For the first time in Major League Baseball postseason history, the Houston Astros will meet the New York Yankees in the American League Wild Card game Tuesday night in New York.
Since the Astros came into existence back in 1962, they had always been a member of the National League. But with league and division realignment in 2013, Houston was placed in the American League West.
This season, they finished second to the Texas Rangers in the AL West, clinching the second wild card playoff spot on the final day of the regular season. This will be the first trip to the postseason for the franchise since they went to the 2005 World Series as National League champions.
For the Yankees, the postseason is expected every year in the Bronx. When your team has won 27 World Series championships, the fans routinely block out all other October plans for baseball. The one-game Wild Card playoff will mark the 52nd time the Yankees will play in the American League postseason. They last won the World Series in 2009.
As for the game itself, Houston will send left-handed pitcher Dallas Keuchel, with the "House of David" beard, to the mound in Yankee Stadium. For the record, the "House of David" was a Christian religious sect in Michigan that was established early in the 20th century. The sect's leader formed a baseball team that played games around the US, beginning in 1917. As a part of their religious faith, the players wore long hair and beards.
And, as the Boston Globe reported, they were a sight to see.
Millions of fans filled sold-out ballparks to watch them play. They were dazzled by the House of David’s invented game of “pepper”—a baseball version of the Harlem Globetrotters famed basketball weave—in which the players with lightning speed tossed the baseball from behind their backs and between their legs and used sleight-of-hand tricks that included concealing the ball inside their bushy beards. The team began to take on all comers, including exhibitions against major league and even Negro League squads at a time when the rest of the sport was rigidly segregated.
Returning to modern day baseball, Keuchel posted a 20-8 record and earned run average (ERA) of 2.48 for the Astros this season. MLB.com's Brian McTaggart notes that Keuchel is 2-0 against the Yankees this season and has yet to give up a run to them over 16 innings pitched. He will be opposed by the Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka, who went 12-7 with a 3.51 ERA for New York in 2015.
The Yankees' roster of starting pitchers suffered a major loss Monday when it was learned that veteran lefthander C.C. Sabathia would be lost to the team for the postseason after he entered an alcohol rehabilitation program.
At the plate, the Yankees are led in hitting by right fielder Carlos Beltran, who finished the regular season with a .276 batting average, 19 home runs, and 67 runs batted in. Designated hitter Alex Rodriguez, in his comeback season after a year-long suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs, hit 33 home runs and drove in 86. However, New York will be missing another power source this postseason, as first baseman Mark Teixeira is out with a leg injury.
Tuesday night's winner will meet the Kansas City Royals in the American League Division Series, starting Thursday in Kansas City.
You can watch the American League Wild Card game between the Astros and Yankees at 8 p.m. Eastern Tuesday on ESPN.