Last Updated: 2017-10-21
There’s nothing like a Game 7 in professional sports. Well, for most of the unaffiliated observers, anyway. This author certainly knows something about the stress and emotional turmoil of following along with a Game 7 for your favorite team. Good luck to both Yankees and Astros fans today. The unfortunate reality of sports is that one team loses and one team wins. The hit-you-in-the-face reality of a Game 7 in the playoffs is that there won’t be another game tomorrow if your team is on the short end.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are eagerly waiting to find out who they play beginning on Tuesday. Will it be the New York Yankees or the Houston Astros? Let’s see how well we can answer that question.
Remember that this is the last picks and analysis piece for the season. I will have a World Series preview piece and then do individual game previews for each one of the games.
New York at Houston (-125); Total: 8
BetOnline and Pinnacle were the first to put up morning numbers for Game 7, with the host Astros basically getting the home field advantage adjustment off of the -110 starting point. Just like we all envisioned, it will be CC Sabathia against Charlie Morton as far as starting pitchers go for the right to go to the World Series. Oh, baseball. Sabathia was part of the 2009 World Series-winning Yankees. Charlie Morton appeared in the 2013 playoffs for the Pirates and has two starts this season. That’s it over his long MLB career that has been marred by injuries. Sabathia is the active leader in innings pitched.
Sabathia has been really spectacular in the playoffs and has provided a huge lift for the Yankees. Like I’ve talked about, stuff guys don’t always get it done in the postseason. Sabathia’s command isn’t the greatest, but he’s had excellent command in the playoffs and has that savvy veteran knowhow that has allowed him to get through 15.2 innings of work with just four earned runs allowed on 11 hits. The most surprising thing is that Sabathia has 19 strikeouts in his 15.2 innings of work. He’s also walked seven, so we’ll have to see what he brings to the table in this one.
The box score will show that Charlie Morton struggled in his only start in this series. He wound up with seven runs allowed on six hits over just 3.2 innings of work. The stuff, however, looked really good for Morton. He had an electric fastball and good secondaries. He fell victim to some low-percentage balls in play that found grass and gave up a backbreaking three-run home run to Todd Frazier, which looked like a pretty routine fly ball. Two of the runs from Aaron Judge’s home run served up by Will Harris were charged to Morton. It wasn’t nearly as bad of a start as it looked and that is particularly noteworthy because I imagine we’ll see some people fade Morton simply because of that start. That would ignore the 3.62 ERA with a 3.46 FIP and a 3.58 xFIP that he posted over 146.2 innings in the regular season.
Now, Morton also didn’t look great in his start against Boston with two runs allowed on seven hits in 4.1 innings of work. He did strike out six in that one, but he really hasn’t had much BABIP luck in the postseason over a small sample size of eight innings. Sabathia, on the other hand, has. Is that predictive in a one-game sample? Not really, but Morton really hasn’t been as bad as the numbers look and Sabathia has probably overachieved a bit.
In any event, this game probably won’t be about the two starters. It’s Game 7. Everybody is available. I’m sure Justin Verlander, who shoved again last night, will make himself available for an inning. Dallas Keuchel will be ready to go. Luis Severino is about the only pitcher unavailable in this game. I’d bet we’d see Masahiro Tanaka available for even an inning if necessary. One thing that does worry me is that David Robertson has been the fireman for the Yankees in these playoffs. He has pitched in some extremely high-leverage spots and has had a lot of success. He was awful on Friday night. He was limited to 12 pitches though while allowing four runs on four hits without recording an out, so he is available, but I wonder what his mental state is at this point.
This game will be about bullpens. Houston’s has been a mess. Ken Giles threw 23 pitches for whatever reason last night. Brad Peacock was the first guy called upon in a 3-0 game before Houston put it away, which is pretty telling about AJ Hinch’s confidence level in those guys. Peacock gave up an enormous home run to Aaron Judge, but otherwise worked a decent inning. Tommy Kahnle got a day off, which is big because he has been a workhorse for Joe Girardi in this series. With two days off because of Thursday’s travel day, he’s in good shape.
In typical MLB playoff fashion, live betting will be the way to go here. If you’re hellbent on starting the game with a position, that position should probably be the Yankees, though they are 1-5 away from Yankee Stadium in these playoffs for whatever reason. If the Yankees get out to a lead, you won’t catch another plus money price with their bullpen, hence the start. I think this could be a game with big, emotional momentum swings both ways. Morton has the better stuff in the pitching matchup, and I think the line swings in Houston’s favor as a result, but the managers are going to be very aggressive here and I think Girardi has more trustworthy weapons than Hinch.
