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A capsule look at the Yankees-Astros playoff series
By The Associated Press
A look at the best-of-seven American League Championship Series between the New York Yankees and Houston Astros:
Schedule: (All times EDT) Game 1, Friday, at Houston, 8:08 p.m. (FS1); Game 2, Saturday, at Houston, 4:08 p.m. (Fox); Game 3, Monday, Oct. 16, at New York, 8:08 p.m. (FS1); Game 4, Tuesday, Oct. 17, at New York, TBA (Fox or FS1); x-Game 5, Wednesday, Oct. 18, at New York, TBA (Fox or FS1); x-Game 6, Friday, Oct. 20, at Houston, TBA (Fox or FS1); x-Game 7, Saturday, Oct. 21, at Houston, TBA (Fox or FS1).
Season Series: Astros won 5-2.
Yankees: LF Brett Gardner (.264, 21 HRs, 63 RBIs, 96 runs, 23 SBs), RF Aaron Judge (.284, AL-leading 52, 114), SS Didi Gregorius (.287, 25, 87), C Gary Sanchez (.278, 33, 90 in 122 games), 1B Greg Bird (.190, 9, 28 in 48 games), 2B Starlin Castro (.300, 16, 63 in 112 games), CF Aaron Hicks (.266, 15, 52 in 88 games), DH Chase Headley (.273, 12, 61) or Jacoby Ellsbury (.264, 7, 39, 22 SBs in 112 games) or Matt Holliday (.231, 19, 64 in 105 games), 3B Todd Frazier (.213, 27, 76 with White Sox and Yankees).
Astros: CF George Springer (.283, 34, 85), RF Josh Reddick (.314, 13, 82, 34 doubles), 2B Jose Altuve (.346, 24, 81, 39 doubles, 32 SBs; 204 hits to lead AL for 4th straight year, won 2nd consecutive batting title and 3rd overall), SS Carlos Correa (.315, 24, 84, 25 doubles), LF Marwin Gonzalez (.303, 23, 90, 34 doubles), 3B Alex Bregman (.284, 19, 71, 39 doubles), DH Evan Gattis (.263, 12, 55) or Carlos Beltran (.231, 14, 51), 1B Yuli Gurriel (.299, 18, 75, 43 doubles), C Brian McCann (.241, 18, 62).
Astros: LH Dallas Keuchel (14-5, 2.90), RH Justin Verlander (15-8, 3.36 for Detroit and Houston; 5-0, 1.06 in 5 starts with Astros), RH Brad Peacock (13-2, 3.00, career-high wins), RH Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62).
Yankees: LH Aroldis Chapman (4-3, 3.22, 22/27 saves in 52 games, 69 Ks in 50 1/3 IP), RH David Robertson (9-2, 1.48, 14/16 saves in 61 games with Yankees and White Sox), RH Tommy Kahnle (2-4, 2.59, 96 Ks in 62 2/3 IP with Yankees and White Sox), RH Chad Green (5-0, 1.83, 103 Ks in 69 IP), RH Dellin Betances (3-6, 2.87, 10/13 saves in 66 games, 100 Ks in 50 2/3 IP), RH Adam Warren (3-2, 2.35 in 44 games), LH Jaime Garcia (5-10, 4.41 in 27 starts for Braves, Twins and Yankees), LH Chasen Shreve (4-1, 3.77 in 44 games) or LH Jordan Montgomery (9-7, 3.88 in 29 starts).
Astros: RH Ken Giles (1-3, 2.30, 34/38 saves), RH Chris Devenski (8-5, 2.68), RH Joe Musgrove (7-8, 4.77), RH Will Harris (3-2, 2.98), LH Francisco Liriano (6-7, 5.66 with Blue Jays and Astros), RH Luke Gregerson (2-3, 4.57), RH Lance McCullers (7-4, 4.25 in 22 starts).
