The Indians and Yankees are similar, but one of them would be a better matchup for the Astros.
The Houston Astros have done something they have only done three times before. They won a playoff series. Even though it was a very stressful game, the Astros were able to triumph over Chris Sale and the Red Sox. With the 5-4 win, Houston will face either the Yankees or Indians in the ALCS.
After the first two games, it was a foregone conclusion that Indians would win the series after taking the first two games. However, the Yankees have won the past two games including last night’s game. After Luis Severino laid an egg in the Wild Card game, he bounced back last night defeating the Indians.
They are set to battle out on Wednesday in Game 5 in Cleveland to advance to the ALCS versus the Astros. No matter who wins, the Astros should be excited that the series is going to Game 5. This will burn one starter on each team in Corey Kluber or C.C. Sabathia. With the way the postseason has gone, the bullpen will get overtaxed in a do or die situation.
That brings up a question, who would be the better matchup?
At first glance, you would have to say the Yankees. Should the Yankees advance, the Astros had the better regular season record. This means that they would hold home-field advantage over the Yankees, which could be huge. As we saw in the ALDS, the home crowd got the Houston offense on a roll.
Plus, imagine Dallas Keuchel getting two starts versus a team that he has dominated in the past. We could watch the two regular-season MVP candidates battle for the chance to go to the World Series. While the networks would have liked to see a Red Sox versus Yankees ALCS, a matchup versus the Astros would be epic.
Without looking at the stats, a matchup versus the Indians would be difficult. The Indians won five or six matchups versus the Astros this year. With a rotation of Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer, they could be a tough matchup. Danny Salazar or Josh Tomlin could also get starts or serve in the long relief role. Mike Clevinger also pitched the game of his life versus the Astros this year.
The Indians had a 3.17 ERA versus Houston this year, striking out 62 hitters in 54 innings. The Astros did hit nine homers, but the Indians pitchers limited the damage. On the other side of the ledger, the Astros had a 4.85 ERA with 51 strikeouts in 52 innings. The Indians did hit ten homers and scored 29 runs in those six games.
The Astros did not have Justin Verlander at the time, and Dallas Keuchel got the only win with a complete game allowing two runs. Verlander did struggle this year versus the Indians, but he is a much more confident pitcher with the Astros. Outside of Game 1 of the ALDS, the Indians starters have not pitched as well as expected in the playoffs.
Kluber is their ace, but he struggled in his first start versus the Yankees, only lasting 2 2/3 innings. He allowed six runs and two homers. Bauer held the Yankees hitless for a while and got the win and has a great track record versus Houston. The Indians would be challenging, but they are beatable.
What about the Yankees?
The Yankees, on the other hand, have lost five of seven games this year versus the Astros. With a 5.75 ERA versus the Astros in 2017, you could see why they have the better record. Ironically enough, the Astros ERA versus the Yankees is not great at 5.52. In two of the losses, the Yankees scored 12 and 13 runs each.
These outliers are what made the ERA rise. When the Yankees won, it was in blowout fashion. The rotation of Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, Severino, and Sabathia could be equivalent to the Indians. The backend of the bullpen is also top of the line with Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson, and Dellin Betances. Tanaka and Severino are the only starters to pitch seven innings in a game so far.
Who would be the better matchup? It’s a tossup that’s leaning towards the Yankees. Verlander has not faced the Yankees this year but has been overexposed to the Indians. The Astros have handled Gray, Severino, and Tanaka this year. Plus, the home-field advantage would be huge. Fans in Houston need to root for the Yankees.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference and ESPN***