NY Sports Day
Matt Mankiewich

Karpin: Breaking Down An Epic Series

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It’s the series that we’ve all been waiting for.

It’s not only two great teams meeting in a best-of-seven series for the right to go to the World Series that is making this a “delicious” match-up, it’s the fact that there is a history between these two teams that was bookmarked two years ago. In 2017, the Astros beat the Yankees in a thrilling seven game series and went on to their first World Series championship.

Vegas has the Astros listed as the favorites and it would be a surprise if this series doesn’t go at least six games.

So how does it break down?

No secret to the Astros’ advantage in starting pitching, or the Yankees’ edge in the bullpen. Both teams can score so where will this series be decided.

HOMEFIELD ADVANTAGE:

Two years ago, the series totally played out for the home team. The Yankees won their three home games but could not dent the win column in the four games played in Houston.

They’re facing the same dilemma in that they will have to win a game in Houston in order to win the series, but will they need to win more than one game on the road. It’s no guarantee that the Yankees will sweep game 3, 4 and 5 as they did two years ago. It’s also not a guarantee that they will lose every game in Houston again.

I think the Yankees are better equipped to win away from Yankee Stadium, more so than they’ve been in the last two seasons.

Many pundits feel the Yankees need to win game one or they’ll have a tough time with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole lined up for games 2 and 3. It’s not the end of the series if they lost game one, but their chances would be enhanced if they can cop the opening game.

IT’S NO LONGER HOME RUN OR BUST FOR YANKS

You can make the argument that the Astros are a better team than the one that won the championship two years ago. They’ve balanced out their lineup with two key left handed hitters, Michael Brantley (free agent) and Yordan Alvarez, (promotion) while boasting of an MVP candidate in Alex Bregman. Not to mention, former MVP Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa hits lower in the order.

There is no argument to the point that the Yankees are a much better offensive team than they were two years ago. If you harken back to that 2017 series, the Yankees offense, or lack of it, was a huge factor in why they lost. Remember, they scored 3 runs in those four games at Minute Maid Park and were 2 for 16 (including 0 for 9 in games 6 and 7) with RISP in those four losses.

This Yankee team does something that teams in previous seasons have failed to do and that is sustain a rally. This lineup doesn’t rely on the home run, but rather, they utilize the home run. The Yankees have shown they can bring up six or seven or even ten batters in an inning to put a crooked number on the board. Cynics will say the Yankees put up those numbers against “bad teams” but they posted a 43-32 (.573 win pct.) record against teams who finished over .500.

Even against Houston’s big three starting rotation, the Yankees will get some chances and will need to cash in as much as possible.

The Yankee lineup has a little more length to it than Houston’s. That could play a role in this series. Houston’s pitchers will have to work a little harder against the Yankees than they did the Rays in the ALDS. On the other hand, the Yankees’ pitchers cannot afford to allow Houston’s 7, 8 and 9 hitters to set the table for the front end of their lineup which is deadly.

Carlos Correa hits seventh in Houston’s order, but he has not been healthy. Even at less than 100%, Correa can still “wreck a game” but the 8th and 9th place hitters are not as good as the Yankees hitters in the “8” and “9” hole, and that’s where they can have an edge.

GARY SEVEN

Correa hits seventh for Houston and Gary Sanchez is hitting seventh in the Yankee lineup.

Even though Sanchez was only 1 for 8 with no HRS or RBI’s in the ALDS, his swings were much better in the final game. No matter what the numbers say, Sanchez has the ability to provide the kind of hitting that can help carry a team in a short series.

THE BIG “E”

In Houston sports lore, Hall of Famer Elvin Hayes was known as “The Big E.” The Yankees have a “Big E” and his name is Edwin Encarnacion and he could play a role in helping the Yankees advance to their first World Series in ten years.

Encarnacion’s mere presence make this Yankee lineup that much more dangerous. He’s a veteran hitter that is going to give you a quality at-bat. His numbers may not show consistent success in post-season but you can throw those out. Encarnacion looked “locked in” against Minnesota and should not be fatigured since he missed some time during the regular season.

WHOSE PEN WILL BE MIGHTIER?

On paper, the Yankees have the advantage in the bullpen, but each team will be facing the best lineups that they’ve seen all season.

The Yankee bullpen got away with some mistakes against the Twins. Minnesota’s hitters either failed to capitalize on pitches that were hittable or they hit it hard and the Yankee defense bailed out their arms.

C.C. Sabathia’s experience and savvy could be useful in a bullpen role because the Yankees will have a need for a lefty to pitch to Brantley and/or Alvarez.

Houston is more than capable of doing some damage against this vaunted Yankee bullpen and vice-versa. Even with Houston’s superior rotation, execution from the bullpen will go a long way towards deciding who wins this series.

SYNOPSIS

If the Yankees can win one of the first two games, it would, at least, create the narrative that the Series could end in five if there was a sweep of some kind. A 1-1 split in the first two, and two of three in the Bronx would give the Yankees a 3-2 series lead, heading to Houston for game 6.

That was the scenario facing the Yankees two years ago and they couldn’t close the deal. If they’re in that situation again, I think they finish it off this time.

Yankees in six


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