The Houston Astros lead the American League Championship series with the New York Yankees 2-1 but if it weren't for the strong starting pitching in games one and two they could easily be down.

The narrow 2-1 victories in Houston were directly a result of Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander's studly performances. After an 8-1 loss to the Yankees in New York on Monday night many have been wondering, where have the Stros bats gone? Hard to believe that in a city that never sleeps, their bats couldn't wake up against a 37 year old C.C. Sabathia.

This is an offense that led the league in batting average (.282), runs scored (896), on-base (.346) and slugging percentage (.478). During the first three games of the series this offense has been held to a grand total of five runs, hit .169 as a team, and have only accumulated three extra-base hits.

However, the two guys in the lineup you can't put blame on are Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. This dynamic duo has put together solid production throughout the series as they're a combined 9-for-23 (.391 batting average).

This Astros lineup is missing everyone else stepping up and having quality, productive at-bats. The guys not named Correa or Altuve are a combined 6-for-66 (.091 batting average) in the series so far.

If Houston plans on finishing off this series and moving on they need to do a much better job at the plate against the Yankees starters. The one thing that should scare you against New York is that they really haven't had to dip far into their bullpen very often. Against a pen like theirs what you need to do is put pressure on them. The strategy is to knock out the starters relatively early in the game and force Joe Girardi have to constantly go to his horses. The further along this series goes without the Yankees having to lean heavy on the bullpen the less likely it is they'll falter in a big spot.

Young Lance McCullers opposes Sonny Gray this afternoon in the Bronx. Manager A.J. Hinch goes with McCullers over a more successful Brad Peacock as a starter this season. Hinch said he made this decision based off how much he likes the young hurlers talent, "He has some of the best stuff in the big leagues and we believe in him." In addition, McCullers has good career numbers against the New York Yankees, he's sporting a 2.08 ERA with 23 strikeouts in three career starts against them, including a scoreless six-inning start in the Bronx on May 12.

I would have liked to see Brad Peacock garner this start but you can imagine if McCullers gets into early trouble it could be Peacock to the rescue early out of the pen.

 

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