The Astros set their franchise record for strikes in 2013, which was the worst year they ever had. They lost 111 games, a slump in a slump intended to make them a juggernaut. It worked.
The Yankees set their franchise record for strikes this season, which was a very good year because they did so many other things well. But they grow off by elimination in the American League Championship Series, and they go down and swing – and see.
Strikeouts is the biggest separator between these teams. The Astros & # 39; pitchers had the most strikeouts in the majors this season, and their hitters had the least. This had never happened before in major league history.
"The fighting, for us, will happen," Yankees manager Aaron Boone admitted. "It's a matter of us taking good bats."
To save his season, the Yankees have to do it in Game 5 on Friday against Justin Verlander. If they survive, Gerrit Cole would throw in Game 6 or 7 of Houston. Verlander and Cole have combined for 678 strikes since opening day; no duo is better at keeping balls out of play.
"Putting the ball into play is extremely important during the fall season, because the environment for running is different," Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow said. “It is suppressed based on pitching and schedule and how it works with the off days. Being able to make runs, put the ball into play and hope that something goes in the way is huge. "
Boone famously called his hitters" wilder in the box "in his tirade at a judge in July. He said they relentlessly controlled the strike zone and hunted for places to run, and he was not wrong. The Yankees made the most runs in the majors this season, clinching 306 homers, a shy of Minnesota's major league record.
Of course, home runs are always important. But in this time of extreme power pitching, the postseason formula that works best is to beat the power and make contact consistently. It worked for the last two champions: the Astros 2017 had the majors' four few strikeouts and the best sluggish percentage, and the Boston Red Sox 2018 had the fifth smallest strike and the best sluggish percentage.
The two teams during the 2019 season The field with the smallest strikes were the Astros and Washington Nationals, who are about to meet in the World Series. When the Nationals were flashed through the playoffs in the National League, their finders had 30 fewer strikes than their opponents.
The Yankees collapsed under a mountain of Ks in Game 4. They loaded the bases in the first and fifth rounds but never put the ball into play. In the first, Zack Greinke went for a drive before turning Gary Sanchez to end the threat. In the fifth, Ryan Pressly escaped by knocking out Gleyber Torres on a curveball and Edwin Encarnacion on a fastball.
"Torres is incredibly hot right now – the moment definitely got a little bigger when he went into the box," Pressly said. "But at the same time, you have to stay within yourself and do what you can."
What Pressly does, like so many of his teammates, are overwhelming finders: Since joining the Astros in July last year, he has found 114 in 85 innings, including by season. The Yankees have their own power arm, and their personnel ranked fifth in majors in strikes. But Astros' assortment is treacherous.
Even by making soft contact, their finders can sometimes be lucky to start or maintain a rally; The Yankees infantry started four founders in the later rounds on Thursday, and all led to runs. And the Astros also made high contact with three-run homers by George Springer and Carlos Correa, both of whom also made plays in Game 2.
hit the other way, whatever it is, guys are just trying to transfer the torch to the next guy, says Alex Bregman, who made a mistake and scored on Correa at home. "And when we do, our crime is deadly."
The Astros are well-known for recognizing when a pitcher telegraphs their pitches – as Tampa Bay's Tyler Glasnow did in the division series with the placement of his glove – and teams generally suspect them of scattering stealing signs.
Astros Manager AJ Hinch has denied that accusation, and Correa said the Astros simply concentrate on the center of the strike zone and try not to swing at anything else. He opposes the idea that their finders must always know what's coming.
"I just laugh because they say, 'Oh, we have something, or so the pitchers tipped' – when they had nothing, sometimes," Correa said. “We're just watching the game. We use every single detail we can get. Beating is tough. If you tip the pitch, fix it. If you choose your pitch and I can see, I will take advantage of it. I try to help my team win ball games, and every edge counts. "
He added:" But I think it is disrespectful that every time we do a lot of runs people talk about tipping. Nobody tipped today and we did what, eight runs? We are fantastic finders. We've been doing it for a whole season. You look across the board at the numbers that this team has put up for a whole season, it's just incredible how many guys have been at the top of their game. "
For six months, plus a first round of the Twins, the Yankees were also at the top of their game. But the Astros have countered their strengths and could be prepared for a knockout in the Bronx's bowl.
"They say this is a heavy weight fight and it's like you're in a boxing match in the middle and it's madness happening around you," Bregman said. "You just have to play the game we've played since we were kids. It's a lot of fun."