I am guilty, as are many others, of seeing the Astros as the same Godzilla crime they did in 2017, no matter what means they used to get there. I hear Astros and think that whatever batter they send to the plate, thousands of Tokyo residents are going to run for cover. And Astros’ offense is still pretty good, and if Yordan Alvarez ever came out in a big spot against a team I really cared about, I’d probably shit my own tongue.
But what really makes the Astros special these days is that they’ve produced a stuffy pitching staff. And they seem to have done it with an ethos of figuring out which throw that guy throws the best, and telling him to throw a goddamn barrel at it. And against the Yankees, they throw as many throws as they can. And they are up 2-0, with only four runs against in those two games, so it has to work.
In Game 1 Wednesday night, more than half of Justin Verlander’s pitches were sliders or curves, up slightly from the 44 percent of his regular-season offerings. The Yankees sniffed eight of the 13 sliders he threw. Last night in Game 2, Framber Valdez only threw sinkers or turns for the most part. The Yankees swung on 24 of the 40 turns he threw, sniffing on 16 of them. Brayan Abreu came in and 15 of his 19 pitches were sliders. Ryan Pressly threw 37 pitches in the first two games and only two were fastballs. He’s gotten eight gizmos on the 19 throws the Yanks have waved at him.
It makes sense because the Yankees tend to mash fastballs pretty hard. As a team, New York defeated .252/.357/.482 against fastballs. Against sliders and curves? Those numbers drop to .221/.282/.401. They can still get you by the breaking stuff, but it’s the surest way to keep them in the park. And they’re not made for stringing hits together.
But this is something from the Astros. Verlander had never thrown more than 20 percent sliders when he was in Detroit. He has never thrown less than that in Houston. Gerrit Cole threw by far more corners in Houston than in Houston. Valdez throws his sinker that acts like a bowling ball that hitters smash into the ground. Lance McCullers may only throw curveballs or he must write on the board after class. They don’t really care about the pitch mix. It’s not that different when the bullpen comes in, as Pressly, Cristian Javier, Abreu and José Urquidy specialize in throwing breaking pitches more than a third of the time. That’s dangerous water for the Yanks.
The Yankees probably won’t get much of a reprieve when they return to the Boogie Down tomorrow, as McCullers and his curve and slider are likely to wait in Game 3. Only Javier has heavy fastball manners, if he starts in Game. 4, then the whole cycle starts again. McCullers gave Yankees fans all the dicks in Game 7 in 2017 when they couldn’t fix his ways.
The Astros’ production line on the hill is second to none, and why they’ve stayed at the top even despite the “losses” of George Springer and Carlos Correa (it’s not really a loss if you just let them walk out the door because they really want money). That’s why they have the play-off 0 . can surf-fer that Jose Altuve is currently on. That’s why they have a two-game lead if Alvarez needs to have a big moment in this series, as he did in the previous one.
Would they also cheat on the hill? Let’s just say it before everyone else does, led by very bitter Yankees fans staring ahead of them in the course of a third ALCS loss.