6:30 PM EST, ESPN – Money Line: Yankees -167, Run Line: 8u21
A midweek clash of contenders takes centerstage in the Bronx as the New York Yankees host the reigning World Series Champion Houston Astros in a 4-Game Series from Yankee Stadium which just happens to be a repeat of last year’s American League Championship Series. When these teams met in last October, it was a thrilling epic in which the Astros (35-20, 1st in AL West) rallied back from a 3-2 hole to power past the Yankees in the final two contests, outscoring them 11-1 over that span in route to the Franchise’s second trip to the World Series. Given the ridiculous amount of youthful talent on both rosters, last Fall’s classic certainly appeared to have the makings of a longstanding rivalry, which of course brings us to the present. After hoisting the World Series Trophy, AJ Hinch’s charges have picked up right where they left off, pacing the competitive American League by One Game on the strength of winning Fourteen of their last Nineteen games. After dropping three out four meetings in Southern Texas early in the term, Houston got off to a inspiring start with Sunday’s 5-1 victory in the Bronx. The Visitors jumped out to an early lead, scoring Three Runs in the Second Inning, which turned out to be all that Justin Verlander (7-2, 1.11 ERA, 98 K, 0.713 WHIP) needed, allowing One Run on Five Hits over 6.2 Frames, with Home Runs coming courtesy of Jose Altuve (.329 BA, 15 2B, 4 HR, 29 RBI, ) and J.D. Davis (.226 BA, 1 HR, 4 RBI), a Solo from the former and a 3-Run Shot from the later. Two Months into their World Series Title Defense, the Astros continue to be one of the more persistent offensive forces in the Majors, ranking Third in the American League in Batting Average (.258), Runs (275), and Doubles (108), and Second in Hits (484). Oh, but they can pitch too. Heading to the mound tonight for Houston is Dallas Kuechel (3-6, 3.39 ERA, 53 K, 1.17 WHIP), who despite his team’s recent surge, has found it difficult to replicate the scorching start of last season. In 2017, the former Cy Young-winner won each of his first Nine Starts of the campaign, on his way to a 14-6 Record, only to log a W in just Three of his first Eleven Starts this year. When we last saw the bearded Ace, he failed to factor into what was eventually a comfortable 11-2 blowout of the Cleveland Indians last Friday, permitting a pair of Runs on Eight Hits over the course of Six Innings, racking up Five Strikeouts in comparison to a lone Walk. While that kind of performance would typically put any Pitcher in line for a Win, Kuechel was unfortunate to find himself in a showdown with the Indians’ Corey Kluber, with his teammates managing to score all Eleven of their Runs after the Cy Young-winner departed from the affair. The Lefthander will be making his second appearance against the Yankees this season, and will no doubt prefer to put together a better performance given how he was roughed up in a 4-0 defeat back in early May; New York tagged him for Three Runs (Two Home Runs) on Six Hits through Seven Innings of labor. Over the course of his career, the 30-Year Old has gone 4-3 against them in Seven Starts sporting a miniscule 1.74 ERA, while totaling Fifty Strikeouts opposed to just Six Walks. He split his two Starts in last Fall’s ALCS, striking out Eighteen Batters and walking only Four.
Meanwhile, the Yankees (33-17, 2nd in AL East) have been traveling in a different direction of late, dropping Four out of their last Six Games, including Sunday’s 5-1 Loss to open this rematch of last Fall’s American League Championship Series. Once again locked in a tightly-contested race for the AL East with their eternal rivals the Boston Red Sox, New York has fallen behind by a pair of games in the Standings, as the Franchise continues to navigate through the uncharted waters of Aaron Boone’s first year as Manager. Two months in, and it’s been a bit of a mixed bag for Boone and his charges, who after getting off to a disappointing 9-9 start to the campaign, evolved into something akin to a monster, tearing off all but one of their following Eighteen Games. As we all expected, the genesis of their success has come at the Plate, where the Bronx Bombers have done precisely what their nickname would imply; thus far, they rank first in the American League in a slew of offensive categories including Home Runs (84), Runs (288), Walks (211), On-Base Percentage (.338), and Slugging Percentage (.464). Then again, we’d have expected nothing less after they added the considerable presence of Giancarlo Stanton (.246 BA, 11 HR, 28 RBI) to an already imposing Lineup consisting of the likes of Aaron Judge (.283 BA, 14 HR, 39 RBI), Gary Sanchez (.215 BA, 12 HR, 33 RBI), and Didi Gregorius (.236 BA, 11 HR, 34 RBI). The move to acquire Stanton, the reigning National League MVP, from the flailing debt-ridden Miami Marlins was nothing short of a coup for the Yankees, particularly with the towering Slugger coming off a campaign in which he led the league in both Home Runs (59) and RBI (132). While he continues to get more comfortable in the American League, the prospect of facing both he and Judge, the reigning AL Rookie of the Year who finished as the Runner-Up for the AL MVP BTW, for years to come must be nightmarish for opposing Pitchers and Managers. Despite struggling against the aforementioned Verlander in the Series Opener on Sunday, New York handled the Bat well in their three previous victories, scoring a total of Eighteen Runs. However, the Astros can rake as well, which makes it a good darn thing that tonight’s Starter, Luis Severino (7-1, 2.28 ERA, 81 K, 1.00 WHIP), has been in fine form in the early stages of the term. The 24-Year Old Dominican Republic International hasn’t lost since April 10th, brining an 8-Game unbeaten streak into tonight’s affair, with a spectacular Complete Game Shutout of the reigning Champs already on his resume’ this season. When these sides met back on May 2nd, the Righthander was absolutely dealing, striking out Ten Astros while relinquishing Five Hits and One Walk over the duration of Nine Innings. When last we saw the American League Leader in Wins, Severino wasn’t nearly as sharp, balancing Five Strikeouts with Four Walks despite only being charged One Run in the Yankees 2-1 victory over the Angels last Friday Night.