Over two regular-season series, Houston defeated New York in four out of seven games (foreshadowing?) and outscored the Bombers 39 to 37. All this is to say that these are two evenly matched teams, and through two postseason games, they are continuing to bear that deadlock out.
Game 1 saw a tremendous two-way performance from the Yankees, with highlights at the dish from future superstar Gleyber Torres (a home run and five RBI) and on the mound from Masahiro Tanaka (six innings of one-hit ball).
However, neither side was particularly impressive on Sunday night for New York. Justin Verlander was his typically excellent self, striking out seven over six-and-two-thirds innings, and while New York’s pitchers only gave up three runs, Aaron Boone burned through his bullpen at an extraordinary rate, using eight relievers plus starter James Paxton over 10 innings pitched.
Championship Series Schedule (all times Eastern)
Game 1: Yankees 7, Astros 0
Game 2: Astros 3, Yankees 2
Game 3: Houston at New York, 4:08 p.m., FS1
Game 4: Houston at New York, 8:08 p.m., FS1
Game 5: Houston at New York, 8:08 p.m., FS1
Game 6*: New York at Houston, 4:08 p.m., FS1
Game 7*: New York at Houston, 7:38 p.m., FS1
Though the series is ostensibly tied, the Yankees still hold a slight theoretical advantage as they have won a game on the road. However, behind their Cy Young co-favorite Gerrit Cole, Houston is poised to rebalance the scales in the Big Apple and win a road game of their own.
The Astros we saw in Game 1 were still a bit tired from a surprisingly close series with Tampa Bay, and Zack Greinke has been in a funk through both of his postseason starts. The Astros we saw in Game 2 are much closer to the version that won a Major League-best 107 games this season, and they will likely get even better as the series progresses, especially at the plate.
However, the Yankees are up for the challenge, more than any of the remaining teams. Their lineup has no easy outs, their starters have looked competent to great this postseason, the bullpen is vaunted for a reason, and players like Gio Urshela, DJ LeMahieu, and Aaron Judge provide underrated defense. No matter how you shake it, this will be a competitive series.
But Houston just has too much firepower on both sides of the ball. Even if their batters never stabilize against good Yankee pitching, the ceiling with Verlander and Cole potentially starting four of seven games is something New York just can't match. The Astros take this series in seven and return to the World Series for the second time in three years.