Tonight the Yanks and Astros pick up where they left off as seventh game ALCS starter Charlie Morton takes the mound against the red-hot Yankees. This time Morton is not backed by Lance McCullers Jr., who will not enter the game (we assume) and throw 200 curve balls in a row.
But let’s get to the meat here… Ten quick thoughts about this series.
- How Much Does It Matter. All baseball eyes will be on these two teams that were expected to duke it out for AL superiority this season (along with the Red Sox and Indians). So far they both trail the high-flying Red Sox (20-7) but that gap has been closing and both teams come in 2 GB of the Sox. In the long view these 4 games may not mean that much, but with some of the off-season gabbing about which is the team to beat, bragging rights will probably feel good if one team dominates the other.
- What about that Yankees offense vs. the Astros offense. The Yanks’ offense is where the Astros ended up last season. They are 1st in runs/game (6.04), HR (41), BB (123), OBP (.346) and OPS (.811) in the AL. They have the players with the 1st (Didi Gregorious – 30) and fifth (Gary Sanchez – 24) most RBIs in the AL and the scary thing is neither of them is named Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton. Slowing them down is a key. The Astros’ offense has been a bit inconsistent and has a few more holes to date than last season. George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa lead the offense along with the two-headed catching giant of Brian McCann and Max Stassi. Marwin Gonzalez and Alex Bregman are beginning to warm up, while Yuli Gurriel is playing like someone who got a late start to the season.
- How about the Astros pitching vs. the Yanks’ pitching. In a strength on strength battle vs. the Yanks’ offense, the Astros have had superb starting pitching and despite the fans’ misgivings, one of the better bullpens in the league. The Astros have the 2nd best bullpen ERA in the AL at 2.80 and have only allowed 2 of 19 inherited runners to score – best % in the AL. The Astros’ starters lead the AL in ERA (2.50), WHIP (1.01), Ks (216) and IP (180.1). The Yanks have been good this season, not in the Astros stratosphere, but solid and have been especially strong during this 9 game winning streak, only allowing 2 runs per game.
- What about momentum. The Yanks are the hottest team in the majors right now, riding a 9 game winning streak, including a 4 game sweep of the Twins at home, and a three-game sweep of the Angels in Anaheim. The Astros have won 9 of their last 12, but did lose two to those same Angels last week. But everyone knows momentum sometimes can disappear in a day.
- Can the Astros control Didi. In the seven-game ALCS, Gregrious had a very quiet no HR and one RBI. Coming into this series, he has 4 HR and 10 RBIs in his last 7 games and is tied for the MLB lead in HRs (10) and is all by himself in RBIs (30) on the season.
- Pitching Matchups
- Sonny Gray 1-1, 7.71 ERA vs. Charlie Morton 3-0, 1.86 ERA – Advantage Astros
- Jordan Montgomery 2-0, 3.76 ERA vs. Justin Verlander 4-0, 1.36 ERA – Advantage Astros
- Luis Severino 4-1, 2.61 ERA vs. Dallas Keuchel 1-4, 4.00 ERA – Advantage Yanks
- Masahiro Tanaka 4-2, 4.37 ERA vs. Lance McCullers 4-1, 3.71 ERA – Advantage Astros
- Home field. In the playoffs, the home team won every time.
- Wins and runs. The Astros are scoring 2.6 runs per game in their 10 losses. They are scoring 6.36 in their 19 wins. The Yanks are scoring 3.22 runs in their losses and 7.44 runs per game in their 18 wins.
- A little freaky. The Astros record is 19-10 and the Yanks are 18-9 headed into this series. Last year the Astros were 19-10 after 29 games and the Yanks were 18-9 after 27 games.
- What about those bullpens. The Yanks are missing the injured Tommy Kahnle, and are relying the most on Aroldis Chapman (1.50 ERA), David Robertson (3.14 ERA), Chad Green (2.08 ERA) and Chasen Shreve (0.79 ERA), while trying to straighten out Dellin Betances (5.40 ERA). The Astros are riding Chris Devenski (0.75 ERA), Will Harris (1.69 ERA), Ken Giles (2.00 ERA), Hector Rondon (1.74), Brad Peacock (2.84 ERA) and Collin McHugh (0.84 ERA) while trying to straighten out Joe Smith (9.64 ERA).
Bottom line. This should be a great four-game series. While a 2-2 split feels right, it says here the Astros will take 3 of 4 and slow down the Yankee express.
Looks like most of our opponents have figured out how to handle our hitters.
Throw as many left handed pitchers at us as you can and as few fast balls as you can. Usually gets the job done.
The solution is beyond me but as Becky says something has to change.
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Sandy, I would tend to agree with you except for one thing: How is it they could not “figure out” our hitters during the course of the ’17 season up to and including the playoffs and World Series, but suddenly now they have our guys’ numbers? Are they putting Vaseline on our bats or flashing dazzlers from the stands?
Diane, if you look back at last year other teams were catching on as the season progressed.
I will say we have been here before in 2017, in the playoffs with our offense.
After the first 5 games of the ALCS against the Yanks – this is what our offense looked like vs. our regular season offense.
