October 12, 2019

Tonight: Astros Begin Final Week Of Games Before Heading To World Series

Joel Sherman, Post, October 11:
[T]hese are the Yankees. Twenty-seven titles and descendants of George Steinbrenner. So 10 years [since their last World Series title] is a minute or two less than forever.

These are the Yankees and the rules are understood — the Rays can lose to the Astros in these playoffs and have had a great season. The Yankees cannot.

In 2017 [they lost to the Astros] in seven games in the ALCS ... [and in 2018 they] got bounced from the playoffs by the Red Sox — the RED SOX — and had to watch as ...[Boston] won a fourth title in 15 seasons. ...

The logical theory is that if you get into the big dance enough, eventually you will win one. ... The Yankees have not in this era. ...

[T]heir last opportunity to [win a championship] in the 2010s — to avoid becoming the first decade the Yankees have not reached the Fall Classic since the 1910s — begins Saturday night at Minute Maid Park. ...

2009 is a long time ago.
Deesha Thosar, Daily News, October 12:
When the Bronx Bombers collapsed in Game 7 two years ago, they didn't have a veteran bat like Edwin Encarnacion or a young superstar like Gleyber Torres in their lineup. They were without Giancarlo Stanton's violent swing and DJ LeMahieu's .302 career batting average.

The 2017 Yankees favored bats over arms ... [In 2019, they] ended the regular season with the fifth-best bullpen ERA (4.08) in the AL ...

[M]ost notably, these Yankees have matured. Boone's "Savages" have mental and physical growth on their side. They're not trying too hard. These Yankees are in control of their emotions, a subtle factor that holds significant meaning in the postseason.
Ken Davidoff, Post, October 12:
Let's not call American League Championship Series Game 1 a "must-win" for the visitors ...

In the wild-card era (since 1995), eight LCS have pitted a team that swept its LDS opponent against a team that went the distance. The sweeper captured the LCS four times and the marathoner did the same. ...

Nothing has proven easy for these injury-plagued Yankees. ... How about we call this a "Should-win," if they know what's good for them?
George A. King III, Post, October 12:
When the Yankees pulled into Minute Maid Park on April 8, they were nine games into the season and the drums already were beating loudly for a Yankees-Astros ALCS in October. ...

Masahiro Tanaka will start Game 1 and James Paxton will work Game 2 Sunday. ... Luis Severino will start Game 3 Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. ...

Zack Greinke ... starts [Game 1] for the Astros. ... Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Friday he will start Justin Verlander in Game 2 and Gerrit Cole in Game 3, which will be at Yankee Stadium. ...
Greg Joyce, Post, October 12:
All the Yankees needed was one win in two games for a ticket to the World Series.

They had momentum on their side, Luis Severino and CC Sabathia at the ready on full rest to start and an offense that had just exploded during three straight wins at Yankee Stadium.

And then the Astros sent the Yankees' improbable season crashing down to earth with two thorough beatings on back-to-back nights in October 2017 ...

In four games there [in the 2017 ALCS], the Yankees mustered three runs, batting 20-for-126 (.159) with six extra-base hits and 48 strikeouts.
Ken Davidoff, Post, October 11:
[There's] no great mystery why the Yankees went with Tanaka ... Unfortunately for the Yankees, it's not because Tanaka has performed amazing work against the Astros' potent offense. He hasn't. Astros regulars George Springer (.976 OPS), Michael Brantley (.922), Alex Bregman (.912) and Jose Altuve (.828) all have done their share of damage against Tanaka.

Almost none of that damage, however, came two years ago this very week, when Tanaka compiled a 1.38 ERA in two starts totaling 13 innings as he started Games 1 and 5 of the ALCS just as he's slated to do this week ...

"One thing I can say is that we've been here in 2017," Tanaka said ... "You make your plans, and basically you go out there and execute."

The Yankees trust Tanaka to do just that. He has yet to let them down this time of year.
Bill Madden, Daily News, October 11:
Aaron Boone has good reason to feel the baseball gods are finally beginning to feel kindly toward him. ...

