Astros: Three Roster Bubble Questions for the ALCS

CLEVELAND OH- OCTOBER 11 Todd Frazier #29 of the New York Yankees celebrates with teammates as he returns to the dugout after scoring on a single by Brett Gardner #11 in the ninth inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Five of the American Leagu

The bullpen will be key, as New York's stronger ability to hold leads or cease the Astros' offense late in games can allow the Yankees to capitalize on a shaky Houston relief group. Conversely, the Yankees have 26 World Series championships.

The starting pitching in this series tilts the Astros' way with the addition of the veteran Verlander, although when the Yankees' pitchers at are their best it makes for a very formidable group. Cleveland won 102 games to the Astros' 101, had a 22-game winning streak and went 45-12 from August 2 to the end of the regular season.

The New York Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians 5-2 in Game 5 of the ALDS on Wednesday to win the series and advance to the next round where they'll play the Houston Astros.

As you should know by now, the Astros will play in the ALCS starting this Friday.

The Indians had a 2-0 series lead and lost three straight potential clinchers to NY, which also won the winner-take-all AL wild-card game. Cleveland last lost a third straight game on August 1. They scored six runs per game against Cleveland, who easily had the AL's best pitching staff. That may be NY and thus the bad news for the Astros.

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But there is something about the Yankees, a wild-card team that has shown tremendous resilience.

The Wednesday night victory nearly perfectly illustrated what that "something" is.

-David Robertson came out of the bullpen in the fifth to give NY the first 2 2/3 innings of 4 2/3 innings of no-hit relief. Aaron Judge had one hit, a huge two-run double in Game 4, in the ALDS and set a record for most strikeouts in a postseason series with 16. This bullpen gives them a distinct advantage late in the game, as the Astros' mediocre relief pitching put them 17th in Major League Baseball with a 4.17 ERA, and they followed that up with 10 runs allowed over 16.1 innings in their ALDS matchup with the Boston Red Sox. Nothing embodied the way these Yankees never yield like that.

Game 1 of the ALCS will go down Friday night at Minute Maid Park in Houston. It has looked into the abyss. NY blew a five-run lead in Game 2, with manager Joe Girardi making mistake after mistake.

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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"We were down two games to none", Frazier said.

The Yankees will be going with RHP Sonny Gray in Game 1 of the ALCS. After Boston won four straight elimination games, they didn't lose again en route to the World Series title. The Astros have homefield advantage against the Yankees. Newly installed ace Justin Verlander hangs over the series. On the road, the Astros defeated the Yankees, 3-0. The Astros took five of those matchups, including a comeback victory at home on July 1. NY finished second behind Houston in runs, total bases and on-base percentage. Little of that probably matters.

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.

Meanwhile, his main competition for AL MVP could not be struggling more. For Houston, it is the relentless, energetic 5-6 Jose Altuve; for the Bronx Bombers, it's the towering power of 6-7 Aaron Judge. The question in this series is whether the Astros are the better team now.

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