Yanks stick with Ottavino through thick and thin

October 17th, 2019

NEW YORK -- Yankees right-hander was lights-out during the regular season. In fact, one could argue that he was the team’s best reliever. Ottavino had a 1.90 ERA, struck 88 batters in 66 1/3 innings and was second among Yanks pitchers in WAR rankings with a 2.2 mark.

The postseason has been a different story for Ottavino, however. He's had three outings this postseason in which he has not recorded an out (two of those outings he faced just one batter). That's a franchise record for most in a single postseason.

In Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday, Ottavino -- who surrendered a pivotal game-tying home run to outfielder on the first pitch he threw in Game 2 -- allowed two more runs in a 4-1 loss to the Astros.

Houston was up by two when Ottavino began the seventh inning, facing Springer once again. He had him down in the count, 1-2, yet walked Springer three pitches later. followed with a perfectly placed single behind the sprinting Springer to put runners on first and third.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone took Ottavino out of the game in favor of left-hander , who allowed Altuve to score on a wild pitch and to score on a sacrifice fly by to make it a four-run margin.

Ottavino has now faced 16 batters this postseason and retired only five of them.

“It’s not over yet,” Ottavino said. “To win the whole thing, I think I have another opportunity, hopefully. I’m not going to let it define me. I’m not going to dwell on a couple of pitches here and there. Obviously, it’s frustrating.

“These are the types of games I want to be in. It’s the reason I came to this team -- everything I wanted my whole life. So I want to do better. I want to get out there again.”

With Game 4 postponed to Thursday due to Wednesday's forecast, Friday’s off-day has been erased, meaning the Yankees would need to win three games in four days to get past the Astros.

, who threw six pristine innings in Game 1, will likely take the ball in Game 4 now that it’s been pushed to Thursday. After that, New York will need to start in either Game 5 or 6, going with a bullpen game in the other.

“Yeah, we'll continue to use him,” Boone said about Ottavino. “I thought he was in the midst of a pretty good opening at-bat there with Springer and then loses him. That's obviously difficult when you come in from the pen and you have a leadoff walk. …

“We've put him in some tough spots, [obviously], in the lineup, and then they're running. And [then there’s] Altuve's first-pitch hit and the night's over there. [Ottavino] just has to be a little sharper with his command, a little sharper with his stuff and we're going to need him moving forward.”

Ottavino didn’t have any answers as to why he has been struggling on the mound. At first, he thought he had some mechanical issues, but that he had fixed whatever ailed him before the ALCS started. Ottavino insisted there is nothing wrong physically.

Even though Boone said that Ottavino will continue to play a role in the ALCS, the righty didn’t rule out being taken out of the bullpen rotation because the games are so important at this point.

“I don’t make those decisions,” Ottavino said. “I’ll stay ready for my chance. I’ll work really hard behind the scenes. I’ll be confident when I go in there again. That’s pretty much all I can do. Of course, I want to be out there. We’ll see what happens.”

Yankees outfielder said Ottavino is not the problem. New York's offense is the reason the team is down in the series. Entering Game 4, the Yanks are hitting .220 in the ALCS.

“Listen, our bullpen has been the strength of our team all year,” Gardner said. … [Ottavino] has been great for us all year. Maybe one or two pitches he wishes he could have back. We have the confidence in him and the rest of the guys down there. It hasn’t been an issue of keeping those guys off the board. For the most part, it has been an issue of our offense scoring runs or not scoring runs. We are facing really good pitching.”