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Yankees/Astros

New York is back in the ALCS for the first time since 2012 and Houston has advanced to the semi-finals for the first time since a World Series run in 2005. Game 1 features the same pitching matchup from the 2015 Wild Card game at Yankee Stadium, which the Astros won 3-0. Of course, an awful lot has changed since then for both teams—Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez hadn’t even reached the majors yet, Alex Rodriguez led New York in home runs, and Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran were Yankees.

Keuchel has owned the Yankees throughout his career, posting a 1.24 ERA and 52/7 K/BB ratio in 50 2/3 career innings. That includes six shutout innings in the 2015 Wild Card game and six shutout innings in his lone start versus New York this season, back on May 11. By (somewhat controversially) using Justin Verlander as a reliever in Game 4 of the ALDS the Astros forced themselves into sticking Keuchel atop the ALCS rotation, but based on his track record that may have been the plan all along.

New York started Luis Severino in this year’s Wild Card game and Sonny Gray in Game 1 of the ALDS, but now Tanaka gets his turn to headline the rotation. Tanaka was brilliant in Game 3 of the ALDS, shutting out the Indians for seven innings, and racked up 15 strikeouts in his final regular-season start. However, given that he allowed 35 homers in 30 starts overall this year, Houston’s power-packed lineup is a particularly daunting matchup for the fly-ball pitcher. Tanaka gave up homers to Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez in losing the 2015 Wild Card game, and he got rocked for eight runs (on four homers) in his lone start against the Astros this season, on May 14.

New York Yankees (Masahiro Tanaka) at Houston Astros (Dallas Keuchel), 8:08 PM ET

PECOTA odds of winning: 58% Astros, 42% Yankees

Projected Starting Lineups

Yankees vs. Keuchel (L)

Astros vs. Tanaka (R)

Brett Gardner (L), LF

George Springer (R), CF

Aaron Judge (R), RF

Josh Reddick (L), RF

Gary Sanchez (R), C

Jose Altuve (R), 2B

Matt Holliday (R), DH

Carlos Correa (R), SS

Didi Gregorius (L), SS

Marwin Gonzalez (S), LF

Starlin Castro (R), 2B

Alex Bregman (R), 3B

Greg Bird (L), 1B

Carlos Beltran (S), DH

Aaron Hicks (S), CF

Yulieski Gurriel (R), 1B

Todd Frazier (R), 3B

Brian McCann (L), C

Injuries/Availability

Matt Holliday didn’t play in the ALDS, as the Yankees faced only right-handed starting pitchers against the Indians. Now with Keuchel starting at least twice in this series, Holliday is very much an option again. He’s made a career out of knocking around left-handed pitching, and even while struggling overall this season Holliday hit .267/.366/.477 off lefties. Rust and health (and age) are factors, but Holliday figures to get a chance after Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley combined to go 0-for-16 as the Yankees’ designated hitters in the ALDS.

Houston is fully rested following a three-day break, and Thursday’s off day gave New York a chance to reset the bullpen at least somewhat after leaning heavily on David Robertson (29 pitches) and Aroldis Chapman (32 pitches) in Game 5 of the ALDS. Look for Joe Girardi to once again have his starter on a very short leash, although with just two off days in the seven-game series it’s possible he’ll try to pace his bullpen usage somewhat early on.

Outlook

At home, with Keuchel on the mound and a lineup ready to tee off on a fly-ball pitcher, this feels like the biggest advantage the Astros will have in any game this series, and it's a series they're favored to win. PECOTA agrees, seeing Houston as 58 percent favorites to take a 1-0 lead.

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