from Japan, will pitch the Wild Card game for the Yankees. He has been all over the place this year, but when he’s on, he’s really on. His last two starts, however, have not exactly inspired confidence in his abilities. We’ll see which Tanaka we get on Tuesday.
The Yankees get to play at home. The Yankees are much better at home, as most teams are. Although most consider this an advantage, when you’re playing in New York, home field can turn sour really quickly. If Tanaka and crew aren’t on their game, we will all learn what 49,600 people sound like when they boo.
The Yankees have their own three headed monster (copy cats) in Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Miller. Betances is equivalent to Wade Davis in nastiness and Miller has done an excellent job as the closer this year. Wilson is not too much to worry about, but the comfort level the Yankees have in knowing they’ve got the 7-8-9 guys locked down is a big advantage in any situation.
While the Yankees have a solid back end of their bullpen, their middle relievers leave New Yorkers wanting. They Yankees plan to use a few of their starters out of the pen, which is not always an easy adjustment to make, especially on the fly during the playoffs.
The Yankees have shown a lot of power throughout the 2015 season, but they are getting up there in age. Though playoff adrenaline tends to mask nagging injuries, I don’t know that the Yankees have much gas left in the tank.
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Brett Gardner, LF
Carlos Beltran, RF
Alex Rodriguez, DH
The Astros had a much more nerve-wracking path to the playoffs, going from the top of the division for most of the first half of the season to barely eeking out a wild card spot. However, thanks to their neighbors to the north, the Texans, who beat the Angels in the final series of the year, the Astros get their shot at glory.
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Dallas Keuchel will toe the slab for the Astros. Keuchel and his flowing beard have been beyond impressive this year, making him a clear candidate for the Cy Young Award. The Yankees have only scored in one inning the past THREE times they’ve met. That’s a lot of 0’s on the board for Dallas…who plays for Houston. Dallas will be pitching on short rest for the first time in his career. He’s young enough that I don’t think it will impact his game too much, unlike some people *coughBeuhrlecough*.
The Astros are a very young team which is a double edged sword. On the one hand, the importance of a postseason appearance won’t mean as much to them as it will to many of the players for the Yankees that are nearing the end of their careers. Meaning? The pressure will be off. On the other hand, the overload of adrenaline that comes with playoff games and nearly 50,000 people jeering and cheering might make the younger guys a little jittery and prone to errors.
With youth comes speed. The Astros are base stealing machines, leading the American League with 121 swiped bags. You all saw what speed do in last season’s AL Wild Card game.
The Astros bullpen has faltered in the final stretch of the regular season. While the team has a bit of depth as far as options in the pen, there is no clear role for any of their relievers outside of their closer Luke Gregerson. Fortunately for them, Keuchel can and will pitch deep into games.
Yankees Stadium is not very big, especially to the right and left field corners. The Astros hit a lot of home runs. Put two and two together and you get trouble if Tanaka isn’t hitting his spots. The only downside is that the Astros do not have the best away record. Does this tie into their youth getting the better of them when the crowd is against them? I wouldn’t rule it out.
George Springer, RF
Jose Altuve, 2B
Carlos Correa, SS
Dallas Keuchel, SP
While I hope that the Yankees win because the Royals will beat the heck out of them in the ALDS, it’s far more likely that the Astros will take this one game death match. I’m awful at predicting scores, but I bet it’s in the 5-2 range, Astros over Yankees.
The Astros are really into dancing.