It’s always a little chippy when these two teams get together. Following the 2017 ALCS and the subsequent garbage barrel investigation, the New York Yankees and Houston Astros are not fond of each other.
This series should be even more fun this season. The Yankees and Astros have both built double-digit-game leads in their respective divisions, and they sport the two best records and run differentials in the American League
Let’s dive into the starting lineups, betting odds, and my prediction for this Thursday’s matchup.
Houston Astros vs New York Yankees Odds
I think the Astros might be slightly undervalued in this one.
Yes, the Yankees are putting together a historic, unprecedented start to the season. They’ve hit 50 wins before 20 losses, and are on pace for a 120-win season – that’d be a record over 162 games.
But to make Jameson Taillon a -140 favorite over Framber Valdez is questionable. It’s worth considering Houston in this spot.
The total being 8.5 seems high, however, considering both starting pitchers have ERAs under 3.00.
Houston Astros Starting Lineup
2B J. Altuve R
LF M. Brantley L
3B A. Bregman R
DH Y. Alvarez L
RF K. Tucker L
1B Y. Gurriel R
SS A. Diaz R
CF J. Siri R
C M. Maldonado R
Houston Astros vs Jameson Taillon
All five of the Yankees’ starters are qualified with ERAs under 3.30. That hasn’t happened in almost 50 years.
Taillon’s 2.70 ranks second on the staff, and he isn’t even due for much regression. He pairs it with a 3.30 xERA and a 3.00-flat FIP that is fueled by his absurdly low 3.1% walk rate. Pittsburgh fans must be pissed he’s become the ace the Pirates always wanted him to be.
Nothing special about Taillon. He’s a fastball-first pitcher with a wide array of secondary options. He has a six-pitch mix that includes a sinker and cutter, so he can attack hitters with different-looking fastballs.
The Astros are one of the 10 best teams at hitting fastballs (eighth in Weighted Fastball Runs Created with 20), so Taillon should try to rely on secondary pitches more. But the Astros can hit everything save a cutter.
Over the last month, the Astros are sixth in wRC+ (119) and 10th in OPS (.750). That’s largely been driven by Yordan Alvarez, who leads MLB in hits (34), average (.435), OBP (.500), and SLG (.821) since May 27.
Alvarez smoked two huge home runs against the Mets on Wednesday, and he is now just four back of Aaron Judge for the Major League lead (25 to 21). He’s right in the mix for AL MVP, and can still be found at 20-to-1 at some books.
If you’re unconvinced, just look at his Baseball Savant page.
Image one: Baseball Savant
New York Yankees Starting Lineup
3B D.J. LeMahieu R
RF A. Judge R
1B A. Rizzo L
LF G. Stanton R
DH J. Donaldson R
2B G. Torres R
SS I. Kiner-Falefa R
C J.Trevino R
CF A. Hicks S
New York Yankees vs Framber Valdez
I’ve always been a big fan of Valdez. He was so consistent in 22 starts last season and has turned into Houston’s second-best starter this season.
His 2.78 ERA is paired with a 3.14 xERA and a 3.19 xFIP. The lefty has a rather high avg. exit velocity but has managed to avoid barrels and thereby ranks above the 90th percentile in xSLG allowed.
He’s a southpaw sinkerballer with a nasty curveball as his secondary pitch (91st percentile in curve spin rate this season). But with Valdez, everything is solid. All six of his pitches have negative Run Values this year.
It’s going to be so tough beating the Yankees offense. They lead the league in avg. exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and barrel rate. They’re easily the best offense in baseball.
Valdez has made two starts against the Yankees in his career and managed just 7 ⅓ total innings between the two while allowing a solid seven earned runs. He gave up three HRs, so perhaps he’s due for a bit of HR regression. But he also walked nine Yankees while only striking out seven.
This could get ugly.
Houston Astros vs New York Yankees Pick & Prediction
My picks: Over 8.5 (-110 at WynnBet Sportsbook)
So, I’m going to take the over. The Yankees can get on top of Valdez while the Astros will always produce runs.
The bullpens are both good, which scares me. But the Yankees pen has been slumping over the last few weeks (22nd in reliever xFIP in the last 14 days) and the Astros aren’t perfect on the back-end.
The last game between these two went over, so I’ll happily bet it one more time.