Astros suddenly look very good
All season long the Houston Astros dominated the American League West Division with superb hitting up and down the line-up and a rotation that was shaky at best.
An upset waiting to happen in the post-season seemed the most likely conclusion to a fine campaign, until the Astros traded for Justin Verlander and the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians fell at the ALDS stage of the play-offs.
On paper both the Red Sox, although it didn't help against Houston, and the Indians had better rotations and significantly so, heading into the post-season.
Now Dallas Keuchel and Verlander as a one-two punch atop the rotation looks awfully good when matched against the New York Yankees and potentially whoever comes out of the National League, even if Verlander is demonstrably not the same pitcher he was four or five years ago.
Keuchel starts on Friday in the opening game of the American League Championship Series, with the Yankees countering with Masahiro Tanaka.
Verlander then faces Luis Severino in the second game on Saturday, before the series heads to the Big Apple.
Why New York has not gone with Sonny Gray, who pitches significantly better away from Yankee Stadium, is yet another head scratcher from Yankees manager Joe Girardi.
New York has won through it seems despite the dabbling of their manager, not because of, but there's no denying that the Yankees have stepped up each time it was needed.
Gray is now pencilled in to start Game 4 of the series, with C.C. Sabathia on tap for Game 3 on Monday.
If the Yankees rotation pitches to their ability then this is not a one-sided affair. Tanaka, Severino, Sabathia and Gray is a deeper rotation than the Astros and hence the first two games at Minute Maid Park are likely to be critical.
New York are 4.70 to win the World Series, with the Astros 2.40 and the LA Dodgers 1.62.
View all Baseball lines