Mother Nature may be a Houston Astros fan.
Game 3 of the ALCS was rained out yesterday, so the Yankees will try to even up the series when they host Houston tonight. However, the one-day delay could make a world of difference for the Bronx Bombers.
Starting Pitching is Crucial
Masahiro Tanaka is set to face Zack Grienke on the mound tonight in what is a rematch of Game 1 of the series. Tanaka prevailed on top in that contest, after he allowed one hit through six innings. His performance continued his streak of strong starts at home for the Yanks. In four postseason starts in New York, Tanaka is 3-1 with a 1.13 ERA. Yankees manager Aaron Boone spoke about Tanaka’s impressive command:
Grienke, on the other hand, has struggled in the playoffs. He is 0-2 this October with an 8.39 ERA and posts a career postseason ERA of 4.58.
The Yankees need a strong performance out of Tanaka, and the rest of their starters throughout the series, because their bullpen will have even less rest than they’ve already had going forward. Yesterday’s canceled game means there are no days off the rest of the series. The Yankees have already relied heavily on their bullpen in games two and three.
James Paxton only lasted two full innings in game two, and Luis Severino lasted four. When relievers are accustomed to rest in between outings during the regular season, they can struggle to pitch consecutive days in the playoffs. For example, Yankees reliever Adam Ottavino sported a 1.90 ERA throughout the season. But, in the playoffs, he has featured in every game and has put up an 11.57 ERA.
Astros manager AJ Hinch spoke about how increased exposure to a bullpen is beneficial:
Despite holding an embarrassment of power hitters, the Bronx Bombers are misfiring. Gleyber Torres and Aaron Judge have been two bright spots in a lineup where Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez are struggling. Also, Giancarlo Stanton’s status for Game 4 is still uncertain after he missed the last two games.
The Astros have not been much better at the plate, though. They have hit .173 in the series, and have gone 1-for-19 with runners in scoring position. This is a testament to how dominant Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and the rest of their pitching staff has been so far.
Aces Up Houston’s Sleeve
Speaking of Verlander and Cole, the Yankees will certainly have to face both of them again if they are able to extend the series. Verlander is set to pitch in Game 5, while Cole will be ready and waiting if needed in Game 7. Both pitchers would be on regular rest, thanks to the rain delay.
Verlander pitched 6.2 innings and gave up five hits while striking out seven in Game 2. Cole’s performance in Game 3 led Houston to victory; he allowed four hits and struck out seven in seven innings of work.
The prospect of facing these two 2019 Cy Young candidates, in addition to having to travel to Houston, means the Yankees have their work cut out for them.