2015 American League Wild-Card: Houston Astros at New York Yankees Preview

It wasn’t long ago, two years in fact, both the Houston Astros and the Kansas City Royals were the bottom feeders in the American League. Last year the same Royals team, for the most part, were playing in Game #7 of the World Series and this season two of the four teams that are involved in the AL postseason Final Four is Kansas City and the up-and-coming Astros.  The first test of the 2015 Major League Baseball Fall Classic tournament takes place today, at Yankee Stadium, in the Bronx, when New York hosts Houston in the American League Wild-Card contest.

With the Texas Rangers win over the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday the Astros were awarded a playoff berth. However, because Houston lost to the Diamondbacks at Chase Field in Arizona they will be playing as the visiting fourth seed in the AL Wild-Card game.

Gameday Vitals
Houston Astros (-110, 7) at New York Yankees
Time 8:00 PM ET, Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York
Weather: Partly cloudy with a slight breeze blowing from the west. First pitch temperatures are expected to be in the mid-sixties with only a 5 percent chance of precipitation.

Astros
Major League Baseball pundits and Houston naysayers are giving the Astros very little chance of extending their 2015 success tonight in New York despite the oddsmakers posting the Astros as the money-line favorites with an opening price point of minus-125.  Just one of many reasons that baseball experts expect the Yankees to advance is the Sunday loss to Arizona meant that Houston and starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel would be taking residence in the final playoff spot, as a road team versus the AL East second place finishers, New York.

”I play with a chip on my shoulder,” Keuchel told the national press on Monday at Yankee Stadium. ”I think a lot of the guys do in there as well. And we’ll always carry that.”

Keuchel is a perfect 15-0 with a 1.46 ERA at home, in Minute Maid Park,  but a pedestrian 5-8 with a 3.77 ERA on the road in 2015. Throw in the fact that tonight’s start comes with only three days’ rest, and for the first time in his young career.  Keuchel did, however, win his last road turn at Yankee Stadium, striking out nine and scattered three hits in seven scoreless frames in New York on Aug. 25.  The Houston ace has been successful against the Bronx Bombers in his career. The southpaw is 2-1 with a 1.13 ERA in three career starts against the Yankees.

Yankees
The New York Yankees, who held first place in the AL East for most of the 2015 spring and summer, have backpedaled their way into postseason play.  The Bronx Bombers earned home field advantage in the American League wild-card game tonight with an 87-75 record, one game better than the Minute Maid Boys’ 86-76 mark.  The Yankees come into the postseason, losing six of seven games and the organization was presented additional drama on Monday when veteran pitcher CC Sabathia announced he would miss the postseason because he is checking into an alcohol rehabilitation center.

”For tomorrow, not just for the team, but maybe we can get the win for CC as well, ” said Yankees starter for tonight’s Wild-Card match, Masahiro Tanaka., after players and coaches meeting on what they could do to support their captain.

New York returns to the postseason following a two-year absence in both a win-loss, pitching and hitting slump. The Yankees have surrendered a total of 46 runs in the six losses in their last seven games. Tanaka, who has made only one start since Sept. 18 has been dealing with a leg injury, a hamstring strain,  and could be taking the 2015 postseason’s debut tonight, in limited fashion. Tanaka faced live hitters this past Wednesday,  against the Boston Red Sox, his first start in almost three weeks, allowing four runs on five hits and a walk in five innings of work.  This, like Houston starter, Keuchel, will be the Japanese native’s first postseason start.  Tanaka made his lone career start against Houston on June 27 and allowed six runs on seven hits in five innings of work surrendering three home runs in the process.

Outlook
The winner of tonight’s AL Wild-Card affair will advance to the Division Series and face the Kansas City Royals in a best-of-five matchup that begins Thursday night at Kaufman Stadium. Major League Baseball begins the journey to the Fall Classic tonight with; 2015 American League Wild-Card: Houston Astros at New York Yankees Preview.

The Astros won the season series by a 4-3 count and were shut down by the American League’s only 20-game winner failing to score a run in 16 innings against Keuchel.

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It is Fall Classic time again. First pitch of the Major League Baseball Playoffs start on Tuesday, October 6th, with a Wildcard contest between the Houston Astros and New York Yankees in the Bronx.

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