With no remaining margin for error, the Yankees’ first goal was to get to the airport, avoiding the task of packing their lockers in favor of continuing to battle for the American League pennant. As they soared above the 1,400 or so miles that separate Yankee Stadium from Minute Maid Park, the next task was to decide upon a pitching plan that keeps their season alive one more day.
The AL Championship Series will return to Houston for Game 6 tonight, and the Astros will now aim to celebrate on their home turf. With the traditional starting pitchers zapped for both clubs, bullpen games are in the works for both New York and Houston.
“I think it’s both teams trying to get outs and trying to do it the best way we can,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “We’ve had a lot of guys go down this year and different people not available. We’ll just do our best to piece it together.”
The Yankees’ choice to serve as the Game 6 starter is right-hander Chad Green, who served as New York’s opener for 15 games during the regular season. The Yanks will be looking for Green -- who served up a three-run Carlos Correa homer in Game 4 -- to get the ball to Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Tommy Kahnle and others.
“That’s obviously a strength of our team, the bullpen,” Britton said. “We’ve had a lot of success doing it in the regular season. The postseason is different, but I think we feel good about the fact that we only had to use me, Chappy and Tommy a little bit [in Game 5]. I think we’re in a good spot.”
Kahnle threw eight pitches, Britton tossed 18 and Chapman recorded a nine-pitch save in preserving Game 5 for starter James Paxton. Plan on seeing left-hander J.A. Happ as a possible bulk reliever, and the rest of the Yankees’ hurlers should be rested and ready, save for Luis Severino -- Boone said he is lined up for a potential Game 7 start.
• Paxton outduels JV as Yanks stay alive for G6
Houston needed only one relief pitcher in Game 5, with Brad Peacock throwing one inning. The rest of the bullpen will be available in Game 6 behind Peacock, who is slated to start. That group includes the Astros' late-inning, high-leverage relievers: Will Harris, Ryan Pressly and Roberto Osuna. Peacock, who began the year in the rotation, could probably throw multiple innings.
"We decided to go with Peacock just because their lineup is really good at the top, and Brad's really good at matching up against those guys," said manager AJ Hinch. "And he's got one of the calmest heartbeats in our club. He's kind of been there, done that. He's closed games in the World Series. He's pitched in a variety of roles for us. The moment is not going to be too big. He can execute pitches.
"I thought the way he threw the ball last night in the eight pitches was encouraging. And who better to kick off the chaos of a bullpen day than a calm Brad Peacock."
Harris, Josh James, Osuna, Pressly and Joe Smith have all pitched in three games in the ALCS. Osuna, who’s thrown four innings, is the only one of those relievers to pitch more than three innings in the series, so no one is overworked. Héctor Rondón has thrown only one-third of an inning in the series.
“You'd like to know the night before who you're facing, but if we find out in the morning, we'll do our homework and get ready,” said the Yankees’ Aaron Judge. “Once we find out who it is, we'll watch video on the guy and come up with a game plan.”
When is the game and how can I watch it?
Game 6 will be on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET/7 CT on FS1.
All games telecast on FS1 will be available to MLB.TV subscribers who are authenticated subscribers to the applicable network through a participating pay TV provider.
Official starting lineups
Yankees: After trotting out the same batting order for all three games of their AL Division Series sweep of the Twins, Boone has yet to try the same order twice against Houston.
1) DJ LeMahieu, 1B
2) Aaron Judge, RF
3) Gleyber Torres, 2B
4) Aaron Hicks, CF
5) Edwin Encarnacion, DH
6) Didi Gregorius, SS
7) Gary Sánchez, C
8) Gio Urshela, 3B
9) Brett Gardner, LF
Astros: Houston has several regulars who are struggling at the plate, but Hinch declined to bench any of his go-to guys at this point. He said after Game 5 that rookie DH Yordan Alvarez (1-for-19) would be in the lineup, hitting seventh, and he is.
1) George Springer, CF
2) José Altuve, 2B
3) Michael Brantley, LF
4) Alex Bregman, 3B
5) Yuli Gurriel, 1B
6) Carlos Correa, SS
7) Yordan Alvarez, DH
8) Martín Maldonado, C
9) Josh Reddick, RF
Who are the starting pitchers?
Yankees: Green has worked 5 2/3 innings this postseason and allowed two runs on four hits (3.18 ERA). He has walked none and struck out five. During the regular season, Green compiled a 3.72 ERA (eight earned runs in 19 1/3 innings) as an opener. His most recent opening assignment came on Sept. 29 at Texas, a game the Yanks lost, 6-1.
Astros: Peacock will be the first of multiple relievers used to get 27 outs. Peacock's most recent start was June 27 against the Pirates and the one before that was June 21 at the Yankees. He took the loss against New York, but went six innings, allowing two runs and striking out 11.
Any injuries of note?
Yankees: Not in the lineup for Game 6, Giancarlo Stanton is nursing a right quadriceps strain that is estimated to be at about 60 percent. Stanton went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in New York’s Game 5 win.
Who is hot and who is not?
Yankees: LeMahieu continues to help power the offense, hitting a first-inning homer off Verlander in Game 5. He’s 12-for-35 (.343) this postseason, just behind Torres (11-for-32, .344) for the team lead. Hicks hit a big three-run homer in Game 5 and has been getting on base at a .462 clip in the ALCS. On the pitching side, right-hander Adam Ottavino is enduring a nightmarish postseason, having allowed 10 of the 18 batters he has faced to reach base.
Astros: Houston's offensive funk hasn’t spared anyone not named Altuve or Brantley. In the ALCS, Bregman is 3-for-15, Correa is 4-for-19, Springer is 4-for-22, Gurriel is 1-for-20 and Alvarez is 1-for-19 with 10 punchouts. Altuve is 6-for-19 (.316) and Brantley is 6-for-20 (.300).
Anything else fans might want to know?
The Astros are slashing .281/.359/.509 at home in the regular season and postseason, compared to .261/.339/.467 on the road. They’re averaging 5.9 runs at home and 5.2 runs on the road.
The Yankees are slashing .271/.341/.502 on the road in the regular season and postseason, compared to .261/.335/.470 at home. They’re averaging 6.2 runs per game on the road and 5.4 runs at home.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.