New York Yankees Vs. Houston Astros MLB American League Championship Game 4 Preview

Masahiro Tanaka #19 of the New York Yankees looks on from the dugout before game three of the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium on October 15, 2019 in New York City.
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After inclement weather forced Major League Baseball to push Game 4 back to Thursday, the Yankees and Astros face off in a game that will define how the rest of this marathon series will go, as reported by CBS Sports. Due to scheduling restrictions forcing the World Series to begin next Tuesday, there will be no day off for travel from New York to Houston. Therefore, the remaining games of the American League Championship Series will be played consecutively over the next four days. With only a single day off between a potential Game 7 and Game 1 of the World Series against a well-rested Washington Nationals, both teams will be desperate to wrap up the series as soon as possible.

The Yankees will be looking to get their hitting back on track in Game 4, as they won’t be seeing the potential Cy Young winners in the Astros rotation tonight — Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander. Since the fourth inning of Game 2, the Yankees have only been able to register a single run over the next 15 innings and were held to a disjointed five hits as they were shut out in Game 3. With one of the closest characteristics of a weakness in the Astros being their bullpen, it’s even more disheartening for Yankees fans with their vaunted batting lineup. While Greinke is far from a weak link in the rotation, his stuff isn’t as overwhelming as his Astros’ pitching contemporaries. If the Yankees want to get back into this series, they are going to have to take advantage.

Taking the mound for the Yankees is Masahiro Tanaka, a 2019 all-star and arguably the most dependable pitcher in their rotation. Tanaka was almost flawless in his Game 1 start, allowing only a single hit with four strikeouts over six shutout innings. Since then, the Astros have quickly taken advantage of the Yankees’ starters, scoring in the first inning of the following two games. With the Yankees’ bats struggling, hitting with the pressure of playing from behind is something the Yankees need.

Zack Greinke #21 receives a mound visit from Robinson Chirinos #28 of the Houston Astros against the New York Yankees during the fifth inning in game one of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 12, 2019 in Houston, Texas.
  Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images

For the Astros, before Game 4 was postponed, there wasn’t much pressure behind this game. They had removed the Yankees’ home field advantage after a dominating Game 3. With Verlander scheduled to pitch in Game 5 and the strategic opportunity to use Cole when back in Houston, they had the Yankees right where they wanted them. Now with a potential four consecutive days of high-stakes games and the Nationals currently taking advantage of nearly a full week of rest, the Astros will be looking to press on the gas tonight and put the series to bed before the weekend.

While his playoff numbers haven’t lived up to his potential as the third ace in the Astros lineup, Greinke is a talent. With the Yankees’ bats in a slump, he should be able to capitalize and at the very least, hold the Yankees back while his own talented lineup wears down a Tanaka that doesn’t typically rack up a high pitch count. There is potential for something of a letdown for Houston as this is a game with much higher stakes for the Yankees, but the opportunity to put a stake in the heart of their rivals should be enough for the Astros to put on another impressive performance.

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