Greinke, Javier among options to start G4

Astros 'a little thin' after James' rough go Wednesday

October 8th, 2020

The Astros went into the seventh inning Wednesday hoping to leverage their bullpen to sweep the A’s out of their American League Division Series. Now, as manager Dusty Baker surveys the damage from Oakland’s 9-7 win in Game 3 to extend the best-of-five series, he has to figure out how not only to get that clinching victory, but to get the innings to finish it out.

He has been here before during his 23 seasons as a manager, but that doesn’t make it easier.

“It’s in the back of your mind,” Baker said afterward, “but basically, you’re trying to win that game today. You don’t want to go through your whole bullpen before Game 4, but basically, this was the game to win today, and then tomorrow will be the game to win tomorrow.”

With dealing with arm soreness, the Astros turned to to start Game 3. Urquidy allowed four solo homers over 4 1/3 innings, but Houston’s five-run fifth inning handed a lead to its previously unblemished bullpen. took the mound for the seventh inning, looking to not only maintain a 7-4 lead but extend the Astros bullpen’s scoreless postseason, which at 18 1/3 innings was an inning away from tying a Major League record to begin a postseason. The A’s had been 1-for-24 after the fifth inning in the first two games of the series.

Instead, Chad Pinder’s three-run homer off James in the seventh inning tied the game before a pair of sacrifice flies off put Oakland ahead and put Houston in planning mode for Game 4. But the Astros' plans are far from set.

Baker did not name a Game 4 starter postgame. He said Greinke might be available, but Houston won’t know his status for sure until Thursday morning. Before Game 3, Baker mentioned as a candidate to start if Greinke isn’t available. Javier made 10 regular-season starts, including 95 pitches over 5 2/3 innings in his regular-season finale Sept. 24, and he delivered three hitless innings of relief in Game 2 of the AL Wild Card Series at Minnesota before tossing a scoreless inning against Oakland in Game 1 Monday.

Either way, Baker could still have to piece together innings from his bullpen, which has covered 11 2/3 of the 27 innings through three games in this series.

“We’re a little thin,” Baker said. “Whoever starts [Thursday], we need some innings out of him. As many innings as possible to limit our bullpen action. [If] we keep scoring the way we are, we’re in pretty good shape.”

At least Baker’s options are clearer than they were going into Game 3. While he extended his two veteran non-closing relievers Wednesday -- including 38 pitches over two innings from Raley -- he was able to rest , whose three perfect innings proved critical in the Astros’ two wins. Closer also wasn’t used Wednesday, though he briefly began throwing in the bullpen while the Astros put the potential tying run on base in the eighth inning.

James threw 24 pitches to six batters in Game 3; his seventh-inning breakdown took just seven pitches before Raley replaced him. More important for James’ usability will be whether he has an effective breaking ball, which cost him Wednesday.

“When I did land it for a strike, I left it up and [Pinder] put a good swing on it,” James said. “When they have only one pitch to kind of sit on, no matter how hard I’m throwing it, it definitely makes it easier on them.”

Any pitcher who can deliver grounders, or at least shallow popups, would be welcomed. The home run has become the predominant method of offense in this series for both clubs over the course of three warm, sunny afternoons at Dodger Stadium. Paredes has allowed one home run over 23 1/3 regular-season and playoff innings and induced three groundouts and two strikeouts out of his six batters in Game 1.

The good news for whoever pitches is that Houston’s reinvigorated offense provides room for error. And with a 2-1 series lead, the Astros have two chances to win one game. But the way home runs have been flying all series, no lead is safe.

“This team has been there before,” Baker said. “These guys don’t seem real worried about it. We got beat today. We made some mistakes. Hopefully, we don’t make those mistakes tomorrow.”