Chris Moore| BKD TV Insiders
The Yankees and Astros square off Tuesday night at 8 o’clock on ESPN in the American League Wildcard. The winner moves on the ALDS to face the Kansas City Royals, owners of the best record in the American League. Both clubs come in struggling down the stretch, having below .500 records in the month of September. For the Yankees, the $155 million dollar man, Masahiro Tanaka will get the ball on six days of rest. The Astros send Cy Young frontrunner Dallas Keuchel to the mound on just three days rest for the first time in his career. He has dominated the Yankees this season, but three days rest in his first postseason start could cause problems for Keuchel.
For the Yankees, another crushing blow was delivered yesterday when C.C. Sabathia checked himself into Alcoholic Rehabilitation yesterday. Of course, all of our thoughts and prayers are with C.C. hoping that he gets better because his issues are bigger than baseball. However, for the Yankees, C.C. had become a very valuable pitcher over the second half with an ERA of 2.83. That goes along with missing possibly their best player Mark Teixeira who has been gone for about a month due to a broken leg. The Yankees offense has been a massive struggle in the second half, Dellin Betances has struggled down the stretch. Masahiro Tanaka had one start after straining a hamstring and that start was subpar. Michael Pineda struggled mightily down the stretch. Everything in New York is on the decline just when you hope everything is heading in the other direction.
As for the Astros, the injuries are less the problem as the team is just not playing well. They struggle on the road and rely heavily on the home run ball. They will strikeout, which is not a great recipe for postseason success. However, in a one game playoff in a ballpark that gives up a ton of them, the Astros could be in good shape for the night. Keuchel’s September ERA stands at 3.78 which was the worst month he had this season based on ERA alone. On the other side of it, in Keuchel’s two starts against the Yankees, including the one at The Stadium, he is 2-0 with an ERA of 0.00 in 16 innings allowing nine hits with 21 strikeouts. The Astros are putting faith in their Cy Young candidate on three days rest. That could be the biggest factor this game. If Keuchel responds well to the rest and the atmosphere, it could be a long day for Yankee hitters. However, if Ellsbury and Gardner are able to get on in the first and create the havoc they are capable of, things can snowball in the playoffs and the Yankees could move on.
So who wins? Which Tanaka shows up is the biggest question in this game. Masahiro Tanaka is capable of such great things on any given night, but he is also very capable of leaving 90mph 2-seam fastball’s over the middle of the plate. However, everything you see when you look at Tanaka screams Big. Game. Pitcher. He’s calm all the time and seems like he has the personality to be at his best this time of year. The one pitcher in baseball that has beaten the Blue Jays lineup twice since the All-Star break? You guessed it; Masahiro Tanaka. The Astros have had a great season and will be a force to reckon with for years to come. This time, I expect Carlos Beltran and maybe, just maybe, Alex Rodriguez to come up with the big hits to send the Yankees to the ALDS.
Below are the pick for the AL Wildcard game from our BKD TV contributors.
Demarus Dye: Yankees
Byron K. Dixon: Astros