This is the second postseason meeting between the teams. Houston won the 2015 AL wild-card game at Yankee Stadium when Keuchel beat Tanaka 3-0. ... Series features two highest-scoring teams in the majors and some of the brightest young stars in baseball, including Sanchez, Severino, Correa and Springer. It also matches two front-runners for AL MVP in Judge and Altuve, diametrically built and off to opposite starts in these playoffs. The 6-foot-7 Judge homered in his postseason debut during the wild-card win over Minnesota but went 1 for 20 with a record 16 strikeouts as the Yankees came back to beat Cleveland in the Division Series. The 5-foot-6 Altuve hit three home runs in the ALDS opener against Boston, two off ace Chris Sale, and batted .533 (8 for 15) with five runs scored and a 1.765 OPS in the series. ... Correa feasted on Yankees pitching this year, batting .500 (14 for 28) with two doubles, two homers and 10 RBIs. Gurriel also did fine, hitting .409 (9 for 22) with two doubles, two homers and 7 RBIs. ... Gardner hit a grand slam and had six RBIs in one of New York's wins over Houston. ... Both organizations stockpiled and developed talented prospects in recent seasons and appear poised to contend in October for years to come. ... Yankees scored 858 runs during the regular season, an increase of 178 from last year and second in the majors behind Houston (896). The Astros outscored New York 43-41 in their seven matchups, with Houston hitting 11 home runs and the Yankees seven. ... As a free agent, McCann signed an $85 million, five-year contract with the Yankees before the 2014 season that included a club option for 2019. He spent three seasons in New York, hitting at least 20 home runs during each one but batting well below his career average. After the rocket-armed Sanchez was called up in early August 2016 and quickly emerged as a prodigious power hitter behind the plate, the Yankees traded McCann and $11 million to Houston in the offseason for two minor leaguers. ... Verlander is 9-5 with a 3.36 ERA in his postseason career. He is 6-7 with a 3.87 ERA in 18 regular-season starts against the Yankees.
Yankees: One year into a youth movement, the Baby Bombers blossomed fast under 10th-year manager Joe Girardi and returned New York to the postseason perhaps ahead of schedule. Not often are the Yankees a surprise winner, but this group already has exceeded early expectations. Led by Judge, Sanchez, Severino and a cast of productive veterans, New York (91-71) improved by seven wins over last season and finished with its best record since 2012. ... Severino got only one out in the wild-card game against Minnesota and left trailing 3-0. But the bullpen saved the Yankees, with four relievers combining for a record 13 strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings. Gregorius tied it with a three-run homer in the bottom of the first. Judge and Gardner also went deep as New York rallied for an 8-4 victory, its first postseason win since 2012. ... New York fell behind 0-2 against favored Cleveland in the Division Series but roared back with three straight wins to dethrone the defending AL champs. Girardi received sharp criticism for a couple of pivotal decisions that went wrong as his team blew a five-run lead during a 13-inning loss in Game 2. He was booed at home before Game 3, but the Yankees rallied around their manager and stunned Cleveland despite getting little offensive production from Judge and Sanchez (.174, 2 HRs, 10 Ks). Bird homered off Andrew Miller to help Tanaka win 1-0 in Game 3, and Judge hit an early two-run double while Severino rebounded in Game 4. Gregorius went deep twice against Indians ace Corey Kluber as New York won a decisive Game 5 on the road, improving to 4-0 in elimination games this postseason. ... Once the Yankees jumped out to a strong start and showed they were legitimate contenders, general manager Brian Cashman got aggressive and dipped into a deep farm system for July trades that netted Gray, Robertson, Kahnle and Frazier. ... The imposing bullpen is loaded with power arms that can shorten a game, and the bench is a real strength if needed. The fireballing Chapman has put together a long scoreless streak and been lights-out closing games lately. ... New York was unable to catch rival Boston for the AL East crown, but the team played some of its best baseball down the stretch and went 20-8 in September to secure the franchise's 53rd postseason appearance. Dodgers are second with 31. ... New York led the majors with 241 homers. Judge and Sanchez combined for 85, most by a pair of teammates 25 or younger and one more than Milwaukee's Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun in 2007. ... Judge hit .329 with 30 home runs and 75 RBIs before winning the All-Star Home Run Derby, then slumped to a .179 batting average with seven homers, 16 RBIs and 67 strikeouts in 151 at-bats through Aug. 31. He hit .311 with 15 homers and 32 RBIs in September, putting himself right back in the MVP conversation.
