We picked up a rare loss last night when we backed the New York Yankees at home in game four of the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros. I felt that Zack Greinke just couldn’t be trusted, and that Masahiro Tanaka would find a way to get five or six strong innings of work in. And early on, it looked like I nailed the pick.
Greinke had a rough start to the game as he loaded the bases and walked a run in to give the Yankees the early lead. Greinke threw a bunch of pitches and walked three guys in the frame. It looked like he was in for a long night. But he managed to settle down, that is until the fifth inning. In the fifth, Greinke quickly loaded the bases again, with a couple more walks. But reliever Ryan Pressly came in and saved the game as he picked up back to back strikeouts of Gleyber Torres and Edwin Encarnacion to end the threat.
Tanaka didn’t have his best stuff as he gave up four runs, three of them earned in just five innings. This game was competitive early, and the Yankees tried to rally, but in the end, their bullpen let them down as they gave up four runs in four innings, and the Astros pulled away for the 8-3 win. The win was a huge one for Houston as they are now just one game away from heading to the World Series. For New York, the Yankees will look to win tonight to send the series back to Houston. For today’s pick, we will stay right here with the ALCS as the Yankees host the Astros.
The New York Yankees season is on the line tonight in game five of the American League Championship Series. After taking game two in Houston, and stealing away home-field advantage, the Yankees have struggled at home, dropping two straight games. Now New York has their backs against the wall and must win to extend the series and send it back to Houston. For the Astros, they are hoping to take care of business tonight and punch their ticket to the World Series, where the Nationals are waiting for them, themselves having swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS.
Starting tonight for the Yankees is James Paxton (0-0 5.14 ERA), and for the Astros it is Justin Verlander (1-1 3.12 ERA). The game total over-under is set at seven and a half runs. The Astros are -142 road favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 4:08 PM PST from Yankee Stadium in New York City.
Justin Verlander has been mostly very good in this postseason. He had one bad start against the Tampa Bay Rays, but that was on just three days rest, so it is hard to blame him too awful much. In his game one of the ALDS start against the Rays, he threw seven innings and did not allow a run on just one hit. In game two against of the ALCS against New York, he was good again as he tossed six and two-thirds of an inning and gave up two earned runs.
The Astros are hoping that Verlander can get them deep into the game tonight and that he can close out this series so they can use Gerrit Cole for game one of the World Series, rather than have to use him in game six of the ALCS. Verlander is at the top of his powers right now at his age thirty-six six season, and I see him having a lot of success tonight.
The biggest weakness of this Yankees team all season long has been their starting pitching. We see that tonight as they are clearly getting the worst of this starting pitching matchup. It’s not that James Paxton doesn’t have good stuff, he most certainly does. We saw that in game two when he was hitting the high nineties with his fastball. The problem for Paxton is a unique one, as he seems to be tipping his pitches.
Paxton tried to remedy his tipping problem in game two by wiggling his glove to help hide his pitch selection. It didn’t work. And Aaron Boone quickly realized it, and he was pulled from the game after just two and a third innings of work. If Paton can’t find a way to hide his pitch selection tonight, the Yankees are in big trouble. They have used and abused their bullpen, and if they have to go to the pen again in the third inning, I don’t see it ending well for them.
Generally, home-field advantage is huge in the playoffs. But in this series, the road team has won the last three games. I see that trend continuing tonight. I wouldn’t want to bet against Justin Verlander at just about any price right now as he is just too good. But in this spot, at this price, it feels like a steal. It is clear that Aaron Boone doesn’t trust James Paxton, and he may be quick to pull him again tonight.
If he does, he will regret it. The Yankees bullpen has been one of their biggest strengths this season. But they have not been good in this series, and they have been overused. If they need six or more innings out of them, that is bad news for New York. Maybe Paxton finds a way to be decent. Maybe he doesn’t, and the Yankees turn things over to the bullpen early. Either way, I just don’t see the Yankees being able to hold this Astros lineup down tonight, no matter who is on the mound tonight.
Verlander will be elite, the Houston lineup will score runs, and the Astros are going to finish off the Yankees and head to the World Series tonight. I understand why this number is a tight one, I hate to bet against the Yankees at home in October, but that didn’t stop Houston from winning the last two games, and that isn’t going to stop them from winning tonight either. Give me the Houston Astros tonight in game five at -142!