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New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros prediction, pick, odds: Who takes the ALCS?

But enough of that, let’s get down to business. Who are we taking to win the AL Pennant? We’re going with the Astros. And to be honest, it’s not really that tough of a decision.

New York may have the AL MVP in Aaron Judge and the third-highest payroll in baseball, but they’re not better than the Astros. Not only did Houston run away with the top seed in the AL in the second half, the Astros were 5-2 against the Yankees during the regular season.

The Yankees are certainly a much more dangerous team with a healthy Giancarlo Stanton, who showed us that with his first-inning, three-run home run on Tuesday, but the Astros’ lineup is still much more balanced, and simply more consistent. Judge and Shohei Ohtani might get all the attention, but don’t forget about Yordan Alvarez. Alvarez finished second only behind Judge in the AL in slugging percentage and OPS, and hit .306 with 37 home runs. But the Astros also have Kyle Tucker, who hit 30 home runs for the second straight season and finished fifth in the majors with 107 RBI, maybe the best leadoff hitter in the game in Jose Altuve, and Alex Bregman. Talk about depth and balance. The Astros have both. 

Yes, the Yankees led the majors in home runs and the AL in runs scored, but they go through plenty of offensive droughts too. We saw that firsthand in August when the Yankees finished the month 10-18, and don’t be surprised if the Yankees bats go cold at times in this series. New York struggles at times to put the ball in play, and really struggles to score runs if Judge isn’t getting many pitches to hit. That happened in the ALDS against Cleveland, and Houston won’t allow Judge to beat them. 

Houston also has the better starting staff and bullpen. Houston has AL Cy Young frontrunner Justin Verlander and Framber Valdez, who set an MLB record with 25 straight starts this season at the top of their rotation. Don’t expect Verlander to struggle in Wednesday’s series opener like he did in Game 1 of the ALDS vs. Seattle, and don’t be surprised if Valdez continues to give the Astros six innings, and allow less than three earned runs. As for the back end of the Houston rotation, well it’s solid too. Lance McCullers Jr. tossed six shutout innings in Game 3 of the ALDS and didn’t allow more than three runs in each of his eight starts during the regular season, and Jose Uriquidy, Luis Garcia and Cristian Javier each finished with an ERA under four in 25+ starts this season. 

As for the Yankees, they have a true ace in Gerrit Cole, and an All-Star in Nestor Cortes at the top of their rotation, but neither is going to pitch in Game 1. And that’s a problem, especially in a seven-game series because that also means neither will likely make their second start till Game 5. And hate to say it, that might be too late for the Yankees. 

Cole pitched last on Sunday, so the earliest he’ll pitch is in Game Two on Thursday, and Cortes started Game 5 on Tuesday against Cleveland, which means he probably won’t pitch again till Game 3 on Saturday. The Yankees already announced Jameson Taillon as their Game 1 starter on Wednesday against Houston, and with Cole and Cortes each already having made two starts this postseason, that means Luis Severino will likely have to start Game 4. Severino and Taillon are solid pitchers, but not exactly guys you want starting in the ALCS, especially if your season is on the line. New York got bailed out by two rainouts against Cleveland during the ALDS, and don’t expect Mother Nature to come through again for the Yankees in the ALCS. 

The bullpens are pretty even, but Houston’s has pitched better than New York’s so far this postseason. And maybe even more important, is more rested. The Astros’ bullpen allowed just one run over 20.1 innings in relief in the ALDS — yes, you read that right — due to Game 3 against Seattle going 18 innings, and eight different guys pitched in relief for Houston. Meanwhile, New York led the majors with 21 blown saves, and despite having pitched better in the ALDS vs. Cleveland, is still a weak spot for the Yankees. Especially if Aroldis Chapman is left off the ALCS roster, like he was for the ALDS. 

New York certainly has the better defensive team and faster team, but with Aaron Hicks out for the rest of postseason after injuring his left knee in Game 5 in a collision with shortstop Oswaldo Cabrera, the Yankees are now down one additional position player. Fortunately for New York, they have a ton of position player depth, but still, losing Hicks is far from insignificant. The Yankees stole 102 bases compared to Houston’s 83, but that hardly matters. If the Astros continue to pitch and hit like they have, they’ll be fine.


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