Astros: Making 11th playoff appearance and second since leaving National League to join AL, Astros are looking for first World Series title. ... Won the AL West for first division crown since winning NL Central in 2001. Astros (101-61) took the division lead early and never trailed, topping second-place Angels by 21 games. Struggled in August with 10-17 record before getting back on track in September by going 20-8. ... Houston's 101 wins were second-best in franchise history and most since team won 102 games in 1998. Won 100 games just three years after losing 100 for third straight season. ... Astros jumped out to 2-0 lead against Boston in best-of-five ALDS behind 8-2 wins from Verlander and Keuchel. They finished off Red Sox with 5-4 victory in Game 4 at Fenway Park. Verlander beat Sale when both started Game 1 and again when both aces entered Game 4 in relief. Correa had two homers and six RBIs in the series. Bregman also went deep twice. Gattis was 4 for 10 with two doubles, and Gurriel batted .529 (9 for 17). Springer hit .412 and Reddick batted .375. McCann was 2 for 16 (.125). ... Astros struck out the fewest times in the majors and like to hit fastballs. ... Houston manager A.J. Hinch is in postseason for second time after leading Astros to 2015 playoffs in first year with team. They lost to Kansas City in ALDS that season in first playoff appearance since reaching 2005 World Series. ... Houston has a pair of aces after picking up Verlander on Aug. 31 to go with Keuchel. Verlander, the 2011 AL MVP, has been at his dominating best since the trade. ... Front office didn't make any major moves at July 31 trade deadline but came through on eve of Aug. 31 deadline for players to be available for postseason when general manager Jeff Luhnow nabbed Verlander from Tigers. Also, team picked up Cameron Maybin off waivers to add depth in outfield and he is making playoff debut in 11th major league season. Adds another threat to run after finishing second in AL with 33 stolen bases for Angels and Astros.
- Kryptonite. Keuchel has had the Yankees' number throughout his career. The left-hander is 4-2 with a 1.41 ERA in six career regular-season starts against them. He's never given up a home run to New York, while striking out 45 and walking six in 44 2/3 innings. His wild-card win at Yankee Stadium two years ago is part of a 3-0 postseason mark overall with a 2.29 ERA.
- Setup Scenario. A four-time All-Star, Betances struggled with his mechanics and control down the stretch, leading Girardi to have a quick hook in the late innings. The 6-foot-8 righty walked seven over his final 9 2/3 innings in the regular season and finished with 44 walks, up from 28 last year. He threw well at times against Cleveland but was very wild in his final outing of the series. When he comes in these days, the Yankees just have no idea what they're going to get.
- October Newcomer. Gurriel's nine hits this postseason lead the majors. The 33-year-old rookie joined the Astros last season after a 15-year career in Cuba and Japan.
- Extra Bases. Sanchez had 16 passed balls this season, tied for the big league lead with Yasmani Grandal of the Dodgers. New York threw 53 wild pitches when Sanchez was behind the plate, second-most among major league catchers behind Jonathan Lucroy (58 with Texas and Colorado). Sanchez did some good work blocking balls against the Indians, though.
- Beltran's Back. The 40-year-old switch-hitter batted a career-low .231 in his return to the Astros this season. But fans still remember his outstanding 2004 playoff performance for Houston, and he went 2 for 5 in this year's ALDS vs. Boston with an RBI double that helped seal the clinching victory in Game 4. A nine-time All-Star, Beltran has been an October star for several teams throughout an illustrious career that's lasted two decades, hitting .325 with 16 homers in 200 postseason at-bats. He was traded by the Yankees to Texas last season.
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball
Updated October 12, 2017