It went down to the wire for the Houston Astros, but they made it. In the midst of losing their final game of the season, the Astros got word that the Angels had lost to the Rangers, thereby sending Houston on to the Wild Card game in the Bronx.
The Astros will have presumptive AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel on the hill. Keuchel came into his own this year, leading the league in wins, shutouts, ERA+, and innings pitched, making him exactly the horse you want taking the ball in a must-win game.
Keuchel’s been lights out in two starts – one home, one away – against the Yankees, pitching 16 innings of scoreless ball, with 21 strikeouts and only 1 walk, but overall he’s been rather human on the road, going 5-7 with a 3.77 ERA, and he’s pitching on short rest for the first time in his career. Given that the alternative is Scott Kazmir (0-2, 6.52 ERA in September), and the fact that a win gets Houston into the Divisional round, where they can retool their rotation, going with Keuchel makes sense.
The Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka takes the ball for the Bombers, pitching on 5 days rest. During his two seasons in the Bronx, the Yankees have tried their best to get Tanaka the extra day’s rest to which he was accustomed from his time in Japan.
Tanaka spent the second half of September nursing a cranky hamstring, taking off 11 days before making his last start of the season, during which he gave up 4 runs in just 5 innings of a 9-5 loss to the Red Sox.
Neither team is exactly flying high right now, with the Yankees losing 7 of their last 8, and the Astros only barely hanging on to the Wild Card after leading the AL West by as many as 7 games.
Houston has the better starter, the best position player in shortstop Carlos Correa, and are both younger and healthier. But a lot of people over the past 20 years have made themselves look mighty silly by counting out the Yankees. That said, the Yankees will need to field better than their fans if they want to have a chance.
Watch the Houston Astros at the New York Yankees at 8pm ET Tuesday on ESPN.