On Thursday night, the Astros suffered a crushing loss to the Yankees after taking a 6-3 lead into the ninth inning. Yankees left fielder Aaron Hicks tied the game with a three-run home run before Aaron Judge sent everyone home with a walk-off single.
It was a surprising performance for an Astros bullpen that entered the game with the fewest blown saves (3) in the majors.
Houston will try to bounce back Friday with ace Justin Verlander on the mound. The Yankees will counter with a right-hander of their own as Luis Severino gets the nod.
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New York is on a historic run with 15 straight wins at home. However, if there was ever a spot to fade the Yankees, it might make sense to do it when they’re coming off the high of such a euphoric win.
We’ll look at the matchup and assess whether there’s any contrarian value to be had with the Astros.
There’s no question that the Yankees are on a tear after winning 52 of 70 games this season. To put things into context, it’s the third-best mark through 70 games in the majors since 1930. Yet, somehow the Yankees (+475) still trail the Dodgers (+400) as favorites to win the World Series title.
Perhaps the thinking is that it’s unlikely that the Yankees can maintain this pace. I agree with that reasoning, as even their Pythagorean expectation points to a slight regression from their current win percentage (.743).
Thus, Friday’s matchup against Verlander is an excellent spot to consider fading the Yankees.
Verlander comes into this game 8-3 with a 2.30 ERA and 0.89 WHIP in 13 starts. While his advanced stats point to some regression — given his 3.40 FIP and 3.41 xFIP — those numbers would still be considered above average.
As for Severino, he’s 4-1 with a 3.27 ERA and 1.06 WHIP through 12 starts. His advanced numbers are also in line with his traditional ERA, evidenced by a 3.72 FIP and 3.23 xFIP.
Moreover, since neither pitcher is signaling much of a decline using their predictive numbers, I took a look at their batter vs. pitcher splits against the opposing team.
In 197 plate appearances against Verlander, New York’s lineup has a .174 BA with a .245 wOBA. In contrast, Houston’s lineup has a .268 BA with a .308 wOBA in 89 appearances against Severino.
Even with Houston’s meltdown on Thursday, I still think it has the best bullpen in baseball. It’s now tied for the fewest blown saves (4) and also leads the majors with a 2.68 bullpen ERA. As a result, I like its value as a short underdog in this contest.
It’s also worth noting that the Astros are 3-1 in Verlander’s starts against the Yankees, including three straight victories.
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Furthermore, I examined Houston’s numbers off a loss after blowing a lead of two or more runs in the ninth inning. The SpoDevs.com database shows only two instances, and the Astros are 2-0 in this spot.
One of those games was even against the Yankees, which included Verlander as the starter. That could be a foreshadowing of what we’ll see on Friday night.
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