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The Houston Astros held serve at home by winning the first two games of the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees, but the playoff will now shift to New York in front of a crowd that has been raucous throughout the entire postseason.
Game 3 should be an interesting matchup, and it will take place Monday at 8 p.m. ET, with FS1 televising the contest.
Here’s a look at a couple predictions, including a winner and score pick.
Starlin Castro and Todd Frazier Smack Key Hits off Charlie Morton
Houston Astros starting pitcher Charlie Morton enjoyed one of his best seasons on the professional level this year, winning 14 games, earning a 3.62 ERA and striking out 163 batters in 146.2 innings.
However, he hasn’t found much success against the Yankees. In particular, two Bronx Bombers’ stat lines against the 33-year-old stand out.
Second baseman Starlin Castro has hit .400 in 30 lifetime at-bats against Morton, smacking three home runs as well. Third baseman Todd Frazier has an astronomical 1.365 OPS against Morton in 18 at-bats, registering two dingers, a triple and two doubles.
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Morton is a reverse-splits pitcher who has done better against lefties (.561 OPS) than righties (.805 OPS) this season. Therefore, the table is set for Castro and Frazier (both righties) to have productive at-bats against the Astros right-hander.
Astros Bullpen Struggles in the Late Innings
For the season, Morton has averaged just under six innings per start, and he’s hit seven full frames just five times. It’s unlikely he’ll go deep in this game a la Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander in Games 1 and 2, who went seven and nine strong innings, respectively.
Therefore, we may see the Houston bullpen earlier than usual in Game 3. The Astros’ pen has been inconsistent this year, as it finished in the bottom half of the league in ERA. Houston’s relievers have struggled a bit in this year’s postseason as well with a 5.40 ERA.
The guess here is that the Yankees knock Morton out of the game in the middle frames and get a few insurance runs in the latter half of the contest.
Score (and Series) Prediction
Look for the Yankees to hold serve in Game 3 to cut the ALCS deficit in half behind some timely hits, a strong start from CC Sabathia and some shutout innings from the bullpen.
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Morton won’t get blown up, but the deck is stacked against him in this contest. Take the Yankees by a 6-3 score.
As far as the rest of the series goes, New York will have to face Keuchel and Verlander once each if it is to extend the series to a sixth game.
Keuchel in particular is a matchup nightmare for the Yankees, as he induces a ton of soft contact and ground balls since he is a master at keeping the ball down in the zone. New York has a ton of free-swingers looking to hit the long ball, so that isn’t a good mix with the 2015 AL Cy Young winner on the mound.
Ultimately, it’s hard seeing this series going past six games given the prowess of the two Houston aces. The Yankees will tie the series at two, but the Astros will respond with two more victories of their own to return to the World Series for the first time since 2005.