Much to the chagrin of everyone rooting for or have picked the Astros to sweep their way through the Tampa Bay Rays, Houston was slapped by the right hand of reality. On Tuesday night, the Rays defeated the Astros to force Game 5 in the ALDS.
While many would view Tampa as the winners for pushing the World Series favorites to the brink, that's not true. The real winners are the New York Yankees.
We know what you're thinking, "how can the Yankees be winners if their opponents have yet to be determined?"
First off, if the Astros are to advance, the pitching matchups will be completely lopsided. There won't be Justin Verlander taking the mound for Game 1 of the ALCS. He insisted on pitching Game 4 on three days rest, and it backfired, as he was pummeled in the first inning by the Rays. And no, Gerrit Cole won't pitch the series opener, because he's in line to pitch Game 5 of the ALDS.
So the Yankees will have their rotation set with James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino, while the Astros will likely use Zack Greinke in Game 1, who suffered a thrashing in Game 3 against Tampa. Then Cole will likely get stuck facing the Yankees in the Bronx assuming Verlander gets Game 2. Then what? Wade Miley and Greinke again in New York? Sounds like a disaster for the Astros.
On the other hand, if the Rays are to pull off the upset, they would face a Yankees team they've struggled against this season. In 19 regular season meetings, New York has won 12 of them, outscoring Tampa 96-56.
What we know for sure is that the Astros are the biggest loser here because they'll be a bit out of sorts heading into their potential series with New York.
The Yankees have the privilege of being well-rested heading into the ALCS opener on Saturday while these teams have played two extra games of taxing baseball in this division series battle.