Recap: Yanks win three of four in ALCS rematch

New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino throws to a Houston Astros batter during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

Yankees take three out of four from defending champs

The Houston Astros and New York Yankees met up in a rematch of last year’s American League Championship Series in this early May showdown. The Astros squeaked out game one 2-1, the Yanks took the next 4-0 with all runs coming in the ninth inning and in game three, the Bronx bombers rode Ace Luis Severino to another 4-0 win. The final game was a comeback win in dramatic fashion by the visitors 6-5.

Fun Fact: The complete game shutout Wednesday was Luis Severino’s first of his young career.

New York Yankees 21-10– 2nd in the AL East

Houston Astros 20-13 – 1st in AL West

Key Takeaways

The Battle for Supremacy

With the Yankees and Astros matching up for the first time since last year’s ALCS, let’s examine which roster will have the upper-hand this year in a potential postseason matchup. There are three phases to every baseball game: pitching, hitting and fielding. There is no question that both of these lineups are elite. Not only are they elite, but they both possess momentous star power with the ability to flip any game on its head with one swing of the bat. Due to the depth in their lineup with Tyler Austin, Miguel Andujar, Aaron Hicks and Gleyber Torres, the Yankees currently possess the edge on offense. This depth was instrumental to the Yankees offense in game 4 of this series. In the early going, Miguel Andujar drove in Neil Walker with a sacrifice fly and Gleyber Torres later started the comeback in the ninth inning with a 2-RBI single to score Walker and Andujar. Torres finished with 3 RBI’s in this contest. This gives you a glimpse at the talent and depth at the bottom of the Yankees lineup.

On the mound, these two teams are top level pitching staffs. The Yankees have the slight edge in the bullpen with the firepower of Dellin Betances, Chad Greene, and Aroldis Chapman but, the Astros possess the better rotation. One through five, their pitchers do not have question marks while the Yankees have command issues to address in Sonny Gray and health issues with Jordan Montgomery. Due to the impact elite starting pitching has on the postseason, the better pitching staff resides in Houston.

The disparity between these two teams is on defense. The Yankees are among the league leaders in errors committed and with the team being so talented, it is a bit troubling to see them struggling with the fundamentals. Currently the Yankees rank 2nd in the Major Leagues in errors. In contrast, the Astros have made the least amount of errors in baseball. It is clear who currently has the better defense. The Yankees will improve as the season goes on as they have a good athletic defensive team on paper to go along with two missiles in the outfield in Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. The Astros have the slight edge overall which means the Yankees still need to make some acquisitions to improve their roster.

Strikeouts

In this four-game set, the Yankees struck out 45 times. It is no secret that the team is constructed with a lot of do-or-die strikeout hitters. It is an obvious flaw that can be easily exploited by the upper-echelon of teams. The defending champs exposed this lineup. What is needed here is a slight tweak in the approach of the lineup as a whole. Collectively they must focus on putting the ball in play on more consistent basis, Opposing defenses and pitchers must work harder for outs and when an elite pitcher gets into their groove, a batter must do anything they can to throw him off his game. The starters this series looked to be too comfortable and settled into the game quickly. The Yankees will need to be able to make the necessary adjustments to improve their performance against top-tier rotations.

 

Extraordinary Performances

Luis Severino

To scouts, fans, and all rational baseball minds, Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino has the complete look and makeup of an ace. He has the type of swagger, stuff and workhorse mentality that every club looks for in a bonafide number one starter. In game three of this four game series, the young right hander was utterly dominant. He slammed the door shut on a loaded Astros lineup going the distance, giving up five hits, walking one and striking out 10. A complete game was essential in giving the bullpen a rest after the starter only went 1 inning in the previous game. The Yanks have to be excited about this performance and taking 3 of 4 from last year’s World Series winners who look every bit as talented this year.

Gary Sanchez

The Santino, as he is known, crushed a 3-run homerun in the 9th inning off of Astros closer Ken Giles in game two of this series to guide the Yankees to a 4-0 victory. He continues to have success producing runs in the middle of this order and is vital to the team’s success. Sanchez is developing a reputation in this league for his ability to shine in the big moment and deliver clutch hits. He is adored by fans all over New York. In the young catcher’s future, it is easy to see this clutch gene working in a big postseason moment with a timely hit.

-Charlie Morton & Justin Verlander

The last time Charlie Morton faced the Yankees, his line was as follows, 5 innings, 0 earned runs, 2 hits, 1 walk and 5 strikeouts in a series clinching victory. This time out, the Yankee-killer went 7 and 2/3 innings, allowing 2 hits, 1 earned run, 2 walks, and struck out 10. It seems that Morton has the Yankees number currently and overall the right hander seems to be experiencing a renaissance in his pitching career. His arm is as lively as ever and the command of his breaking ball is on a level never quite seen before out of him. The 34-year old is 4-0 with a 1.72 ERA in 6 starts this year. This is no fluke, in 2017, Morton went 14-7 with a 3.67 ERA and enjoyed a nice October in route to a World Series title. He sat around 95-97 MPH with his fastball and even touched 99 at certain points. He showed off a sweeping curveball that induced 5 of the 14 swinging strikes in this start. The Yankees must figure out a way to get to Astros number 5 starter or they will end up on the wrong end of another postseason series with Houston.

Justin Verlander followed Morton’s tremendous outing with a gem of his own. The bulldog went 8 innings recording 14 strikeouts while only allowing 3 hits. The righty continues to thrive despite aging and logging more innings. He looks every bit as good as advertised as the ace of this elite staff. If the stars of this rotation keep throwing like they do, the rest of the league may be seeing a repeat champion. Ken Giles would spoil his outing giving up the lead to the Yankees in a 4-run 9th. This loss resulted in Giles punching himself in the face while walking off the field.

State of the Yankees following the series

Jordan Montgomery left his start in the 2nd inning in game two of this series with left forearm tightness. This is often an early indicator of a torn UCL which would require Tommy John Surgery to repair. An injury of this magnitude would be a devastating blow to the Yankees rotation as the youthful arm looked to be making huge strides in his development. But, good news is on the horizon as the Yankees youngster will only be out 6-8 weeks with a forearm strain. He avoided the worst and will hopefully be back pitching well for a Yankees pennant run. The team needs all the arms they can get, so avoiding a serious injury here was uplifting news for the club. The team cruises into the next series having won 12 of their last 13 games.