The National League Championship Series matchup between the Cardinals and Nationals wasn’t expected when the season began. The American League Championship Series pits the Yankees and Astros, who were expected to hook up for the pennant before the season started.
New York (103-59) won its first AL East title since 2012, while coming off its second consecutive 100-victory season. The Yankees were bounced in the ALDS by the rival Red Sox last October in four games, but New York made quick work of Minnesota this time around in a three-game sweep of the AL Central champions.
The Bronx Bombers outscored the Twins, 18-6 in a pair of home blowouts before New York knocked out Minnesota, 5-1 in Game 3 at Target Field. Shortstop Didi Gregorious led the Yankees with six runs batted in during the series, including a grand slam in the Game 2 rout. Five different Yankees homered in the series, but none of those came off the bat of slugger Aaron Judge, who has drilled seven postseason homers in his short career.
The three starting pitchers for the Yankees against Minnesota all lasted five innings or less as the bullpen received plenty of work. Masahiro Tanaka (11-9, 4.45 ERA) shut down the Twins in Game 2 of the ALDS by striking out seven and scattering three hits in five innings of an 8-2 triumph. Since June 11, the Yankees are 15-4 in Tanaka’s past 19 starts, as the veteran gets the call in Game 1 of the ALCS. New York owns a 1-1 record in Tanaka’s two outings as a road underdog this season, including in a 4-3 setback at Minute Maid Park to the Astros on April 8. Tanaka allowed only one run in six innings and left with a 3-1 lead, but Houston rallied for three runs against the New York bullpen.
Southpaw James Paxton (15-6, 3.82 ERA) is unbeaten in his last 12 starts for New York, while picking up a no-decision in a 10-4 victory over Minnesota in the ALDS opener. The Yankees are 6-0 in Paxton’s past six road outings, as the left-hander split a pair of starts against the Astros this season. Paxton was tagged for five runs in four innings of an 8-6 setback at Minute Maid Park in April, but rebounded for a 4-1 home victory over the Astros in June even though he tossed just five innings.
Luis Severino (1-1, 1.50 ERA) won a career-high 19 games last season, but a rotator cuff issue sidelined the Yankees’ right-hander until September. Severino never pitched past the fifth inning in four starts, but he allowed a total of two earned runs in 16 innings of work, while the Yankees own a 16-3 record in his past 19 home starts since the beginning of 2018. Last season, Severino dominated the Astros by yielding two earned runs and striking out 21 batters in 16 innings as New York beat Houston twice.