Boone used the same [lineup] for all three [ALDS] games against the Twins, a first for him this year. Heck, even twice in a row would have been a first for him. ... [T]he Yankee hitters enjoyed a refreshing consistency ... that brought to mind Joe Torre's 1998 Yankees. ...

Ideally, in today's baseball, you hope for your starter to give you 18-20 outs. In the Yankees' case, however, that may be a stretch. This season, Yankee starters averaged 4.2 innings per game, fifth fewest in the majors. ...

Severino ... [is] still on a limited pitch count and that poses a problem when it comes to getting a sufficient number of outs. ... [Tanaka] has shown to be frustratingly inconsistent ... ... [Paxton] could record only 14 outs in his ALDS start against Minnesota.
Mike Vaccaro, Post, October 12:
Somehow, they have become linked, like old vaudeville partners: Judge and Stanton. Or, if you prefer, Stanton and Judge. ...

There is, of course, one small problem with that.

Aaron Judge is already a beloved Yankee. ... He has performed splendidly in the postseason, which is everyone's examination room when determining someone's "TrueYankeeNess" ...

Stanton? He is still searching for his first genuine Yankees moment. He scuffled badly in last year's ALDS, 4-for-18 with six strikeouts. [H]e walked four times against the Twins in the ALDS — and seemed oddly, defiantly pleased with each one — he had just one base hit, batted .167, played a shaky left field. ...

Stanton struck out in the fourth inning of Game 2, with the Yankees leading by seven runs …

… and there were more than a few boobirds that took flight at Yankee Stadium. ...

If Stanton doesn't start to better resemble the player he's been for most of his career during these playoffs, that soundtrack isn't going to be muffled. It's going to be exactly the opposite, in fact. That may not be fair. That may not be nice. But, then, there really is no handbook when you are the highest-paid player in baseball history and the highlights of your postseason, so far, are taking good bases on balls. ...

The Yankees' lineup is so deep and so dangerous that the others around him in the batting order can mostly carry him.

But $325 million athletes aren't supposed to be carried. ...

It's his first LCS. It's the brightest lights, when the biggest players are paged. It really is time.
Joel Sherman, Post, October 11:
Houston went an MLB-best 60-21 at home during the regular season, then 3-0 at home against the Rays in the Division Series. And remember that in the 2017 ALCS, the Yankees won [zero games] in Houston.

There have been suspicions that perhaps the Astros are doing something beyond the rules to gain an edge at Minute Maid Park — the Rays wondered about sign stealing in Game 5. At minimum, Houston has a psychological advantage at home. ...

[According to one coach] the Astros "are the most creative positioning team in the league, especially the outfield. They are very proactive with their outfield defense, especially in right field and at home. You will see Reddick play on the line, way off the line, real shallow. It is more extreme than most teams." ...

The coach said one key element in this series is if there is a home-plate umpire who calls high strikes when Cole and Verlander pitch because if so, the Yankees' work becomes tougher. ... Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are particularly susceptible, especially if a starter can go hard up and in — but then both Cole and Verlander ... mix in breaking balls down and, well, good luck.

Verlander was the ALCS MVP in 2017, and the Yankees' five main righty power bats — Judge, Stanton, Edwin Encarnacion, Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres — are a combined 11-for-100 (.110 average) with 31 strikeouts ...

One word was repeated about the Astros lineup by all our experts — "relentless." They were the first team ever to post both the lowest strikeout rate and highest walk rate in a season. They led the majors in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. ...

The coach: "The key to the series for me is can the Yankees win the fifth through seventh innings by getting to pitchers they want to face in those situations." The video scout: "You have to get the starters out and go to work against their middle relief. I wonder in a seven-game series with a couple of off-days if you see Osuna for more than three outs."
Kristie Ackert, Daily News, October 11:
[Aroldis] Chapman was hit with a champagne bottle in the clubhouse celebration after the Yankees finished off the Twins in the AL Division Series Monday night. Britton said he jammed his ankle covering first base in Game 3. Postgame, he said he was preoccupied with the injury because it was the same ankle that he had to have surgically reconstructed after blowing out his Achilles tendon in December 2016.
Dan Martin, Post, October 12:
Forget the World Series. This ALCS is the matchup people have been waiting for, as the 107-win Astros and 103-win Yankees are set to meet for the second time in three years with a trip to the Fall Classic on the line. ...

