HOUSTON – 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-of-five 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 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 26 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 8 2/3 innings.
Here comes the Judge
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 wild-card game. However, he set a postseason record for most strikeout in a series with 16 against the Indians while going 1-for-20.
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.