We’ve reached the League Championship Series for each side! Friday, we’ll dive headlong into the American League side before we get a double dose on Saturday. As always, it promises to bring with it some great pitching matchups
And we’re here to break them down!
RHP Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) versus LHP Dallas Keuchel (HOU) — 8:08 p.m. ET, FS1
To be frank, this is not a great matchup for the Yankees.
In this modern age of grip-and-rip, elevate-and-celebrate, Keuchel provides the ultimate resistance by virtue of a career-best 66.8 percent groundball rate. Sure he strikes out his fair share of batters (7.8 K/9) and keeps walks in check (2.9 per nine), but grounders are the opening act, the headliner and the after party. Even with a fluky HR/FB rate this year, Keuchel still held opposing batters to a line of .217/.284/.336—a .273 wOBA.
He’s especially hard on left-handed hitters (.192 wOBA) and has been tough at home (.236), but is no walk in the park either way.
He also has some mojo against the Yankees, as he beat them in the 2015 Wild Card game just before winning a Cy Young award that season. The Yankees are going to have their hands full to say the least.
Tanaka is a tremendous pitcher capable of putting forth an incredible start any time he takes the mound. And, he’s coming off a great outing against the Indians in the ALDS: seven shutout innings, three hits, seven strikeouts and a walk. But he also had a 4.74 ERA and at times was just far, far too hittable this season. That won’t work against baseball’s best offense.
Hurting Tanaka doubly is that he’ll be at Minute Maid Park. Tanaka already has a penchant for allowing homers—35 in 178.1 innings—and Houston is hitter-friendly, albeit not to the same degree as Yankee Stadium. Statcorner.com has the home run park factor for lefties at 108 and 105 for righties.
There’s also the enormous elephant in the room in the form of Tanaka’s home-road splits. The 28-year-old righty posted a stellar 3.22 ERA at Yankee Stadium in 2017, while his road mark was a ghastly 6.48. It isn’t just short-sample nonsense, either. Opposing batters hit .289/.346/.529—in short, bombs away!—against Tanaka on the road and just .224/.263/.408 at home.
These things don’t mean he won’t thrown an absolute gem, of course. They just put the Yankees behind the 8-ball going into another tough series. That didn’t stop them in Cleveland. Will it in Houston?