Why Masahiro Tanaka is the most important Yankee in the ALCS

Why Masahiro Tanaka is the most important Yankee in the ALCS

Game one of the ALCS between the Yankees and Astros will be Friday at 6:08 p.m.in Houston, Texas. The Yankees' rotation was impressive against Cleveland after Sonny Gray's Game 1 flop.

Albert Almora followed with a run-scoring single off of reliever Sammy Solis that tied the game at 1-1. Certainly, there's some truth to that. The Astros struck out less than any other team in baseball (17.3 K%) and they really make opposing pitchers work. But the Game 1 result isn't necessarily what's important for Tanaka. But when you you look at the fact that the Yankees scored 5.9 runs per game on average against 6.1 for the Astros and you see that we're going to have to dig deeper than their season records.

Dallas Keuchel is exhausted of talking about his success against the New York Yankees. Rather than flying to Cleveland on Thursday ahead of Game 1 Friday, the Astros would host games 1 and 2 on Friday and Saturday before heading to NY for games 3, 4 and 5.

This all boils down to a very simple idea.

Former Yankees star Alex Rodriguez never struck out that much, even in his most terrible playoff stretches. His two-run, second-inning double off the Indians' Trevor Bauer in Game 4 extended the Yankees' lead to four runs and allowed them to sail to a victory. Still, it's a group that's been heavily taxed.

Beltran has been in 58 career playoff games for five different teams. That works out to almost 49 percent (82 of 168) of the outs that Yankees have recorded this postseason.

"The Yankees pitching isn't mediocre, but this team that they are facing now is even more powerful and potent than Cleveland". Now, if a four percent gap doesn't seem significant, consider some other things.

Dallas Keuchel, who will start Game 1 for Houston, has absolutely flummoxed current Yankee hitters, holding them to a.181/.214/.287 slash line.

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But when it mattered most, the players looked as flat as they did during the 4-0 loss to Costa Rica that cost Klinsmann his job. To the standing of the sport, to the development of the national team program, to the aspirations of the players.

"A couple of big home runs and a lock-down bullpen got them a few wins", Astros Manager A.J. Hinch said of the Yankees. The Francona logic was that in the five-game format, with built-in travel days after Games 2 and 4, both Bauer and Kluber would be on regular rest in any Game 5.

If Tanaka has a short outing on Friday night, then New York's bullpen will be out of the frying pan and right back into the fire.

The division series are over, and with them, the postseason field has been whittled down from 10 teams.

Major League Baseball couldn't have asked for two better matchups in the championship series of the 2017 playoffs. But if neither Chris Sale nor Craig Kimbrel could subdue Houston's high-powered offense, it's doubtful a three-day layoff will have much effect.

On April 25 at Progressive Field, Keuchel pitched a complete game in which he allowed only two runs on a pair of solo blasts. So, the regular season magic has not disappeared.

The Yankees are the only team that has no chance of getting home-field advantage in the Fall Classic, regardless of their opponent. NY led all of Major League Baseball in home runs (241), although this was only three ahead of of the Astros' mark.

But that path starts with Tanaka eating up some innings in Game 1.

The Yankees deadline moves are paying off, with closer Aroldis Chapman and erratic setup man Dellin Betances aided by power arms David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle and Chad Green.

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