– 4.4 hits/game – compared to 9.8 h/g during the season
– 1.8 runs/gm vs. 5.53 r/g during the season
– 1.4 doubles/gm vs. 2.14 doubles/gm regular season
– 0.2 HR/gm vs. 1.47 HR/gm
They looked hopeless against the Yanks – only staying in the series with two 2-1 wins in the first two games (the second of which they almost wasted a JV masterpiece). And then the offense came to life in the last two games of the series.
The K rate is bugging me the most. As Becky says – Situational Hitting and one of the best ways to not have situational hitting is to not put the ball in play.
It seems like every time the Astros get folks on base, the hitter is someone who is slumping bad right now. They do not have the luxury they had last year of a lineup that could flip over at any time. I hope we get that back.
Oh criminitlies, Dan, every time we ask a dramatic question, you come back with your boring stats. I don’t care about facts; this is not a fact-based world.
Hey I’m an engineer – facts matter most to me.
I am just saying that our hitters were figured out in 2017 over small sample sizes but eventually came back and did positive things. Will it happen again in 2018 – probably not to the extent it did in 2017, so we will have to rely on our pitching more than we did last year.
I realize the written word can be misread, so just in case, that was tongue-in-cheek and another of my wretched attempts at humor. Apologies. Also, I just watched Giles punching himself and it brought tears to my eyes. I know where you’re at, man.
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“criminitlies”? Here’s an interesting fact (do with it what you will, Diane): haven’t heard that word since I was 10 yo!
K rate is bugging me too. Especially when a guy looks at a first pitch right down the middle and then swings at a ball low and out side.
We need a fresh approach at hitting.
Sandy, it appears the entire league is striking out more this year. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I tend to suspect Manfred of tinkering with the ball again [as he did in the WS], rather than suspecting all pitchers of doctoring the seams with pine tar. Manfred has proven over and over again that he will do anything to ‘fix’ what isn’t broke about the game.
On paper, tonight’s game should belong to the Yanks from the get-go. Severino’s 2018 performance has been dramatically – indeed overwhelmingly – better than DKs in every category – well, except that both have a relatively high BB/9 for a demi-ace, and Severino’s is actually a few percentage points higher that DKs.
Ah, but then again, on paper last night’s game should have belonged to us from the get-go, and we saw how that worked out.
Appreciate the optimism but my gut tells me your first sentence is what we can expect.
Anyone ready, at this point, to revise downward:
1. Your estimate of the Astros’ chances to repeat as WS Champions in 2018?
2. Your estimate of the Astros’ 2018 win total?
3. Your estimate of the chances of an Astro being league MVP again this year?
4. Your estimate of what kind of contribution Evan Gattis will make to the offense as DH this year?
5. Your estimate of the Astros’ chances to win the AL West?
I’m willing to consider the fact that Gattis might not be the guy we need, but with a record of 30 and 21 I see no reason to reconsider anything else. I don’t care if one of our guys wins MVP. We’ve got guys in Fresno that can do a better job immediately as DH. And if we need more hitting as the year starts shaking out, Luhnow will go get some. If there is one thing we’ve learned by now, the ownership of this club wants to win as much as we do. They are just more realistic and patient.
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Dave, barring the unspeakable, I don’t see the F.O. changing horses on the DH. They made their bed with Evan Gattis, and now he has nowhere to go. He is virtually untradeable, and he isn’t going to the minors. That means even if we send Fisher down to make room on the roster for White, Davis, Kemp, or KTuck, this FO is not likely to give any of those guys a real chance at the DH role. So we are pretty much stuck, one more year at least, with a DH that will struggle to hit .200, will not provide even a .325 OBP, and will virtually always strike out or pop out when we need a hit from him most. We survived that last year at the DH spot [Beltran], and we could probably do it again this year if Marwin and Fisher/Marisnick just weren’t so totally horrible this year.
Bill, I disagree on Gattis. If he is still as bad in July as he is now and we are not comfortably ahead in having home field advantage (this might again be essential in beating the Yankees for instance) for the post season, I don’t think he gets to take up a roster spot simply because he got paid 6.7 million. I will guarantee you that Luhnow will address the offense if it continues to be a problem.
Out of curiosity, Dave, assuming Gattis continues to tank at DH, hovering just over .200 BA and just under .300 OBP, with big strikeout numbers, what exactly do you see the F.O. doing with him to make room for someone else? That’s my concern – the only solution to me looks like DFA – and that would come at a cost of $6M, and a lot of unhappy Evan Gattis lovers in the Astro dugout, the press [because of his back story], and the organization. But hey -I hope [a] it doesn’t come to that, or [b] you are right, and the F.O. would bite the bullet on this without having a bird waiting in the bush.
Mr Bill – I don’t remeber the exact number but I thought Astros would win 94-97. The other teams in the West are improved except for “you know who.” We had adequate pitchers in 2017 to win with the injuries. The others did not. Don’t know where the injury bug will hit, but if all stays healthy we should still win the division. As to personnel changes, if we look at JL’s history, he does not knee jerk. I would say he waits too long. So we still have Sipp. I don’t think there is anything that JD and Tyler can do in AAA to get onto the roster. Yuli’s suspension gave JD a shot and he did’t sparkle. Tyler had a bad month a couple years ago also. So until July, I think the 25 man is set unless someone breaks a leg.
