Yankees: Previewing Game 1 of the ALCS and the starting pitching matchup


Throughout the season it seemed inevitable that the Yankees and Astros would go head to head this October for a chance to represent the American League in the World Series. After both teams took care of business in the ALDS the dream matchup is here and it should be another instant classic.

The series will get underway Saturday night in Houston with Masahiro Tanaka taking the mound for the Yankees against Astros starter Zack Greinke. With Houston holding home-field advantage this is a huge game for New York who will look for at least a split before heading back to Yankee Stadium for Game 3 Tuesday night in the Bronx.

Aaron Boone is going with the playoff veteran Masahiro Tanaka for Game 1 and I couldn’t agree more with his decision. The right-hander is coming off of another outstanding postseason start in the ALDS against the Twins and will look to continue his October dominance.

Even though Tanaka was a much better pitcher at home than on the road during the regular season he’s the right man for the job. Nobody in the Yankee rotation executes better than Tanaka on the postseason stage because the moment is never too big for him. Back in 2017, Tanaka made two starts in the ALCS and went 1-1 with a 1.38 ERA in 13 IP. The loss came in Game 1 at Houston but he pitched more than good enough to get the win by going six innings of two-run ball, only allowing four hits.

Tanaka has had success against the Astros in postseason play but during the regular season, there’s a handful of guys in the Houston lineup who have hit him hard. Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, and Josh Reddick have all homered against him twice while Alex Bregman and Michael Brantley have each taken him deep once. Bregman is hitting .444, Altuve .300 and Correa .333.

The one guy he’s had a lot of success against is Yuli Gurriel who is only hitting .125 in eight at-bats. Clearly, Tanaka is going to have to be very careful navigating through this lineup but none of these numbers factor in what they did against him during the 2017 ALCS when they only batted a collective .149 against him.

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As for Zack Greinke, he pitched very well against the Yanks in two starts this year, but as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks. In two starts he combined to go 13.2 innings and allowed only three runs on seven hits. Those are very good numbers but Greinke says he didn’t learn much from facing the Yankees offense because in each start most of their lineup was hurt.

This is a huge start for Greinke who will look to bounce back after allowing six runs and three home runs over 3.2 IP against Tampa Bay in the ALDS. It was another poor outing for the veteran in October who’s now 3-5 with a career ERA of 4.58 in the postseason. The Yankees need to jump on him early and get into that Houston pen who they’ve had a lot of success against in the past.

Greinke’s spent the last seven season pitching in the NL so a lot of the Yankee hitters don’t have much history against him expect for DJ Lemahieu and Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankee leadoff man has 58 at-bats against him with a .293 BA, 1 HR, and 8 RBI. Stanton, on the other hand, hasn’t had much success going 3 for 18 with a home run.

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I can’t underestimate how important it is for the Yanks to win Game 1. The last thing they want is to head into Game 2 on Sunday down 1-0 with Yankee killer Justin Verlander on the mound for the Astros. We all remember the last time these two powerhouses faced off in 2017 the home teams won every game which obviously can’t happen this time around if the Yanks are going to advance to the Fall Classic.