-END OF OCTOBER 21 PICKS-
With one ticket punched for the Fall Classic, the Yankees and Astros fire up their series again at Minute Maid Park with Game 6. The Los Angeles Dodgers will await the winner and you can bet that they wouldn’t mind an Astros win tonight and a decisive seventh game for both teams to sweat.
Just as a heads up for those that read my article daily, whenever this series finishes will be my last picks and analysis piece for the season. I will write individual game previews for each of the World Series games, so you can find similar work in there to what you have found in these articles throughout the season.
Here are my thoughts and a pick for Game 6:
New York (AL) at Houston (-140); Total: 7.5
The Yankees are 5-0 at Yankee Stadium this season, but just 1-4 on the road. They’ll be on the road for Game 6 with a chance to make it to the World Series for the first time since 2009. The Astros are looking to extend the series to Game 7 in hopes of making their first World Series as an American League team and first World Series since 2005.
This is a big-boy pitching matchup. The lightning bolt-hurling right arm of Luis Severino and the crafty, heavy arsenal of Justin Verlander. This is exactly what you want to see in an elimination game. No offense to CC Sabathia and Charlie Morton if that’s the Game 7 matchup that we get, if we even need one, but this is where it’s at.
Severino wrapped up the regular season with a 2.98 ERA, a 3.07 FIP, and a 3.04 xFIP. His postseason starts have been much better than his stat line would indicate. He was awful in the Wild Card Game, but pitched very well against the Indians in Game 4 and also pitched well early in this series against the Astros. Severino failed to record a strikeout, but threw 40 of his 62 pitches for strikes in Game 2. He limited the Astros to just one run on two hits. He left with some arm pain, but is expected to be fine to go in this one. The one downside in this start for Severino is that the Astros were one of the best offenses against high velocity during the season.
Per the great Daren Willman, a must-follow on Twitter, the Astros were 158-for-556 with 22 home runs on batted ball against starting pitchers that threw a pitch of 95 mph or higher. That .284 average was the second-best in MLB. Severino can really bring it, with one of the highest average fastball velocities of any pitcher, not just starters. The Astros have made some hard contact in this series with poor results. They hit Masahiro Tanaka hard early in the game, but didn’t have much luck in the BABIP department. They’ve gotten some decent swings off the New York bullpen. Unfortunately, in a sample size of 5-7 games like a playoff series, variance is a killer.
Justin Verlander shoved in Game 2. He threw a complete game with 13 strikeouts. He had 25 swings and misses and allowed just one run on five hits. We saw the Yankees make really sound adjustments against Dallas Keuchel, who shut them down in Game 1. Keuchel still struck out eight over 4.2 innings, but he allowed four runs on seven hits. It will be interesting to see what happens with Verlander, who is an extreme fly ball guy. There is less potential for variance with extreme fly ball guys because fewer balls in play go for hits. Verlander had a 1.06 ERA with a 2.69 FIP and a 2.94 xFIP in his 34 innings after the trade to Houston and has allowed four runs on 12 hits with a 16/5 K/BB ratio in 17.2 playoff innings.
This is an Astros team that is seriously pressing. They have done nothing offensively in this series except for a few hits here or there. Sustained offense has been a pipe dream. There is a lot of anxiety on this roster right now. I think Verlander is the right guy to have on the mound here, but turning it over to the bullpen is certainly scary. The Yankees seem free and easy. It’s not necessarily a quantifiable thing, but it means something in the playoffs. The team that plays tight often goes home. It’s hard enough to hit in a high-stress environment and to do it against premier velocity, but doing so without being in the moment is nearly impossible.
In continuing my playoff theme here, I’d be looking to live bet here. If Severino and the Yankees can keep this thing tight through the middle innings, I’d make a live wager on New York, whether they are ahead, trailing, or tied. The bullpen edge for New York has been very significant in this series and Thursday’s day off was a big help for that group. If the Astros get out to a lead and hold it, so be it.
For those that cannot access live betting, I would start with the under. The Yankees adjusted to Keuchel, but Keuchel is subject to some bad BABIP luck. Verlander really isn’t because of his fly ball rate. I don’t think the Yankees will be able to have great success here. Severino will basically be used like a long relief arm by Joe Girardi. He’ll tell him to give him everything he’s got for three or four innings and then turn it over, unless Severino is sailing.
The one caveat is that the arm issue in Game 2 is a big deal to me. Severino has now worked 204.2 innings this season. His previous high was 161.2 in 2015. And these are all big-league innings. And some high-stress ones at that. Velocity isn’t always the best indicator of fatigue or injury. It can be a good one, but command and control are another. For a guy with Severino’s stuff to not strike anybody out over 15 batters is kind of remarkable. It merits close attention, which is why I don’t have a pregame side play. Just see how the game develops and go from there.