Four Key Players To Watch In The American League Championship Series  10/12/2019 15:59:21 
ALDS Yankees Twins Baseball

New York Yankees first baseman DJ LeMahieu, left, forces out Minnesota Twins' Eddie Rosario, right, at first base during the fifth inning in Game 3 of a baseball American League Division Series, Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce


The American League Championship Series, theoretically, could be even more exciting.

It is a matchup of heavyweights, pitting the Houston Astros against the New York Yankees. The Astros won 107 games during the regular season, tops in the major leagues, then outlasted the Tampa Bay Rays in five games in their American League Division Series. The Yankees were 103-game winners then swept the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS round.

It's the matchup that we wanted, Astros shortstop Carlos Correa told reporters following Game 5 of the ALDS. It's the matchup that everybody wants to watch. It's must-see TV right there. So, everybody is going to be tuning in. It's going to be fun."

The fun begins Saturday night with Game 1 at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

Here is a look at four key players to watch in the ALCS:

DJ LeMahieu, Yankees

LeMahieu has been everything the Yankees were hoping for when they signed the infielder to a two-year, $24-million contract in free agency in the offseason. That followed eight seasons with the Colorado Rockies in which he won a National League batting title and three Gold Gloves as a second baseman.

The Yankees belted 306 home runs in the regular season, the second-highest total in major league history behind the Twins 307. Yet it was LeMahieu who made the offense go from the leadoff spot by hitting .327/.375/.518 with 26 home runs in 145 games. He then went 4 for 14 (.286) with two doubles and a homer in the ALDS.

Adding to LeMahieus value is his versatility as he started 66 games at second base, 47 at third base and 28 at first base. He gives manager Aaron Boone plenty of lineup options against the Astros.

ALDS Yankees Twins Baseball

New York Yankees relief pitcher Adam Ottavino throws during the fifth inning in Game 3 of a baseball American League Division Series against the Minnesota Twins, Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)


Adam Ottavino, Yankees

Like LeMahieu, the Yankees signed Ottavino away from the Rockies in free agency last winter, giving him a three-year, $27-million contract. The right-handed reliever quickly became a key member of New Yorks bullpen, teaming with left-hander Zack Britton to set up closer Aroldis Chapman.

Ottavino had a 1.90 ERA, the best mark of his nine-year career, and two saves in 73 regular-season games. He pitched in all three games of the ALDS but retired just three of the six batters he faced while walking two.

Walks have been Ottavinos only drawback as he issued 40 in 66 1/3 innings in the regular season, an average of 5.4 per nine innings. Bases on balls could potentially haunt the Yankees against a deep Astros lineup.

ALDS Yankees Astros Baseball

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve takes batting practice during a workout for a baseball American League Championship Series in Houston, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. Houston will face the New York Yankees, Saturday. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)


Jose Altuve, Astros

Its been easy to overlook Altuve this year and it has nothing to do with the second baseman standing just 5-foot-6. Alex Bregman, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole have been the headliners for the Astros.

Though Altuves streak of five consecutive All-Star Game selections ended, he still had a fine year, batting .298/.353/.550 with 31 home runs in 124 games. He also shined in the ALDS by going 7 for 20 (.350) with two doubles and three homers

Altuve is no longer considered the most-feared hitter in the Astros lineup following the emergence of Bregman. However, he is still capable of doing a lot of damage and has 11 home runs in 165 career postseason plate appearances.

ALDS Rays Astros Baseball

Houston Astros starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) celebrates with manager AJ Hinch (14) after the team's win in Game 5 of a baseball American League Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays in Houston, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. Houston won 6-1. (AP


Gerrit Cole, Astros

The drawback of the Astros being pushed to the limit by the Rays in the ALDS is that they wont have Cole available to start until Game 3 in New York. However, the good news for Houston is that the right-hander is also be in line to pitch a winner-take-all Game 7 in Houston.

Cole was overwhelming in his two starts against the Rays, winning both. He allowed one run and six hits in 15 2/3 innings while striking out 25.

That followed an outstanding regular season in which Cole had a 20-5 record, 2.50 ERA and 326 strikeouts in 33 starts. He hasnt lost since May 22 and is on the type of run that can almost single handedly lift a team to a World Series title.

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