At The Plate: Even
Power: Even
On the basepaths: Astros
In The Field: Astros
Outfield: Edge: Astros
Bench: Even
Rotation: Astros
Bullpen: Yankees
Manager: Astros
Intangibles: Even

[Astros 5, Yankees 1, Even 4]
Bradford William Davis, Daily News, October 12:
Catcher: Robinson Chirinos vs. Gary Sanchez
Sanchez ... [is] an improved defender and showed more restraint the last two games.

First Base: Yuli Gurriel vs. DJ LeMahieu
Gurriel [is] peaking: kicking it into high gear (.338/.393/.694) from June 23 through the end of the season. LeMahieu was nails in the clutch and never slowed down.

Second Base: Jose Altuve vs. Gleyber Torres

Third Base: Alex Bregman vs. Gio Urshela

Shortstop: Carlos Correa vs. Didi Gregorius

Left Field: Michael Brantley vs. Giancarlo Stanton
Brantley was a deserving All-Star ... a superb embodiment of the Astros contact and power-heavy approach. Stanton went 1-for-11, but showed a strong eye, walking four times while only whiffing twice. He looks good ...

Center Field: George Springer vs. Brett Gardner

Right Field: Josh Reddick vs. Aaron Judge

Designated Hitter: Yordan Alvarez vs. Edwin Encarnacion
The final tally is Astros 5, Yankees 4, so naturally the pick is ... Yankees in 7. (Judging from Davis's comments for 1B and LF, though, the count should be Astros 7-2, with New York better only at C and RF..

Post Staff, October 12:
Ken Davidoff: Yankees in 6
Every path of logic leads to the Astros sending the Yankees home this week. But this is October. Strange stuff happens. The Yankees clearly are talented enough to pull off something strange.

George A. King: Astros in 7
The difference between the Yankees and Astros is razor thin, and having four home games gives Houston, which took four of seven regular-season games, an edge. ... If Gary Sanchez doesn't break out, the Yankees won't have the firepower to match the Astros.

Dan Martin: Astros in 7
... Houston figures to be able to go to Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole on full rest in four games, leaving the Yanks no margin for error.

Joel Sherman: Yankees in 7
[I]f this series were played 100 times, you might get pretty close to a 50-50 outcome. In the only one that counts, I will guess the Yankees will find a way to win a game (or two) started by Gerrit Cole or Justin Verlander.

Mike Vaccaro: Yankees in 6
If the Yankees can get a split in the first two games, get ahead in the series and stay there, all the pressure on earth will be on the shoulders of the team that won 107 games.
Finally, the comedy portion of today's post:

Mike Lupica, Daily News, October 11:
There's Magic To These Yankees

[M]an, they were thisclose in October of '17, weren't they? ...

You know what happened when they did get back to Houston. Judge stopped hitting. Everybody did. The Yankees scored one run in Houston over two games. And October, so filled with promise and noise and hope on 161st St. after Game 5 ended just like that. And as quietly as that.

Now the Yankees are back. Back from that disappointment and back from the even bigger disappointment of winning 100 games last season and then not only losing their division series to the Red Sox, but being closed out at the Stadium. But whatever happens from here, you have to know something about the 2019 Yankees:

It is one of the most appealing teams in Yankee history, whether it wins this ALCS and goes on to the World Series or not. ...

If you are a Yankee fan, though, from whatever Yankee generation, you ought to love this team as much as any Yankee team since 1998 ...

I was at Derek Jeter's locker one day, his corner locker down by the trainer's room at the old Stadium, when they were getting ready to make another playoff run in one of those years and said, "This isn't going to go on forever."

Jeter looked up and said, "Why not?"

Then they lost the way they did in Game 7 to the Diamondbacks in '01 ... It would be another eight years before they won the Series. ... [MIKE: DID YOU FORGET 2004?] ...

There was a time when the world would have laughed if you'd called a Yankee team lovable. This one is.

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