5 things to watch in Astros-Yan­kees se­ries

The Arizona Republic - - Azcentral Sports - JOHN PERROTTO

It will be the New York Yan­kees against the Hous­ton Astros in the Amer­i­can League Cham­pi­onship Se­ries.

The Yan­kees ad­vanced by beat­ing the In­di­ans 5-2 in Game 5 of their best-of­five Amer­i­can League Di­vi­sion Se­ries at Pro­gres­sive Field in Cleve­land on Wed­nes­day. The Astros beat the Bos­ton Red Sox in four games in the other ALDS.

The ALCS be­gins at 8:08 p.m. ET on Fri­day at Minute Maid Park in Hous­ton. The Yan­kees will be ap­pear­ing in their 16th LCS, the most of any ma­jor-league fran­chise, while the Astros haven’t reached that round since 2005 when they were in the Na­tional League and de­feated the St. Louis Car­di­nals.

Here are five things to watch in the ALCS:

Clash of tra­di­tions

The Astros have never won a World Se­ries since their in­cep­tion in 1962, and their lone ap­pear­ance came in 2005 when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in four games. Con­versely, the Yan­kees have 27 World Se­ries cham­pi­onships.

The Astros lost 106 games in 2011, 107 in 2012 and 111 in 2013 at the be­gin­ning stages of a mas­sive rebuild. The Yan­kees haven’t had a los­ing sea­son since 1992.

Lit­tle man with big bat

Jose Al­tuve, the Astros’ 5-foot-6 sec­ond base­man, tied a post­sea­son record when he belted three home runs against the Red Sox in Game 1 of their ALDS. He fin­ished the se­ries 8-for-15 with four walks.

Al­tuve hit .346 in the reg­u­lar sea­son to win his sec­ond straight AL bat­ting ti­tle and third in four years. He also topped the league in hits for a fourth con­sec­u­tive sea­son with 204 and is av­er­ag­ing 211 a year in that span.

The Ver­lan­der fac­tor

Right-han­der Justin Ver­lan­der has looked re­ju­ve­nated since the Astros ac­quired the 34-year-old in a trade from the Detroit Tigers on Aug. 31.

Ver­lan­der won all five reg­u­lar-sea­son starts for Hous­ton with a sparkling 1.06 ERA. He then notched two wins over the Red Sox, one as a starter and the other in the first re­lief ap­pear­ance of his 13-year ca­reer, al­low­ing three runs in 82⁄3 in­nings.

Get­ting Judge-y

Yan­kees rookie right fielder Aaron Judge set the ma­jor-league rookie record with 52 home runs in the reg­u­lar sea­son and ei­ther he or Al­tuve is likely to win the AL Most Valu­able Player award.

Judge hit a home run in the Yan­kees’ vic­tory over the Twins in the AL wild­card game. How­ever, he set a post­sea­son record for most strike­outs in a se­ries with 16 against the In­di­ans while go­ing 1-for-20.

Hous­ton Strong

Hous­ton and the sur­round­ing re­gion was hit hard by Hur­ri­cane Har­vey in late Au­gust. The Astros have re­peat­edly said over the last six weeks how badly they want to win the World Se­ries to bring some joy to a city dev­as­tated by flood­ing and high winds. Mean­while, Puerto Ri­can Astros Car­los Cor­rea and Car­los Bel­tran had fam­ily mem­bers af­fected by Hur­ri­cane Maria. Bel­tran do­nated $1 million to a re­lief fund that raised at least $1.3 million and Astros owner Jim Crane sent three planes to Puerto Rico with 300,000 pounds of sup­plies, and also to trans­port Astros fam­ily mem­bers and others in need of med­i­cal treat­ment to Hous­ton.

SHANNA LOCK­WOOD/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Astros start­ing pitcher Justin Ver­lan­der de­liv­ers dur­ing work­outs Thurs­day at Minute Maid Park in Hous­ton.

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