Pressure on the Astros, so take a good look at underdog Yankees


The Astros boast some big hitters this year. If they gain the lead early in games, they force opponents to do things differently to get a win.

The Yankees advanced by beating the Indians 5-2 in Game 5 of their best-of-five American League Division Series at Progressive Field in Cleveland on Wednesday.

Over on the Yankees' side, they went to Game 5 against the Indians having lost their first two games in Cleveland 4-0 and 9-8, then winning 1-0 and 7-3 in NY before returning to Cleveland for Game 5 and a tense victory 5-2.

Verlander made only two starts at Minute Maid Park after his trade from the Tigers, but he was almost flawless in them, allowing just one run on four hits in 14 innings, while striking out 16. For the Astros, Jose Altuve hit three home runs in the series opener versus the Red Sox and was 8-for-15 plus four walks in the series.

When the Yankees receive a solid start, they are pretty tough to beat. Gray is 3-7 with a 3.11 ERA in 72 1/3 road innings this year.

Meanwhile, his main competition for AL MVP could not be struggling more.

Yankees rookie right fielder Aaron Judge set the major-league rookie record with 52 home runs in the regular season and either he or Altuve is likely to win the AL Most Valuable Player award. Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman both had two home runs to help lead Houston to the series win. Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander have the ability to do just that. All of the ALCS games will be televised by FS1 or FOX.

Still, the Yankees can counter.

None of New York's starters are quite at a Keuchel/Verlander level, but Luis Severino and Sonny Gray are capable of putting together ace-like starts, and the resurgent performances of C.C. Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka give the Yankees the back-end rotational advantage.

Gray was shaky with his 3.1 innings of work in the ALDS, but he is still a quality arm and his 3.45 career ERA make him one of the best pitchers in this series.

Tanaka will be coming off a terrific outing against the Indians, when he shut them down for seven innings in their Game 3 1-0 win, while Severino rebounded from his brief wild-card outing to pitch well in Game 4.

With all of these factors in mind, the Yankees feel like the favorite here.

The victor of the best-of-7 affair will advance to the World Series.

Statistics are courtesy of unless otherwise noted.