There is an interview with Josh Rojas at TCB this morning. The most interesting part of the interview is the insight on the Astros as an organization and how they help minor league players improve.
A 2-run home run by Yordan Alvarez in the first inning has kicked off the scoring in today’s really-early Hooks game against Midland. Stephen Wrenn had singled in front of Yordie. Yoanys Quiala is on the mound for Corpus Christi.
Warning: the lead bought by Alvarez’ dinger did not last very long.
Interesting fact – in two innings of play Corpus already has already had two players [one the Cuban catcher, Loki] thrown out trying to steal. Maybe in light of how bad the offensive production has been for the big club this year, our minor league affiliates are trying to re-establish the viability of the running game.
I’m sure that we have some players in the minors who can play at the major league level. i figure that the F.O. didn’t think that JFSF and Gattis would fail to show up this year or that Marvin would take so many 1st pitch strikes and swing wildly at pitches out of the zone. For all of you statistics people out there, I wonder how many 1st pitch strikes we have taken have resulted in K’s. And how many curve balls have been right over the plate that we took or missed.
Opposing managers must have watched the movie “Trouble with the curve” where Amy Adams says, “Show ’em the curve”.
Marwin had 16 RBI’s in April. If he does that every month, that gives him 96.
which would be more than last year. Good point Dave
Astro team stats in the AL season to date. We’re missing the long ball, but imagine how bad a whole lot of other teams fans feel right now about their own inept offenses?
I have seen a ton of videos of pitches this year that broke or tailed so much that they looked like the pitcher was using a version of a whiffle ball. Hmmmn. Has Mr. Manfred been playing with the specs for official MLB baseballs again?
Let’s see, more spin rate and movement on the ball means fewer hits and runs scored, and more strikeouts – and less time spent on actual baseball between commercials!
Here we go again
Reddick-Creddickibility. Sorry guys. It’s in my jeans.
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Guys, this was worse than I thought. Didn’t even spell Creddickbility right. Will somebody please issue a temporary restraining order?
Diane – you may not get a lot of responses now because they posted a new blog post on the ChipalattAwards for April
I understand, Dan. That leaves only you to issue the order.
Memo to Keuchel: Walk Stanton. That is all.
The Yankees are a pretty formidable club. If everyone keeps hitting so poorly against them, they will win a lot of baseball games.. I think I’ll go check in on the Rockets. I hear there’s a lot of offense going on down the street.
20 innings without a run…GOOD LORD. I would say can it get any worse but I know it can. Somethings gotta give folks.
Diane, because DanP loves “facts”, lets give him a few. (Before last nights game)
Altuve leads the team in hits – 42.
Correa in doubles – 9
No triples except Fisher -2
HRs – Springer & Reddick -6
RBIs – Correra 21 but Springer at 19 leading off.
SBs =Bregman -3 (Altuve 1)
BBs – Bregman – 20
K’s Surprise Surprise Jake – 35 (Correra 31)
OPS below .700 – Yuli, Margo, Gattis, Jake
Lowest OBP – Jake – .167
GDP Correa – 6
HBP McCann -3
Pitchers with a WHIP below 1.00 -7 (McHugh leading 0.656, Verlander, Cole, Devo, Peacock, Giles, and Morton
ERA below 3.00 (8) Lead by Devo 0.73
IP Verlander at 47.2
Hits given DK – 35
K’s JV 62 Cole 61
K’s per 9 McHugh – 14.3
K’s per 9 over 9.00 8
K’s/walks McHugh 8.5 followed by JV 7.75 and then at the bottom Sipp 1.67
HRs per 9 Joe Smith 11.6
Also, in March and April 2017, that strikeout machine Chris Carter struck out 31 times and drew 10 walks for a slash line of .160/.267/.263
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I reckon my team is just as unhappy with theyselves as I is.
I am gonna mosey on to bed an’ try to forget this night jes happened. Cause I didn’t figger to sleep good, I read a chapter of a book by Zane Grey so’s I could get a picture of mountains and valleys and mesas with a hint of purple on ’em as the sun sets.
This no-count strikin’ out stuff will still be eatin’ at us in the morning, so I reckon some shuteye is a good thing.
Say yer prayers and keep that fire goin’. It’s gonna get chilly tonight.
Dave, you got the first watch.
OP- saw those tornadoes all around where you live. Hope you and your family stay safe!! We get hurricanes in Texas, but we get several days to hunker down with them, where you are there’s really nothing to prepare for!!
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Cowpoke, your home touch is appreciated. I moseyed before you did and dern tootin’ glad I did.
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Think good thoughts for McCullers this afternoon! Let’s hope the guy who shows up to pitch for us, is the kid that pitched last week! Go ‘STROS!!
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After that loss last night, there is not much else to say. The road to the ALCS goes through . . .
Good stuff, OP and DP, on Thursday post. Zanuda too. Take your Patron to the root canal.