Astros Zack Greinke will be taking the mound to start Game 1 of the ALCS against Yankees Masahiro Tanaka, and I feel Greinke has the upper hand.
The American League Championship Series kicks off tonight on the Astros home turf against the New York Yankees. Greinke and Tanaka are the pitchers slated to start game one and they will battle it out to see who will take the first game and get a leg up in the series. As I see it, Zack Greinke has an advantage over Tanaka and should capture the victory tonight.
Both starting pitchers have a bit of a history with their opposing teams, Greinke more than Tanaka. Greinke has faced the Yankees 15 times over a 16-year span while Tanaka has pitched against the Astros in seven games in his six-year career. I’m going to focus on the more recent years to get a better view of how these two pitchers have done against the current lineups.
Let’s first take a look at Tanaka’s experience facing the Astros from 2017 to the present. In that span, he has started four regular-season games against Houston going 0-1. In fact, Tanaka has never earned a win over the Astros other than the Game 5 victory of the 2017 ALCS.
Seven players on what would be a potential starting lineup for the Astros have had decent success versus Tanaka in the last four games. These seven players (George Springer, Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Josh Reddick, and Robinson Chirinos) all have an OPS of 1.000 or above. Yuli Gurriel and Yordan Alvarez are the only two below that mark, and Alvarez has only faced Tanaka in one game and went 1-for-3 with a run.
Tanaka’s career ERA against Houston is 6.62 and 6.43 over the last four games. Since 2017 he has given up 14 runs and six home runs to the Astros in 19.2 innings of work. Houston has faced Tanaka three times in postseason play going 1-2, but he only surrendered four runs in the 18 innings he pitched in those three games.
Now, let’s see how Greinke has done recently when facing the Yankees. He has pitched four games against the Yankees since 2013 and had a record of 2-0 with an ERA of 2.70. Greinke has allowed just eight runs and only three homers over that span. This year he faced the Yankees twice, both with Arizona, and ceded three runs in 13.2 innings for a 1.99 ERA.
The Yankees’ current lineup hasn’t fared well against Greinke with only three players (Gleyber Torres, Gary Sanchez, and Gio Urshela) owning an OPS of 1.000 and those players have little experience with Greinke. The rest of the lineup has an OPS of .750 or below.
It is the postseason, and anything can and will happen. But looking at the past and the starting pitchers’ records and stats against their opposing teams, I have to give the definite advantage to Zack Greinke and the Houston Astros to take Game 1 and take an early lead in the ALCS.