The Astros did what they were supposed to do. Now, the Yankees try to fight back.
Starting tonight, Houston and New York do battle in the Bronx, with a trip to the World Series on the line. Staked to a 2-0 series lead, Houston needs only win two of the next five games to advance—but don’t count the Yankees out just yet. They claimed the winner-take-all Wild Card game from Minnesota and rallied from a 0-2 deficit to dispatch the Cleveland Indians in the American League Division Series last week.
Nonetheless, the Astros are confident in their lead. They received back-to-back gems from staff anchors Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander at Minute Maid—the pair became the only two teammates in postseason history to strike out ten or more Yankees in consecutive starts.
Keuchel got the party started on Friday night, tossing seven innings of shutout baseball and striking out ten to extend his historical dominance against New York. In six regular-season starts against the Yankees throughout his career, Keuchel has amassed a minuscule 1.41 ERA. He became just the third Astros pitcher in franchise history to strike out ten or more batters in a postseason start, joining Nolan Ryan and Mike Scott. Ryan and Scott were electric right-handers known for their blazing fastballs. Keuchel is a lefty and rarely hits above 90 miles per hour with his signature sinker.
“We have pretty similar pitching styles, so I would expect myself to be in there,” Keuchel deadpanned after the game.
One night later, another pitcher added his name to that exclusive list, though Justin Verlander certainly fits the Ryan-Scott mold. The workhorse starter turned in a career-defining performance, pitching all nine innings in a 2-1 victory. He blew through 124 pitches in an age when most pitchers don’t exceed 100. He allowed just five hits on the night, walking one and striking out 13. It’s safe to say he’s fitting in well with his new ball club.
“I was brought here to help this team win a championship,” he said after the game. “I’m aware of that and I’m going to do everything I possibly can.” Count his Saturday gem as a resounding success.
The Astros turn to Charlie Morton tonight as they try to take a commanding 3-0 lead. Morton battled through injury this year, but was downright electric at times. For the regular season, he pitched to a 14-7 record with a 3.62 ERA. Especially noteworthy are the 10 batters he struck out for every nine innings of work. Morton’s most recent start came against Boston in the ALDS, when he allowed two runs and struck out six over 4.1 innings. Depending on how Morton fares in the early innings, tonight’s outing may also be brief—the Houston bullpen is well-rested following Keuchel and Verlander’s recent mastery.
CC Sabathia takes the hill for the Yanks. The veteran lefty sported a 3.69 ERA this season and has looked sharp in the playoffs. The Bronx will be rocking when he fires his first pitch at 7:00 Central tonight.
The Altuve-Correa Show
So far in the ALCS, the Astros’ sensational up-the-middle duo has proven why they’re two of the biggest stars in the game. Altuve collected three hits and a stolen base in Game One, while Correa added a single and an RBI. In Game Two, each batter chipped in two hits. Correa hit a solo home run in the fourth, and knocked a clutch double to score Altuve from first base in the bottom of the ninth.
Watch From Houston For Free
Stuck in H-Town while the ‘Stros are in the Big Apple? Worry not—the Astros organization is hosting a series of free viewing parties at Minute Maid Park throughout the playoff push. Each party starts two hours prior to first pitch and features live music, food, and games along Crawford Street. As game time draws near, fans can filter into Minute Maid Park to watch the action on the center field Jumbotron. To attend, claim a free voucher at www.astros.com/postseason.