The Yankees knocked off the Guardians by a 5-1 margin this evening, taking two elimination games to advance past Cleveland. New York is back in the AL Championship Series for the first time since 2019.
Awaiting them tomorrow: an Astros juggernaut that has had one of the better runs of playoff success in recent history. Houston has gotten to the ALCS in six straight seasons. The first of those seasons was their now-infamous run to a World Series that was later revealed to be aided by a sign-stealing operation. Houston has barely missed a beat in the half-decade since then, though, playing for the pennant every year. The Astros claimed the pennant in both 2019 and 2021 (eliminating the Yankees during the former season), and while they’ve not managed to win a World Series since 2017, they’ve joined the 1990’s Braves as the only teams to reach six consecutive Championship Series.
Houston has home field advantage after a 106-win regular season, claiming the AL’s top seed in the second half after an historically great first few months by the Yankees. The ‘Stros swept their division-rival Mariners last week, earning three off days in the process. Their pitching staff should essentially be lined up as desired, and they’ll turn to presumptive Cy Young favorite Justin Verlander tomorrow evening. The Yankees will answer with Jameson Taillon for Game One after using top two starters Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes on Sunday and today, respectively, to survive the Guardians.
The Yankees, anchored by an all-time great season from Aaron Judge, led all American League teams with 807 runs scored. Houston finished third in that category, plating 737 runs. New York finished second in the Junior Circuit behind the Blue Jays in on-base percentage at .325, while the Astros placed fourth at .319. The Yankees finished second in slugging (again behind Toronto) at .426, while Houston was just behind at .424.
While New York had a slight advantage offensively, the Astros were clearly the best pitching team in the American League. They led the league with a 2.95 rotation ERA, a half-run better than the second-place Rays. New York came in third at 3.51. Astros and Yankees starters each fanned 24.8% of opponents (with the Astros leading the league by a fraction of a percentage point). Houston’s bullpen was also number one in strikeout percentage at 28.3%, while the Yankees checked in sixth at 24.2%. Houston (2.80) and New York (2.97) finished first and second, respectively, in bullpen ERA.
It’s a battle of the two teams that have looked to be the best in the American League, in some order, from start to finish. Yesterday, MLBTR readers weighed in on an NLCS that took the exact opposite form. In a battle of the Senior Circuit’s fifth and sixth seeds, the readership gave a 56-44 edge to the Padres over the Phillies. We’ll now put forth the same question for the American League. Which team is headed to the World Series: Astros or Yankees?
(poll link for app users)