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New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros: Series Preview

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The red-hot Yankees swing through Houston.

MLB: ALCS-New York Yankees at Houston Astros Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

On the way back to the east coast after a series out west, the Yankees will make a stop in Houston for a rematch of last year’s ALCS with the Yankees coming in hot on a nine-game win streak. The Astros have put up a similar record to the Yankees to start the year, but they come in having won only a comparatively paltry seven of their last ten.

Here’s how the pitching matchups shake out as the Yankees swing through Texas.

Game One: Sonny Gray vs. Charlie Morton

Gray has not been good this season, and there’s really no other way to put it. Until he figures something out, going into Houston to play the reigning champs is definitely worrying. However, it should be noted, he was good against them last time out. In game four on the ALCS last year, he allowed just two runs on one hit as the Yankees won the game to even the series. It’s a new year, so who knows if that means anything, but it’s something.

The Yankees’ performance against Charlie Morton in game seven last year was one of the more annoying things to happen in recent memory. He was good last year, but just two hits in five innings with the season on the line wasn’t great.

Flash forward to this year, and Morton has been really good so far this season. Last time out, he was removed after four innings having allowed four runs to the Angels. That was actually more runs that he had given up in the rest of the season combined to that point.

Game Two: Jordan Montgomery vs. Justin Verlander

Montgomery’s last start was nothing to marvel at, but like he’s been for most of this season, it also wasn’t terrible. Montgomery allowed two runs in the third inning, but that’s all he would allow for the day, keeping the Yankees in the game long enough for Gary Sanchez to win it for them. Last year, Montgomery allowed seven runs in 11.1 combined innings in two starts against the Astros.

This will actually be the first time the Yankees have faced Verlander in the regular season since 2016. He owned them a bit last year in the playoffs, but the Yankees were pretty good against him prior to that. Also:

Game Three: Luis Severino vs. Dallas Keuchel

Ah yes, Dallas Keuchel against the Yankees. The 2015 Cy Young winner has famously been really good against the Yankees. However in their most recent meeting, the Yankees knocked him out in the fifth inning after he allowed four runs on seven hits in the ALCS. It takes more than one game for that to be a meaningful trend, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Severino has been excellent again this season, and has allowed just four runs in his last 20 innings. However, if there’s any team that’s had his number a little bit, it’s the Astros. Including the playoffs, he lasted a combined 16.1 innings in four starts against Houston last season. The best of those was game two of the ALCS last year, where he allowed just one run in four innings before being taken out over a possible injury concern that didn’t amount to much.

Game Four: Masahiro Tanaka vs. Lance McCullers

McCullers famously pitched four shutout innings out of the bullpen to knock out the Yankees in game seven last year, and is off to a solid start this year. He has pretty decent numbers against the Yankees’ overall, but new Bomber Giancarlo Staton has good numbers against him. Those numbers may be in just three plate appearances, but it’s something.

Tanaka is another that doesn’t have a great history against Houston. However, he made two ALCS starts last year, and both were pretty good. It came in a losing effort, but Tanaka opened the series last season by allowing just two runs in six innings. He followed that up by shutting out the Astros over seven. Tanaka’s had some home run worries again this year, but he was good last time out and is hopefully trending in the right direction.