USA Today Images

Keidel: Essential For Yankees To Get Home-Field Advantage In AL

Jason Keidel
August 08, 2019 - 12:21 pm

As the Yankees thunder through the American League, fans are dreaming of long sleeves and big deeds under brown leaves. They just clubbed the Orioles, 14-2, completing a sweep in Baltimore, having won all 10 games in Camden Yards this season, while hitting 43 homers, the most for a visiting team in MLB history, and 52 overall against the Orioles in 2019, also a record. They have also won 15 straight in the ballpark that was once so proud and home to Cal Ripken Jr. 

Listen to your team news NOW.

We're told to ignore the competition, even if it's Baltimore - a borderline Triple-A ball club that has morphed into the baseball version of the Washington Generals to the Bronx iteration of the Harlem Globetrotters. 

Maybe the Yankees are so sublime, so charged with power and purpose, that no team can stop them. The Bombers are 75-39, the best record in the AL by a mile.

Or not. 

No matter how fat the Yanks get on the Orioles, they still have one lurking roadblock to the World Series, a shadow with a little less lumber but a way better rotation. 

Indeed, the Houston Astros are galloping stride-for-stride with the Yanks. The Yanks are 9-1 over their last 10 games. The Astros are 9-1 over their last 10. Since July 17, the Yanks are 15-6. The Astros are 16-3. The Yanks yielded 122 runs over that stretch. The Astros surrendered 50 runs. The difference in total runs allowed between the Yanks (524) and Astros (457) has been established over this stretch. 

The Astros played four series against teams over .500 (A's, Cardinals, Rangers, and Indians), as have the Yankees (Rays, Twins, Red Sox twice). 

The Yanks have, of course, done this with a conga line of big-time players taking turns on the IL. So perhaps they are so tough and battle-hardened that no foe looms too large for the Bombers. But the Astros are no strangers to the playoffs, or to the Fall Classic. The Yankees have the deepest lineup on the planet, with a laughable surplus of bats. The Astros have the deepest rotation in the sport and still added Zack Greinke for good measure.

So if the Yankees and Astros are indeed on a collision course for the ALCS, you wonder whether pitching will make the difference, or where they pitch. 

You can't be held captive by the schedule, but the difference in starting pitching is a potential issue for the Yanks. Even as they stampede over the sport, they are just a half-game ahead of the Astros (75-40) for the best record in the AL. The Yanks have outscored their foes by a formidable margin of 153 runs. The Astros have a 163-run bulge over their opponents. We marvel over the Yankees record in the Bronx (43-18), while Houston's home record (43-15) is just as robust. 

After adding Greinke to their rotation, Houston has four starters with a 3.08 ERA or under. The Yankees have no such starters, with only Domingo German pitching under a 4.00 ERA. The Yanks merely hope a rather rusty Luis Severino gets healthy. 

If the Yanks do no better than get Severino back in pinstripes for the first time all year, then the team would love to have a potential Game 7 in the Bronx. And August will go a long way to deciding who gets that last home game. For all the feasting the Yanks have done on the Orioles, they still have a rugged rest of the month, while the Astros have some pillow-soft pockets on their August slate.  

The Astros have 15 games against the Orioles, White Sox, Tigers, Angels, and Blue Jays. The Yanks have 12 games against the A's, Indians, and an inter-league delight against the Dodgers. If the Astros beat the Bombers by a nose for the best record in the AL, the next few weeks could be the reason. 

The Yanks are not only sprinting alongside the Astros, but they are also racing against history. Since the Yanks bought Babe Ruth from the Red Sox in 1918, they have only gone one calendar decade without a World Series title - the conflicted 1980s of Don Mattingly, a load of regular-season wins, but no world title. Those Yanks have some pretty potent batters, from Mattingly to Dave Winfield to Rickey Henderson. Pitching doubled as an anvil around their necks. 

These Yankees are more stable, from the owner to the batboy. No more turnstiles at the manager's office, no more haunting missives from the Boss, and no more chaos. At the plate, the Yanks are as good as any club in the majors. On the mound is another matter. If it comes down to one game for the AL pennant on a cool October night, the Yanks would be best served to play it in the Bronx. 

Twitter: @JasonKeidel