One game. One game more than a lot of prognosticators expected in spring training. In fact, many thought the New York Yankees would finish with their first losing record since 1992. Yes they once held a seven-game lead in the American League East. No they didn’t make any significant moves at the trade deadline to help themselves. Sure they stumbled to the finish. Alas they are here, guaranteed one game with their ace on the mound at Yankee Stadium.
For fans of a certain age, this marks the first postseason sans at least one of the “Core Four.” On the active playoff roster there are players with playoff pedigrees. Two Yankees, Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez were part of the World Series winning club in 2009.
They face a young and hungry Houston Astros team. While the Astros’ second half virtually mirrored the Yankees, they’ll have their ace and play with house money.
So which club has the upper hand in this Wild Card playoff scenario?
Catcher: Edge, Yankees.
If John Ryan Murphy starts, he has a .400 average against Dallas Keuchel. Can you say unsung hero? Although it does seem strange to bench a guy like Brian McCann with his 26 home runs. Jason Castro isn’t as consistent as he was a couple of years ago but he has the propensity to run into one.
Chris Carter and Luis Valbuena have both hit Masahiro Tanaka. Carter is 1.000 with a homer and two-RBI, while Valbuena is batting .333. Don Mattingly must be envious of Greg Bird, baptism by fire for the rookie, who hasn’t been phased by anything yet.
Jose Altuve is fun to watch, leading the junior circuit with 200 hits and 38 stolen bases. Altuve is a .333 hitter against Tanaka, with one home run. One has to believe Rob Refsnyder gets the first hack at Keuchel.
When’s the last time you saw that position favor another team in October? Carlos Correa has flashed all the tools since being called up and is batting .667 against Tanaka with one round tripper. Didi Gregorius will have to take charge of a shaky infield under the bright lights of the Bronx in October.
George Springer plays with a lot of energy, he has power, speed, superb defense and is batting 1.000 against Tanaka in his lone at-bat. Having said that, Carlos Beltran is Senior Octubre and owns a .444 average against Keuchel, with one home run. Beltran is clutch, in the same mold of a Bernie Williams or Hideki Matsui and clutch is everything in October.
Assuming they don’t start, McCann, Gardner and Dustin Ackley give the Yankees some pop off the bench. Although if they don’t start, Carter, Marwin Gonzalez and Preston Tucker give the Astros some nice options.
Manager: Edge, Yankees.
Sure there’s been some head scratching down the stretch but Joe Girardi has been here before and has won a World Series so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
Prediction: Yankees win, 4-2.
Both Keuchel and Tanaka are locked in. Tanaka slips, yielding a long ball. Keuchel on short rest can’t go deep. Hence, the Yanks bats wake up late and break some hearts with enough clutch hits to hand the ball to Andrew Miller.