AL Wild Card Game – Keuchel Shines in Playoff Debut

Hey guys! In my last post, after my lengthy writeup on each of the divisions and how they turned out relative to my preseason predictions, I took a stab at who I thought was going to win each of the upcoming wild card games and how I thought each game was going to play out. Here is what I had to say about last night’s Astros/Yankees game in the Bronx:

Houston – Dallas Keuchel has dominated the Yankees this season, and the Astros have the pop to hopefully put a few balls over the fence at Yankee Stadium and neutralize Masahiro Tanaka.

What a redemption! After only predicting 6 of the 30 MLB teams’ final standing correctly, I pretty much nailed how the AL Wild Card game played out. Tuesday night’s game was not the type of game that entertains everyone – only 8 combined hits between the two teams and three runs scored – but it was certainly a great game to watch for an old-fashioned fan like me, and that started with the work of Dallas Keuchel.

Working on only 3 days rest, the Houston southpaw looked shaky in the first inning (despite recording two strikeouts), going to 3-ball counts against the first two hitters he faced, even surrendering an uncharacteristic walk to Chris Young. Keuchel labored through the second inning a bit, allowing a single to Greg Bird and needing 20 pitches to record three out. After that, Keuchel cruised through the third, fourth, and fifth, retiring 10 Yankees in a row from the last batter of the second through the fifth inning before surrendering a leadoff single to Didi Gregorius in the sixth. Keuchel then got Brett Gardner to strike out for the third time of the night, got Davis to bounce into a fielder’s choice, and then allowed another single to Carlos Beltran. With two out and two runners on base, Alex Rodriguez up to bat, and two relievers ready in the bullpen, Astros manager A.J. Hinch came out to the mound. I feared that Keuchel’s night was over after “only” 5 2/3 innings (nothing too shabby on 3 days’ rest, but you’d usually see more from a cruising ace in the playoffs), but Hinch elected to leave Keuchel in and he promptly got A-Rod to pop out to Carlos Gomez in center on the first pitch of the at-bat. Keuchel’s postseason debut ended after an exemplary six shutout innings, three hits, a walk, and seven punchouts.

Masahiro Tanaka didn’t have his best stuff, and the Astros offense was uncharacteristically disciplined – drawing three walks against three strikeouts versus the Yankees’ Japanese-born hurler. However, it wasn’t lengthy at-bats and clutch hits with RISP that propelled the Astros to victory – it was two first-pitch home runs, in the second and fourth innings. Leading off the second (following a 1-2-3 inning from Tanaka in which he collected two strikeouts), Astros cleanup hitter Colby Rasmus deposited a low-and-in 93 MPH fastball over the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium, putting the Astros ahead early. Tanaka then allowed a two-out single to Luis Valbuena and walked the following two batters to load the bases for leadoff hitter Jose Altuve – who bounced into a fielder’s choice. After a third inning featuring a leadoff double from George Springer (and nothing more), Tanaka again surrendered a solo shot on the first pitch of an inning – this time on a hanging 84 MPH slider to Carlos Gomez. The Astros concluded their scoring in the seventh on an RBI single by Altuve off of imposing Yankees reliever Dellin Betances.

After Keuchel left the game, the Astros bullpen quietly put the Yankees to sleep, surrendering no hits, one walk, and no runs with 3 strikeouts over 3 innings. Tony Sipp struggled with his command early, walking Chase Headley with one out and going to a full count against the next batter (Bird) before striking him out looking on a spectacular outside-corner fastball. Will Harris worked a quick and clean eighth inning, throwing only 11 pitches (7 strikes) and allowing no baserunners. Luke Gregerson notched the first save of the 2015 postseason, striking out two Yankees and throwing only 8 pitches (7 strikes) total.

Wednesday night’s game looks to be another low-scoring battle between two exciting young pitchers, Jake Arrieta and Gerrit Cole. Pittsburgh’s PNC Park will certainly be more energetic than Yankee Stadium was and the game will be entertaining no matter how it plays out. I’ll leave you guys with the prediction I made for this game in my last post.

Chicago – Picking against Gerrit Cole this year is pretty silly, but picking against Jake Arrieta would be far sillier. I expect Arrieta to shine in his first postseason game and the Cubs’ young offense to find a way to get him a run or two.

There you have it! Tune in to the game tonight at 7:30 ET to see how my predictions fare. Thanks again for reading, enjoy the game!

 

Credit for stats in this article goes to ESPN and Brooks Baseball’s PitchF/X tool

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