Houston Astros Look to Erase Game 1 Memory | Joseph Scodney
I’m sure the city of Houston, Texas is filled with “Chicken Little’s” this morning. Don’t worry Astros fans, the sky is not falling. It might feel like it after losing to the Yankees in game 1 of the ALCS 7-0. The Houston Astros batters looked absolutely clueless at the plate in game 1, only managing to produce 3 base hits. Two of those three hits were quickly erased by double plays; it was just an all around lousy night for the Houston Astros. On the other side, the New York Yankees were clicking on all cylinders. Tanaka tossed a gem and the superb Yankee bullpen had no problem in mop up duty. The big bats came alive led by a 5 RBI effort from Gleyber Torres on a night in which the Yankees cranked out 13 hits against Houston pitching. Last night’s game was very reminiscent of game 5 of the 2017 ALCS when Tanaka pitched seven shutout innings and the Yankees beat the Astros 5-0. Astros fans, remember how you felt after game 5 of the 2017 ALCS? You probably had a similar feeling last night. The 5-0 defeat in 2017 was the 3rd in a row and pushed the Astros to the brink of elimination. The Houston Astros gave the ball to Justin Verlander in game 6 of the 2017 ALCS and he tossed a 7 inning shutout gem on the way to a 7-1 Houston victory. The Astros went on to win the ALCS and win the 2017 World Series. Well guess what?! The Astros will once again give the ball to ace Justin Verlander and hope for an outing similar to that of game 6 in 2017. There’s an old baseball addage, good pitching always beats good hitting. The Astros have the best 2 starting pitchers on the planet. The plan was always to win each of Verlander and Gerrit Cole’s starts in the ALCS. Each pitcher will have 2 starts as Verlander will pitch games 2 and 6 and Cole will pitch games 3 and 7. Four wins is all that is needed to win the ALCS and advance to the World Series. Houston fans, you can erase game 1 from your memory, the plan is still in place.
Game 2 Preview
It’s pretty evident that Aaron Boone will not be shy about pulling his starting pitchers early and using his phenomenal bullpen in this series. The New York Yankee bullpen is full of studs and if they are able to hand over a lead to that bullpen, the opponent is usually sunk. I don’t think Boone will ask for much more than 5 innings from game 2 starter James Paxton tonight, therefore it is absolutely imperative for the Houston offense to score runs early. They have to get on base to put some pressure on Paxton and turn the lineup over multiple times. Last night Tanaka faced the minimum number of Astros through 6 innings, meaning not more than 3 Houston players batted in any of the first 6 innings. That cannot happen tonight, Houston needs to score at least a couple of runs in the first 4 innings. The good news is that many Houston batters are very familiar with game 2 Yankee starter Paxton, because he pitched in the AL West for Seattle for 6 years. The 9 hitters in Houston’s probable game 2 lineup have a combined .269 career batting average versus Paxton. Even better news for Houston fans; struggling shortstop Carlos Correa is a career .409 hitter against Paxton. If nothing else, the Houston batters are familiar with Paxton and have had moderate success.
Justin Verlander’s last start was one to forget as he started a game on 3 days rest for the first time in his stellar career, and gave up 4 earned runs over 3 and 2/3 innings. Verlander is still one of the best pitchers in major league baseball and I expect him to rebound in a big way in game 2 at home. If the Astros’ lineup can breakthrough on Paxton and spot Verlander a couple runs, I fully expect him to cruise to a 7 or 8 inning outing.
The Houston Astros lineup has not been made available yet but I expect them to run out the same lineup as last night. The only question is whether Josh Reddick or Kyle Tucker will start in right field. I am expecting Tucker to start over Reddick as Reddick is 0-7 in his career against Paxton, Tucker has never faced Paxton but he provided one of only 3 Houston hits last night. Here are the career numbers for the probable Houston lineup against Paxton:
George Springer: 8 for 33 (.242) 1 double, 3 HRs, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts
Michael Brantley: 4 for 12 (.333) no XBH, no walks, 2 strikeouts
Jose Altuve: 10 for 30 (.300) 1 double, 2 HRs, 5 walks, 6 strikeouts
Alex Bregman: 7 for 28 (.250) 1 double, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts