By Mike Moosbrugger
Tonight the Houston Astros return to the playoffs after a 10 year absence vs. the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. The Astros are coming in beaming with confidence and a real youthful exuberance. The Yankees on the other hand seem to look more like the cranky old grandpa that is being annoyed by the grand kids. The Astros have a payroll that ranks 29 out of 30 teams in major league baseball at $72 million. The Yankees payroll is ranked 2nd behind the Dodgers at $217 million. I think we can all agree that it is not about payroll this time of year but it is about performance. Here are few stats that caught my eye with regards to how both teams have played over the last 30 days.
The Astros have several players hitting very well over the last month. Jose Altuve and George Springer are over .300. Carlos Correa the rookie sensation is hitting .279 with 6 HR’s and 22 RBI’s. Carlos Gomez appears healthy again after missing more time in September due to injury. He still managed to hit .325 for the month of September with 2 HR’s. 1B Chris Carter struggles every year to bat over .200 but over the last 30 days he is hitting .341 with 6 HR’s and 12 RBI’s. Other players such as Colby Rasmus, Marwin Gonzalez, Evan Gattis and Luis Valbuena are all hitting very well with power over the last 30 days. Everywhere I look in this Houston lineup I see guys hitting. To make matters worse for the Yankees many of these same players hit tonight’s starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka very hard this year in an earlier matchup. You couple those facts with the potential 2015 AL Cy Young award winner in Dallas Keuchel pitching tonight vs the Yankees and the outlook is bleak to say the least.
The Yankees oddly enough will be going into the playoffs without their best starting pitcher over the last 30 days. Believe it or not CC Sabathia led the starters with a 2.17 ERA over the last month. Sabathia checked into an alcohol rehab center yesterday and is done for the year. Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda have been very bad recently. Tanaka has been good when he pitched. He has only pitched once in the last 18 days due to a hamstring injury. Nathan Eovaldi is out with an injury. Here are the batting stats over the last 30 days that are most troublesome for the Yankee. Chase Headly and Brian McCann are both hitting .173. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are both barely over .200. Alex Rodriguez is hitting .229 but at least he added 6 HR’s and 11 RBI’s. Carlos Beltran has 5 HR’s and 17 RBI’s and Greg Bird has 7 HR’s and 17 RBI’s and they provide the only bright spot for offense going into tonight’s game.
If this was a 5 or 7 game series I would pick Houston to win it hands down. Anything can happen in a one game playoff but I still like the Astros chances. They are a better team with a stronger bench. The Yankees would need a vintage Tanaka performance tonight to have a chance because waiting for the 3 run homer may not be the best strategy to win one game.