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Yankees Hot Corner – Three keys to beating the Astros

The New York Yankees now know their opponent for the ALCS after a few days waiting in the wings. The Houston Astros defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 6-1 in Game Five of the ALDS, and now the Yankees are shipping off to Texas for the seven game series.

The Astros won in two ways that may scare Yankee fans coming into this series; They took advantage of their home field and Gerrit Cole was a complete menace to the Rays’ lineup. Cole has now struck out 10+ batters in each of his last 11 starts.

The Yankees are going to need to win in multiple ways in order to beat the favorite Astros, but there are three things in particular they must do to beat the Astros. Some of these may seem obvious, but they’re all important in getting back to the World Series.

Win Game Three at home

It doesn’t matter how it’s done, who is pitching, what the deal is with the lineup. Game Three will absolutely be the most important game of the series (other than the clinching one) and the Yankees must win this one.

Heading into the Bronx and losing Game Three would absolutely deflate the Yankees. It doesn’t matter if somehow they’re up 2-0 on the Astros. Game Three is the most important for a few reasons; One, it obviously swings the series, whether it be to 2-1, 1-2, 3-0 or 0-3. Two and more importantly, the Yankees cannot afford to lose the first game at home with the home field advantage they have.

If you can’t start rallies, at least prolong at-bats

One of the most overlooked facets of the Yankees’ success is their ability to get pitchers into full counts and long at-bats. If you watched the ALDS with the Twins, the Yankees forced the Twins into many situations with full counts. They also prolonged at-bats with foul balls and staying disciplined in the box.

The Yankees are going to have to do that again and more against three of the best pitchers in the American League. The key to beating Gerrit Cole is getting past him to the bullpen. Justin Verlander looked hittable in his last start and Zack Greinke doesn’t scare anyone the way the other two do.

If the Yankees stick to the plan of not swinging at bad pitches, working counts as best they can and getting the occasional hit, they can most certainly beat the Astros. These pitchers aren’t perfect but the Yankees, with their stacked lineup, will have to rely on a little more than just skill.

Stretch the starters (within reason)

The third key to a successful ALCS and a pennant is how Aaron Boone manages his starters and bullpen. The Yankees kind of breezed by the Twins in the ALDS while not taxing their starting pitching much.

No pitcher went more than five innings and Boone seemed to have a plan for each and every game once said pitcher had left the mound. The plan should be the same (or at least similar) but the Yankees’ starters, unless they’re really laboring out there, need to give the Yanks more than 4 1/3 innings of work.

It’s much different in a five game series where you know regardless of outcome there will be two less games. In a seven game series, it’s a lot more taxing and therefore each bullpen arm needs to be used more carefully or else we’ll have Luis Cessa pitching the eighth and ninth.

Now there needs to be a balance on this. Aaron Boone learned in the last ALDS (against the Red Sox) that keeping your starters in for too long isn’t a good thing either. Boone has had a much better feel for games this season so hopefully he’s learned his lesson. There needs to be balance, but the Yankees still need more from their starters.

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