It took longer than expected, but the result that we were all anticipating arrived: the Yankees and the Astros are clashing for a third time in the ALCS. Both teams were pushed in their series, but while Houston eventually walked away with a sweep the Yankees endured a five-game challenge from Cleveland that got heavily impacted by the weather. Because of that, they’ll be trotting into Minute Maid Park with less than a night of downtime, having flown over directly after winning their series in New York.
That’s a lot of drama and buildup, but what matters is who will win, both tonight and in the series. Once the first pitch is thrown all excuses go out of the door — Houston has had the Yankees’ number for years and all of their hopes for a 28th World Series title rest on finally getting even with them. A win down south would be massive for ensuring that goal is accomplished, and an opening win would be even better.
Due to the shuffling around with rainouts, the Yankees are starting Jameson Taillon out of the gate after initially penning him in as the Game 5 starter before opting for Nestor Cortes. He faces an uphill battle against the presumptive AL Cy Young favorite, Justin Verlander, who is still throwing darts as he approaches 40 years and an eternity of mileage on his arm. Still, Verlander was extremely mortal against the Mariners in the Division Series, so the lineup has to prove that they can get to him as well.
With Aaron Hicks out for the year, the Yankees’ lineup reverts to something more similar to their opening games of the ALDS. Isiah Kiner-Falefa returns to shortstop over both Oswaldo Cabrera and the now-rostered Oswald Peraza. Boone and the team reportedly didn’t like the potential matchup of Cabrera with Verlander and don’t want to start Peraza yet for some reason. It’s hard to imagine that IKF fares much better.
Aaron Boone said Isiah Kiner-Falefa is in the lineup today because Justin Verlander is tough against lefties and a tough switch-hit matchup, which is why Oswaldo Cabrera is on the bench.— Chris Kirschner (@ChrisKirschner) October 19, 2022
Boone said he expects Cabrera will play LF tomorrow.
The shallow left field in Houston allows Boone to play Giancarlo Stanton out there, as the Astros do with Yordan Alvarez. That opens the door for Matt Carpenter to DH against Verlander for his first start since August 8th, when he suffered that fateful hit-by-pitch in Seattle. It’ll be Stanton’s first outfield appearance since prior to his IL stint, on July 21st — also in Houston.
I’m sure that there will be opinions about the Yankees’ shortstop situation, but let’s just hope they take Game 1 and render all discussions moot.