They say that a playoff series doesn’t really begin until a road team picks up a win. If that’s the case, the American League Championship Series has definitely begun, as the New York Yankees will look to make it two straight against the Houston Astros in Game 2 on Sunday night.
New York dominated the opener on Saturday night, winning 7-0 behind a five-RBI night from Gleyber Torres. The win was the fourth straight for the Yankees, who have yet to lose in this postseason. Meanwhile, the Astros are left with a must-win on Sunday night before heading to New York for the next three games, if necessary.
The moneyline for this contest has the New York Yankees +148 and the Houston Astros -158. The over/under for the contest has been set at 7.5.
Continuing To Roll
Things could not have gone better for the Yankees in Game 1, with four of the top five batters in their lineup putting together multi-hit games, and Masahiro Tanaka pitching six innings of shutout ball before giving way to the bullpen. Torres continued to be hot, hitting a home run and going 3-for-5 to up his postseason batting average to .471. DJ LeMaheiu set the table, going 2-for-4 with a walk and scoring three runs. The Yankees will have to keep their hot bats going against the top two pitchers in the Houston rotation in the next two games.
James Paxton will take the mound for Game 2 for New York. He took a no-decision after his Game 1 start against Minnesota in which he went 4 2/3 innings and allowed three earned runs, including two home runs, while striking out eight and walking one. In the regular season, Paxton was 15-6 with a 3.82 ERA, and went 1-1 in two starts against Houston. In April, Paxton was hit for five earned runs over four innings by the Astros to take the loss, but he came back in a June start against Houston and went five innings and gave up just one earned run.
If there was ever a time the Astros needed a big game from Justin Verlander, this would be it. The playoff veteran needs to bring his A-game against the Yankees to avoid an 0-2 hole in the series. Verlander struggled a bit in his last outing, giving up four earned runs and two home runs to Tampa Bay in Game 4 of the ALDS, but he was on three days rest. He’ll be fully rested in this one as he faces the Yankees for the third time this season. He’s 1-0 in those previous two starts, going seven innings for the win in June by allowing three earned runs but striking out nine. In April, he went six innings and gave up three earned runs but got a no-decision.
The Astros’ offense has been hit or miss for much of the postseason. In 51 innings of batting in the playoffs, Houston has put a run on the board in just nine of those, and scored multiple runs in just four innings at bat. The Astros have scored just two runs over the last 16 innings, something they can’t afford to do again, no matter how good Verlander is pitching. Jose Altuve has been the sparkplug when the offense has done some damage this postseason, leading the team with a .348 batting average, three home runs and five RBI. One player who needs to turn it on is George Springer, who is batting just .120 in the postseason with no extra-base hits.
Astros Bounce Back
Houston knows the importance of this game. The Astros can’t afford to go down 0-2 and hope to win this series. Verlander will bring his best stuff, and the Houston offense will break through against Paxton. I’m going with Houston -158 to tie the series at one win apiece.