ALCS questions: Is it possible to shut down the best offense in baseball?

From ESPN - October 12, 2017

The Yankees are a year ahead of schedule and the Astros are right on schedule as they meet in the American League Championship Series. The Yankees were not supposed to make the playoffs. They were not supposed to beat the Indians, especially after losing the first two games of the AL Division Series. And now they are winning for Joe Girardi, their recently embattled manager, who might not be back next year -- he's unsigned after this season.

The Astros were supposed to win their division, which they did easily. They were supposed to beat the Red Sox, which they did rather easily. And this is the year they are supposed to win the World Series for the first time in franchise history. They are Houston Strong and are playing for a Greater Houston area crushed by recent flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. And they are playing for all those Astros -- Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell and the rest -- who never won it all. So much is lined up here, yet like this crazy, marvelous postseason, anything can happen.

Here are five questions:

How good is the Astros lineup?

It is the best in baseball, no doubt. In the ALDS against the Red Sox, the Astros had an OPS of .974, the third-highest by any team in any postseason series in history. The Astros pounded all the Red Sox starters, including Chris Sale, and they knocked around Boston's nearly unhittable closer, Craig Kimbrel, in the clinching Game 4. Second baseman Jose Altuve, the likely AL MVP winner, was devastating. There was no way to pitch him, and he became the ninth different player to hit three home runs in a postseason game, supporting the claim of one Astros coach who said, "Pound for pound, Altuve is the strongest player in the game.''

There is no end to their lineup. Third baseman Alex Bregman is a really good hitter, but he's just another guy in that lineup, and he hit two homers off Sale in the ALDS. The Astros' bench is also good; Carlos Beltran started only one of the four games in the ALDS, but he's one of the greatest postseason players ever, and he delivered a big hit in Game 4. The Astros put the ball in play more than most teams, and they led the league in productive outs. There's nothing about this lineup that suggests it can be stopped.

How do Yankees pitchers match up against that offense?

It is a big challenge, of course, but the Yankees outpitched the Indians to win the ALDS. In six postseason games, Yankees pitchers have averaged 11.89 strikeouts per nine innings. Starters Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino and CC Sabathia were really good in the ALDS, better than Cleveland's starters, and the Yankees bullpen has been terrific throughout the postseason.

That pen has a half-dozen guys with explosive stuff, notably the threesome of closer Aroldis Chapman (who has not allowed a run in the last 15 games he has pitched), David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle. Those three have thrown 19 2/3 innings in this postseason, allowing nine hits, one run and five walks while notching 29 strikeouts. If the Yankees can get Dellin Betances straightened out in this series (not likely), the pen will be even mightier. This is the distinct advantage the Yankees have over Houston: a deep, versatile, power bullpen.

What should we make of the Astros' bullpen?


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