New York Yankees vs Houston Astros: ALCS Preview Q&A

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 11: The New York Yankees celebrate in the locker room after their 5 to 2 win over the Cleveland Indians in Game Five of the American League Divisional Series at Progressive Field on October 11, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 11: The New York Yankees celebrate in the locker room after their 5 to 2 win over the Cleveland Indians in Game Five of the American League Divisional Series at Progressive Field on October 11, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

With the New York Yankees set to face the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series, we had a conversation with our friends at House of Houston to talk about the upcoming series.

Armani Gracia of House of Houston and I asked each other three questions about the upcoming American League Championship Series between the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros.

This matchup should be a good one as both teams provide plenty of offense. The Houston Astros eliminated the Boston Red Sox (a big thank you from us Yankees fans) in four games in the ALDS while the New York Yankees are coming into the ALCS on fire after overcoming an 0-2 deficit to defeat the AL-best Cleveland Indians in five games.

I asked Armani Gracia a few questions about the upcoming ALCS:

Dyer: Which New York Yankees hitter are you most afraid to face with the game on the line?

Gracia: No doubt Brett Gardner. Yes, Didi Gregorius hit two home runs off an incredible Indians pitching staff in Game 5 to lead New York to the ALCS, but Gardner brings experience as he’s one of the older, more mature players on this young Yankees team. He’s one of those guys who’s been in every type of situation throughout his career and can deliver a knockout punch with one swing of the bat. I expect him to have a very productive series and if the Yankees beat the Astros, he will be the series MVP.

Dyer: What are your two biggest concerns heading into the ALCS? (One concern regarding the Yankees and one regarding the Astros)

Gracia: My concern [with the Yankees] is facing Aroldis Chapman late in games. When he has complete control of his pitches, he is absolutely unhittable. Yes, the Astros rocked Craig Kimbrel, who is arguably the best closer in the majors in Game 4 to win the [ALDS], but Chapman is a whole different animal.

As for the Astros, it’s AJ Hinch’s decisions. Absolutely NO WAY Carlos Beltran starts in front of Evan Gattis at DH. Gattis has been one of the unsung heroes this postseason as he’s batting .400 so far. Hinch arguably cost us Game 3 against Boston as he pulled Brad Peacock too early and went straight to the pen. He’s incredibly lucky that putting in Justin Verlander in Game 4 in a relief situation didn’t blow up in his face, which it almost did after that HR by Andrew Benintendi. I hope AJ Hinch does a good job managing the team this series because in the opposing dugout is Joe Girardi, who is highly respected all across Major League Baseball and one of the top-tier MLB managers in the game today.

Dyer: What do you feel is the Houston Astros’ biggest advantage over the Yankees heading into the ALCS?

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Gracia: Obviously, it’s our offense. We have an MVP candidate in Jose Altuve who has been absolutely lights out this postseason. Carlos Correa has been absolutely phenomenal since he returned from injury and is the best shortstop in all of baseball. And finally, George Springer is nasty at the leadoff spot and one of the best defensive outfielders in the game today. Those three I just mentioned have the chance to be a better trio than Biggio, Bagwell, and Berkman was.

No lead is safe when playing the Astros. We have the ability to score runs late in games quickly and when our bats are hot at that point, good luck getting us out. I’ve witnessed this team tack on 11 runs in an inning against your [Wild Card] opponents, the Minnesota Twins. Our whole lineup can mash the ball from 1-9 and it is absolutely fun to watch. My X-Factor at the plate is Yuli Gurriel. Nothing fazes this man. He’s been tearing it up this series as he has nine hits in 17 ABs, which is a .529 BA.

Gracia had a few questions for me as well:

Gracia: Who will be the X-Factor for the New York Yankees against the Houston Astros?

Dyer: The Yankees X-Factor will continue to be Didi Gregorius. Didi has been New York’s most consistent hitter all season long. He’s found his power stroke, breaking Derek Jeter’s franchise record for most home runs in a season by a shortstop. He’s also been so clutch, already hitting three home runs in winner-take-all games this postseason. With Aaron Judge struggling, Didi has stepped up in a huge way. I expect Judge to start putting the ball in play more often but Didi Gregorius is the heart and soul of this Yankees team right now.

Gracia: What is your biggest concern facing the Houston Astros?

Dyer: My biggest concern is the Astros ability to make contact. The Yankees pitching staff has been striking people out at a huge rate this season but the Astros put the ball in play better than any other team. The Yankees have a great defense to handle that contact but my biggest concern is in big situations with runners on base, will the Yankees power bullpen be able to strike out Astros batters to freeze runners? Strikeouts got New York out of a few jams in the ALDS and they may need to do the same in the ALCS. Houston, however, will make that difficult.

Gracia: Will Aaron Judge outduel Jose Altuve in the battle of the 2017 AL MVP candidates and have a huge series against a tough Astros pitching staff?

Dyer: To be honest, I don’t think so. Altuve is on fire and Judge is really struggling. Aaron Judge will make his adjustments and be better than he was in the ALDS but I don’t anticipate a huge series. Jose Altuve will also set a tough pace to keep up with. I think Judge bounces back and starts putting the ball in play more, perhaps he hits a homer or two. However, Altuve is just too consistent and so hard to get out. He’ll likely spend most of the ALCS on base causing headaches for Joe Girardi.

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This should be an exciting series to watch. The American League pennant and a trip to the World Series are on the line. The 2017 playoffs have been very entertaining so far and hopefully, the ALCS will be no different. This is a best-of-seven series so we’ll get at least four games of the New York Yankees and Houston Astros battling it out.