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Why Masahiro Tanaka is the most important Yankee in the ALCS

13 October 2017

But that could also mean that they're ripe for a Game 1 letdown. Keuchel is 4-2 with a 1.41 ERA in six career starts against the Bombers - and that doesn't include the lefty's six scoreless innings in the 2015 wild-card playoff game at Yankee Stadium, a start that he calls "one of the most magical times that I'll have in my career". Certainly, there's some truth to that.

Albert Almora followed with a run-scoring single off of reliever Sammy Solis that tied the game at 1-1.

What's important is that he gets outs and goes deep into the game. It could be (and probably should be) if the Astros can continue to beat up on New York's starting pitching and keep it going against a bullpen that has been the backbone of the Yankees pitching staff.

If the game of baseball has entered some new evolutionary realm this season, populated by flame-throwing pitchers and all-or-nothing sluggers who together pushed home run and strikeout totals to record highs, the Houston Astros and New York Yankees represent its pinnacle - the most highly evolved species of this new era of baseball.

In Game 5, the Yankees again did something that might have seemed impossible at an earlier point in the game's evolution: Their hitters struck out 16 times in a 5-2 win - making them the first team in history to win a nine-inning postseason game in which they whiffed that many times. Still, it's a group that's been heavily taxed. They won five of seven games against NY and lost five of their six games against Cleveland.

The manager that clearly figured the best strategy out and used the "starter-in-relief" idea most efficiently was Indians skipper Terry Francona. By contrast, the Astros bullpen has locked down more than 53 percent (54 of 105) of its team's outs.

Andrew Benintendi hit a game-tying two-run homer in the fifth inning and Xander Bogaerts smacked his first career playoff homer, a solo blast in the first, for the Red Sox.

"It is a little insane", said McCann, the 33-year-old catcher who was traded by the Yankees to Houston last winter.

In Phoenix, rookie Cody Bellinger homered and drove in two runs, Yu Darvish pitched five strong innings, and the Dodgers swept their way into the National League Championship Series with a 3-1 victory over the Diamondbacks in game three of their series. One year he has been better on normal rest and the next year he is better on longer rest.

Chatter about Girardi's future in the Bronx has been muffled since the Yankees became only the 10th team to win a best-of-five series after dropping the first two games.

During the regular season, Houston was second in the league in home runs (238) and first in all three slash categories at.282/.346/.478. So, the regular season magic has not disappeared. But the arrow is pointing upward for both franchises, which are here in large part because of a core of young players that is controllable for the next few seasons.

The Astros are well aware that the kids are all right, a big reason why the Yankees, and not the Indians, are here as their ALCS opponents.

If the Yankees win: They will steal away home-field advantage and make life much easier than it was in the division series. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. We're not expecting it, but it wouldn't be the upset of the century, either.

Why Masahiro Tanaka is the most important Yankee in the ALCS