The MLB Playoffs are here! Kicking off the festivities is a match up between two teams who weren’t expected to be here.
The Yankees are as successful a franchise as there is in sports, but they’ve been down lately. Morale was down, the pitching staff was hurt, the batters were “washed up,” and Derek Jeter was gone.
However, the staff surprised, and the batting order, headlined by controversial slugger Alex Rodriguez, stepped up to the plate.
Meanwhile, the Astros were expected to be semi-decent. However, nobody thought they’d be this good this soon.
Their lineup is loaded with young talent. They have power, but can also excel at small ball and speed. Jose Altuve is one of the league’s top second basemen and leadoff hitters, shortstop Carlos Correa is a budding superstar and surefire AL Rookie of the year, and George Springer is having his best year as an outfielder.
The Astros pitching staff is also quit good. Although erratic at times, when this unit is on, it’s fire. Scott Kazmir and Colin McHugh had up and down years, but have shown that they can be elite on occasion. Rookie Lance McCullers pitched some gems, Mike Fiers has a no-hitter to his credit, and closer Luke Gregerson is top-notch.
Oh and then there’s Dallas Keuchel. A budding prospect entering the season, Keuchel dazzled throughout the season. While he struggled somewhat on the road, he was unbeatable at home, going 15-0 with a sub-2.00 earned run average there.
Of course, that means he was a meager 5-8 on the road. And yet, he will be the x-factor of the evening.
Keuchel may have a pedestrian record on the road this season, but the AL Cy Young frontrunner (the award for the best pitcher in the American League,) has been tremendous against the Bronx Bombers this season.
In his first start against the Yankees this season, Keuchel pitched a six-hit, 12-strikeout complete game shutout. Then, on August 25th, at Yankees Stadium, he went seven scoreless innings, punching out seven Yankee hitters en route to another dominant victory.
Honestly, I see this game going much like the game that occurred just over a month ago. Keuchel is the better pitcher taking the mound tonight, his lineup is better, and he’s comfortable facing the Yankees. He’s the ace of one of the brightest-looking teams in baseball, and he’ll the pitching face of a team that may be contenders for the next decade or so.
Their future is bright, and they’ll kickoff their postseason journey with a victory tonight. Of course, opposing pitcher Masihiro Tanaka won’t make it easy for them, but I see them succeeding nonetheless.
Prediction: Astros 4, Yankees 2.