It’s been only two years since the Yankees and Astros met in the ALCS, but plenty has changed. A look at what’s different this time around:
- The Astros have replaced Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr. with the big guns otherwise known as Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke. Jose Urquidy, a 24-year-old rookie, figures to fill in as the No. 4 starter after working out of the bullpen in the ALDS.
- In 2017, ex-Yankee Brian McCann and Evan Gattis split catching duties for Houston. Now, it’s Robinson Chirinos and Martin Maldonado. Chirinos will get most of the work, but Maldonado has the important duty of being Cole’s personal catcher.
- Shortstop Didi Gregorius is the Yankees’ only infield holdover. They have upgraded every spot, with Gio Urshela supplanting Todd Frazier at third, Gleyber Torres over Starlin Castro at second, DJ LeMahieu in place of Greg Bird at first and Edwin Encarnacion instead of Chase Headley and Matt Holliday at DH.
- Ken Giles was the Astros’ closer in 2017, but began to lose his grip that October when he gave up 10 runs in 7 ²/₃ innings. The following year, he was shipped to Toronto for Roberto Osuna, the Astros’ current closer. They have also added high-leverage weapons Ryan Pressly and Hector Rondon.
- The Yankees also bolstered their pitching staff, though not quite to the extent the Astros did. Gone are Sonny Gray, Adam Warren and David Robertson. In are James Paxton, Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton and J.A. Happ.
- While the Astros went out and traded for Cole in the months after the 2017 playoffs, the Yankees made a similar splash. After they couldn’t land Shohei Ohtani, the Yankees changed course and acquired Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins.
- Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS marked Joe Girardi’s last game as Yankees manager after 10 seasons. He was fired five days later, clearing the way for Aaron Boone.
- Most of the key bats remain the same for the Astros, but they have added two big left-handed hitters. Michael Brantley is playing left field instead of Marwin Gonzalez and turned in another All-Star campaign. At designated hitter, 22-year-old slugger Yordan Alvarez has replaced Carlos Beltran, batting .313 with 27 home runs and a 1.067 OPS in 87 games.