After receiving the chilling news of their starting pitcher C.C. Sabathia checking into rehab for alcohol, the Yankees must get refocused for their biggest game of the season. Masahiro Tanaka who sported a (12-7) record and a 3.51 era this season will square off against the Houston Astros ace Dallas Keuchel, a 20 game winner this year with a 2.48 era. Statistically the Astros have the advantage on the bump, but statistics don't win playoff games. Experience wins playoff games. And while Mashiro Tanaka himself is a postseason rookie, the Yankees are loaded with postseason experience on offense. Sure, they are old, over the hill, washed up, whatever you want to call them. But they are in the A.L. Wild Card game and are at home in Yankee Stadium against a team that stumbled into this game. I will take the Yankees everyday of the week and twice on Sunday facing a team that has never been in this situation. Sure, the Yankees may get bounced against a better team if they advance, but in this game, and in this moment, they are the favorites.
Houston's only chance is for their star pitcher Dallas Keuchel to be the ace he is. Keuchel had a break out year and although I think the Yankees will prevail, he cannot be taken lightly. Keuchel is not a flashy pitcher, he does not wow you with his stuff. But all he does is get guys out. He is very difficult to square up and if you take him for granted him will make you pay. My X-factor for the game is former Houston Astros playoff hero Carlos Beltran now of the Yankees, who seems to shine in these games. Although he will likely be hitting in his weaker hitting position of righty, he is still a force to be reckoned with and has been hot of late at the dish.
Masahiro Tanaka will have his hands full with a tough lineup from Houston. Rookie sensation Carlos Correia and all-star second baseman Jose Altuve are very dangerous hitters, but Tanaka's splitter is a great neutralizer for the young anxious bats of Houston. If Tanaka can establish his splitter early and often, it could prove to be a long day for the Houston offense. A six inning performance with one or two earned runs from Tanaka should do the trick, assuming the Yankees can scratch out a few runs. The Yankees back end of the bullpen with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances is absolutely lethal in a high stakes game and essentially shortens the game. Not to the same extent that former closer Mariano Rivera did, but the idea is there.
This is the first time since 2012 that the Yankees are taking part in the playoffs, and Yankee Stadium should have a raucous crowd. I look for the Yankees to beat the Houston Astros 3-1.