NEW YORK -- Citing run prevention as the driving factor, Yankees manager Joe Girardi opted to pair backup catcher Austin Romine with right-hander Sonny Gray for Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, shifting Gary Sanchez to the designated-hitter role as the Yanks aim to even the best-of-seven set
NEW YORK -- Citing run prevention as the driving factor, Yankees manager Joe Girardi opted to pair backup catcher Austin Romine with right-hander Sonny Gray for Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, shifting Gary Sanchez to the designated-hitter role as the Yanks aim to even the best-of-seven set with the Astros.
"They've seemed to work a little bit better together during the course of the season," Girardi said. "I'm thinking more about run prevention right now and the importance of your starting pitcher giving you some distance."
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Girardi said that the Yankees assigned Romine to catch Gray's simulated game last week in Houston with an eye toward making this start. Working with Sanchez against the Indians, Gray took the loss in Game 1 of the AL Division Series presented by Doosan, lasting just 3 1/3 innings and permitting three runs on three hits with a wild pitch.
"Sonny has tended to rough him up a little bit and beat him up physically," Girardi said of Sanchez. "At this time of year, I don't want our catchers so beat up. It affects everything."
The difference in catcher ERAs over Gray's 11 regular-season starts with the Yankees were also a factor, according to Girardi. In three starts (18 1/3 innings) with Romine, Gray pitched to a 1.45 ERA and a .543 OPS. In eight starts (46 2/3 innings) with Sanchez, Gray compiled a 4.63 ERA while permitting a .767 OPS.
"It just looked like more of a comfortable mix. That happens," Girardi said. "It happened with me as a player. I can't tell you sometimes why one guy might handle one guy better than the other -- it just seems to happen for whatever reason. These two have worked a little bit better together, and that's why I'm going with it."
Girardi said that he plans to have Sanchez back behind the plate in Game 5 on Wednesday, catching right-hander Masahiro Tanaka. The half-day off could also be beneficial offensively for Sanchez, who is hitless in his past 16 at-bats, with nine strikeouts.
"The kid's going to hit," Girardi said. "Is it going to start today? I can't tell you that. I don't get so caught up in his at-bats, because I know he's going to hit. As I told him yesterday, 'You're doing a tremendous job [defensively].'"
The Yankees have scored 10 runs in the first three games of the ALCS presented by Camping World, all with two outs, and they are 14-for-37 with three homers and nine RBIs when batting with two outs. They are just 3-for-56 (.054) with less than two outs.
"We just never give up. We're still in this," said Brett Gardner, who's 5-for-10 when batting with two outs this postseason. "We've still got a chance. Our fans make a big difference for us here at home. The energy that they bring makes us go out and play for them."
What's the Dellin?
Girardi said that he is not ready to give up on Dellin Betances, believing that he can still be a factor in the ALCS, but he also is not sure when he will safely be able to get the right-hander some needed work. Betances couldn't find the strike zone in the ninth inning of Game 3, walking both hitters he faced before being pulled.
"I'm going to put him in if there's a time we need him," Girardi said. "It's unfortunate that he's going through this now. I looked at his first two appearances in the playoffs and they were really good. Right now, he's struggling with his command. We've got to try to figure it out and try to pick my spots."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.