ALCS: Surging New York Yankees should give favored Houston Astros tough battle

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The Yankees will be appearing their 16th LCS, the most of any major-league franchise, while the Astros haven't reached that round since 2005 when they were in the National League and defeated the St. Louis Cardinals. According to Brooks Baseball, Judge saw 60 offspeed or breaking pitches in the first four games of the series, as compared to 51 hard pitches (Brooks hasn't yet posted the pitch data from last night's game).

Aroldis Chapman, closer for the Chicago Cubs when they won the 2016 World Series, signed for a second stint with NY in the offseason.

The Astros, by virtue of winning their ALDS in four, will have been off for three days before they face NY, giving their bullpen (which certainly wasn't overtaxed) time to regroup.

What's turned these teams into real championship contenders are the moves they made before and right after the trade deadline.

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As if that were not enough, NY has some intangibles in play as it goes into the series with Houston. "We have what it takes". The Indians would eventually win 9-8 in 13 innings, giving them the 2-0 series lead going back to the Bronx.

Houston Astros fans cheer before Game 4 of the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, in Boston. Had Cleveland beaten the Yankees, the Indians would have had the home-field advantage from owning the best record in baseball. They have the American League MVP in second baseman Jose Altuve and get to play the first two games, and if there is a seventh game, in Houston.

Rotation: Dallas Keuchel remains the ace of Houston's staff, even with the addition of Justin Verlander.

The Astros are the favorites, and they have home-field advantage now. The Astros took five of those matchups, including a comeback victory at home on July 1. NY has been propelled by the home run machine, rookie Aaron Judge. Little of that probably matters. Don't think the Yankees won't be.

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Joe Girardi has four relievers-Chad Green, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle and Aroldis Chapman-that can change a game when one of New York's starters is in trouble.

Verlander won all five regular-season starts for Houston with a sparkling 1.06 ERA.

Houston's bullpen ranked 10th in the AL with a 4.27 ERA.

The fulcrum in the series with Cleveland was the stellar starting pitching by the Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino, and they likely will go in Games 2 and 3 after Sonny Gray starts Game 1.

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The victor of the best-of-7 affair will advance to the World Series.

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