HOUSTON -- The Astros were hoping to use veteran right-hander Jake Odorizzi as their starting pitcher in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, but they’ve learned the hard way this postseason that any pitching plans should be written in pencil.
One day after ace starter Lance McCullers Jr. was ruled out of the ALCS because of a right forearm strain sustained in his Game 4 start in the AL Division Series on Tuesday, Astros starter Luis Garcia recorded only three outs Saturday against the Red Sox in a 9-5 loss in Game 2 of the ALCS. Garcia left the game with a right knee strain.
That forced Odorizzi to come from the bullpen and take over, but not before he had to warm up in the middle of the diamond -- a process that began with stretching and tossing to loosen up his arm, before finally throwing his warm-up pitches. He said it’s a 30-minute process that he did in under 15 minutes.
“I was caught off guard by it,” Odorizzi said. “I think everybody was. My typical routine is out the window at that point. I hadn't even stretched, thrown, anything, so it was going to take me a good while to warm up. I think all things considered -- I'm sure it felt like forever for y'all -- but for me that was about the fastest I can warm up.”
Odorizzi, who wasn’t on the ALDS roster and was pitching for the first time since Oct. 2, threw 82 pitches while absorbing four innings. Short starts by Framber Valdez (2 2/3 innings in Game 1 of the ALCS) and Garcia (one inning, plus one batter in Game 2) have stretched Houston’s bullpen thin, so the length Odorizzi provided could be crucial in a best-of-seven series.
“That was very important,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “Like I told him, that's probably the toughest spot in baseball to be in, to have to warm up out there in front of everybody, and invariably you're going to say that ‘I'm ready.’ But I always tell our guys if they're in that situation, if you say you're ready, then throw five or six more pitches and try to be over-ready versus under-ready.”
Garcia gave up a first-inning grand slam to J.D. Martinez then walked Kevin Plawecki to start the second. Odorizzi came in and gave up a single to Christian Arroyo, struck out Kyle Schwarber and allowed a single by Kiké Hernández to load the bases. Rafael Devers hit Boston’s second grand slam in as many innings to make it 8-0. Hernández also took Odorizzi deep in the fourth.
“I sucked up four innings,” Odorizzi said. “That's the best way of putting it. Those can be crucial as we move forward in the series. That first inning when I came in, I was -- I don't know -- throwing about 70 pitches between warmups and the inning there. I don't know if I've been asked to do that or capable of really doing it. I was getting tired toward the end of that inning. It's unfortunate that, you know, Devers kept that ball fair. I thought it was a well-located cutter in, and he did a nice job on it.
“Take that away, the rest of the outing went pretty well. They worked at-bats. Did exactly what you would expect them to do. But overall four innings saved the bullpen. I think that can mean a lot down the road.”