The division series are over, and with them, the postseason field has been whittled down from 10 teams.
Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will start Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Friday against the Houston Astros, the New York Yankees announced on Thursday. He just said: "'Hey, let's go one game at a time like we've been doing.' And lo and behold we won three in a row". The clubs are far more evenly matched than it appears on the surface, with Houston having scored 38 more runs but NY having allowed 40 fewer.
Countering that is an Astros lineup, led by Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Marwin Gonzalez and George Springer - with feasts on fastballs. "They have been able to go out there and perform", Beltran said.
Tanaka was 13-12 with a 4.74 ERA in 30 regular-season starts.
"(Judge) is such a unique player and I think the Yankees have a lot of unique players", Keuchel said on Thursday. We asked the Astros players what they do and some were quite simple things like waking up early or waking up late.
Both the Yankees and Cubs are the underdogs, though they'll be heading into their respective series with plenty of momentum.
In Phoenix, rookie Cody Bellinger homered and drove in two runs, Yu Darvish pitched five strong innings, and the Dodgers swept their way into the National League Championship Series with a 3-1 victory over the Diamondbacks in game three of their series. While the Yanks were embarking on their improbable comeback against the Indians, the Astros were at home eating popcorn.
Their reward: another 100-win team in the Houston Astros.
Now in possession of a 1-0 series lead, the Astros will attempt to double their advantage Friday when they hand the ball over to 2015 Cy Young Award victor Dallas Keuchel.
Prediction: Astros in six games.
If the Astros win: They will keep rolling, especially at home, where they outscored the Boston Red Sox by a 16-4 margin in the first two games of their division series.
In Game 5, the Yankees again did something that might have seemed impossible at an earlier point in the game's evolution: Their hitters struck out 16 times in a 5-2 win - making them the first team in history to win a nine-inning postseason game in which they whiffed that many times.
One key stat to know: There's no effective way to pitch Altuve, which is why he rates as the AL MVP frontrunner. He got to the World Series once, in 2013 with the St. Louis Cardinals when they lost to the Boston Red Sox in six games.
Now that all playoff series in the next two rounds are back to a best-of-seven, starters will be back to being starters and the team's with the deepest rotations will be back to owning the series advantage.
"I know there's a confidence level", Hinch said.
The matchup that matters most: It's the postseason, so the bullpens will be a series-long storyline.
The Astros bullpen should be fresh, too. Yankees hitters are 19-for-103 (.184) with four walks and 35 strikeouts against him. "I'm not concerned. I think they're in a good state mentally".
The decisive Game 5 is Wednesday in Cleveland, where the Indians will be looking to snap a five-game losing streak in elimination games. And in Game 1, they didn't waste any time putting it to good use.