The ALCS has not gotten off to the start that most people were hoping for. The Astros and Yankees were the clear top two teams in the American League for most of the season, but the Astros have asserted their dominance through the first three games. They’ll have a chance to wrap up a series sweep in the Bronx on Sunday, and if they can pull it off, they’ll have a significant rest period before the World Series starts on Friday.
Can the Astros take care of business, or will the Yankees live to see another day? Let’s dive into some of my favorite bets for this contest on DraftKings Sportsbook.
The Yankees will have a slight pitching advantage in this contest, and they’ll also have the benefit of home field. However, history is not on their side. There have been 13 previous teams to fall behind 0-3 in the playoffs since 2005, and nine of them would also lose Game 4. I think that makes sense from a psychological standpoint. Winning four straight games is such a daunting task against an elite opponent like the Astros, and while they would never admit it out loud, it wouldn’t shock me if most of the Yankees’ squad has already conceded that they’re not going to win this series.
The Astros also match up pretty well with opposing starter Nestor Cortes. Cortes has been unhittable against left-handed batters this season, but the Astros’ lineup will feature seven right-handed hitters. The two lefties – Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker – have both displayed above-average ability in lefty-lefty matchups, while most of their right-handed hitters are known lefty killers.
Meanwhile, the Yankees have not been able to figure out the Astros’ pitching staff. They’ve scored just four runs through the first three games, and they were limited to just three hits in a shutout loss on Saturday. The Astros’ bullpen has been nearly flawless in this series, and they’ve pitched to an absurd 0.62 ERA in the postseason. They were able to avoid closer Ryan Pressly yesterday, so he should be available for multiple innings if needed.
If the Astros can scratch a run across early, that could be enough to get the job done.
I’m going to double down my fade of the Yankees’ offense. Manager Aaron Boone has tried virtually everything to give this team a spark offensively, but none of it has worked. He’s played the veterans like Josh Donaldson and Matt Carpenter. He’s tried the kids like Oswaldo Peraza and Oswald Cabrera. He’s batted a different leadoff hitter in all three games. Nothing has been able to get this team to snap out of its offensive funk.
Ultimately, the injuries to D.J. LeMahieu and Andrew Benintendi have proved too much to overcome. The team is built around hitting homers, and that is the most efficient way to score in the postseason. However, the first step in hitting a homer is actually putting the bat on the ball. The Yankees have whiffed 41 times through the first three games, which has made the absence of contact hitters like LeMahieu and Benintendi noticeable.
Things aren’t going to get any easier vs. Lance McCullers. He pitched to a 2.27 ERA across eight regular season starts, and he racked up six scoreless innings in his lone start this postseason. McCullers is a known big-game performer, with his career ERA sitting at just 2.56 across 63 1/3 postseason innings. Expect another subpar showing from the Bronx Bombers on Sunday.
Given the Yankees’ propensity for strikeouts, I have no problems backing the over on 5.5 strikeouts for McCullers. He generated seven strikeouts over six innings in his first postseason start, and he’s averaged just under 10 strikeouts per nine innings during the playoffs for his career.
McCullers also has a solid track record vs. the Yankees. He’s racked up five strikeouts in 15 career at-bats vs. Aaron Judge, two strikeouts in five matchups vs. Giancarlo Stanton, and two strikeouts in four at-bats vs. Gleyber Torres. If he can punch out those three guys a time or two, he should have no issues getting the rest against the Yankees’ weaker hitters.
First hit props are available for this contest, and they heavily favor the Astros. Not only are they the away team – giving them the first at-bats of the contest – but their lineup is so much easier to predict. I’m not sure who the Yankees plan on playing in this matchup, let alone where they’re going to be batting. It’s possible that Aaron Boone just throws all the names into one of those bingo machines and see what ends up getting spit out.
Altuve will get the first at bat of the game, and he’s clearly a threat for a hit. He has just one hit in six career at-bats against Cortes, but Altuve has been phenomenal against southpaws all season. He owns a .340 batting average in that split this season, resulting in an insane 207 wRC+.
With that in mind, the +320 odds are very reasonable. They translate to an implied probability of 23.81%, but I would put his odds of getting a hit against Cortes at closer to 30%.
Since we’re going a bit chalky with the first hit prop, let’s look for more of a long shot with the first homer. If you’re targeting the Astros – which I’m pretty clearly doing given my other picks so far – you’re way better off going with a righty than a lefty. Cortes has allowed just 0.36 homers per nine innings against left-handed batters this season, but that figure jumps to 1.02 against righties.
Gurriel isn’t the prototypical power-hitting first baseman, but he can pop one over the wall from time to time. He already has a homer in this series, and he hit for much more power this season against southpaws than traditional pitchers. He also has a homer in six career at-bats against Cortes, so he’s proven he can succeed in this matchup.
Put your knowledge to the test. Sign up for DraftKings and experience the game inside the game.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is mlamarca) and I may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.