Houston will look to even the series in Game 2

Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: ALCS Game 2 Preview

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Houston's performance in Game 1 of the ALCS was a night to forget. The Yankees dominated on both sides of the ball en route to a 7-0 victory, which halted any momentum that Houston had built by winning their way into the series with their big Game 5 win in the ALDS.

However, the ALCS is a seven-game series, which means that overcoming a 1-0 deficit is something that a team of Houston's caliber should be able to do. What the Astros have in their favor is that they had arguably their worst starter of the first three games take the mound in Game 1, and in Game 2, they will have Justin Verlander. Here is a quick preview of Game 2 that will take place Sunday night:

Game Facts

When: Sunday, 7:08 p.m Central.

Where: Minute Maid Park - Houston, Texas.

TV: FS1.

Streaming: Fox Sports App.

Pitching matchup: Justin Verlander vs. James Paxton

Series: Yankees lead 1-0.

Series schedule

Date & Time (Central)LocationPitching matchup
Game 1Yankees 7, Astros 0Minute Maid Park, Houston TXGreinke (L) vs Tanaka (W)
Game 2Sunday 10/13, 7:08 PMMinute Maid Park, Houston TXVerlander vs Paxton
Game 3Tuesday 10/15, 3:08 PMYankee Stadium, Bronx NYCole vs Severino
Game 4Wednesday 10/16, 7:08 PMYankee Stadium, Bronx NYTBD vs TBD
Game 5*Thursday 10/17, 7:08 PMYankee Stadium, Bronx NYTBD vs TBD
Game 6*Saturday 10/19, 3:08 PMMinute Maid Park, Houston TXTBD vs TBD
Game 7*Sunday 10/20, 6:38 PMMinute Maid Park, Houston TXTBD vs TBD

* If necessary
+ Projected Starters

Game Storylines

Houston needs a big day from Verlander

With the Yankees' bats overpowering Houston pitching in Game 1, the Astros will look to Justin Verlander to try and hold the potent lineup in check to keep them from putting the game out of reach as they did on Saturday against Zack Greinke and Ryan Pressly. Verlander will rise to the moment well, like he always does, and could be just what the Astros need to hold New York at bay.

The intriguing storyline to see will be how Verlander can manage his pitch count. Greinke was able to do great in this area on Saturday, finishing six innings with a pitch count that, if needed, could have allowed him to go deeper. With Verlander working for more strikeouts than contact, it would be a significant benefit to the Astros if he can go deep into Game 2.

Astros need offense to build on

Houston's bats went nearly silent in Game 1. They cannot allow that to happen again on Sunday. While coming out and putting up a huge first inning would bode well for them, the Astros would also do well to get some offense to build on in the early goings of the game to capture some momentum that they can use to get the crowd behind them to shake the Yankees off their game.

I would expect one, or several, of Houston's key bats to have a huge game to even this series up before it shifts to the Bronx for three games. As was seen in Game 1, it's unlikely that the Yankees will go down without getting a few big hits that usually result in runs. The Astros need to put up as many runs as possible to keep the Yankees out of reach.

Be sure to check SportsMap after the final out for an in-depth recap of the game, and follow me on Twitter for updates and reactions throughout each playoff game: @ChrisCampise

The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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