NEW YORK -- From the Yankees’ perspective, one benefit of Wednesday’s postponement could be that Giancarlo Stanton will have more treatment on his strained right quadriceps, though manager Aaron Boone remains unsure if the slugger will return to the lineup when Game 4 of the American League Championship Series is played on Thursday at Yankee Stadium.
“I'm not sure. I'm not really close to making that decision yet,” Boone said. “That'll be something that we kind of work through [Wednesday] and possibly into [Thursday] before I make that decision.”
Stanton sustained the injury in the second inning of Game 1 against the Astros at Houston’s Minute Maid Park, and though he hit a sixth-inning homer and played another six innings on defense in that contest, Stanton was unable to return to the lineup for Games 2 and 3.
Boone has said that Stanton’s injury would be significant enough to require a stint on the injured list if this were the regular season. But the Yankees are reluctant to replace Stanton on the active roster because doing so would render him ineligible for the World Series, if they were to advance.
“Even though ‘G’ hasn't been able to go yet, I do view him as a potential option off the bench in a hitting situation if we like something,” Boone said. “I don't look at it as we're entirely a 24-man [roster] right now. I do believe we have his bat off the bench right now. Whether a situation for that arises, we'll see. We'll continue to evaluate this as smartly as we can moving forward.”
The Yankees have a taxi squad of position players working out at their complex in Tampa, Fla., a group that includes infielder/outfielder Tyler Wade, outfielders Clint Frazier and Mike Tauchman and first baseman Mike Ford. First baseman Luke Voit remains with the club in New York and has been traveling during the ALCS.
The Yankees have been aggressive in going to their bullpen in the postseason, though with the prospect of four games in four days as a result of Wednesday’s rainout, Boone said that he would like to offer his starters longer leashes. Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton are listed as New York’s probable starters for Games 4 and 5, respectively.
"We're going to have to get some innings out of our starters, there's no question about it,” Boone said. “Masa is coming off a real good start in Game 1, where he was able to give us six innings. Between him and Paxton these next two days, we're going to need them to give us some innings if we're going to be successful.”
“If we're going to win this series, our bullpen will still play a huge role, but we've got to be able to get a little bit of distance out of our starters,” Boone said.
Faith in the Kraken
As he did following Game 3, Boone swiftly rejected the suggestion that he could bench Gary Sánchez in favor of backup catcher Austin Romine. The manager then provided an impassioned defense of Sánchez, who is 2-for-21 (.095) this postseason.
“Let's start with the other side of the ball, which completely gets lost in this,” Boone said. “He's been excellent behind the plate from a game-calling standpoint; game plan, target, receiving. … The bottom line is his body of work in this postseason, and frankly down the stretch in the second half of the season, defensively has been excellent.”
Sánchez did permit a Zack Britton wild pitch to skip past him in Game 3 that led to the Astros’ third run, but Boone considered that an outlier. Likewise, he has faith that Sánchez -- who led all big league catchers with 34 homers during the regular season -- will find his playoff stroke.
“Just knowing how talented of an offensive player he is, I always feel like he's a pitch away or an at-bat away from really getting locked in and changing the course of the game,” Boone said. “Clearly, he hasn't been at his best offensively, but with a guy as talented as he is, I think that's right around the corner.”
The Yankees were the only Major League team not to utilize a reliever on three consecutive days this year, a strategy to keep hurlers fresh that was devised by pitching coach Larry Rothschild and bullpen coach Mike Harkey. Boone said that those limitations have been tossed out for the postseason.
“I think I definitely would do it,” Boone said. “Now, that's on a case-by-case basis and depends on the individual. I would certainly be prepared to do that, but we've also got to take into consideration where the guy is coming in each day.”
Reliever Chad Green said after Game 3 that the Yankees are not bowed by the prospect of having the ALCS go the distance, even if it taxes their bullpen.
“You know that you might have to pitch in every game, but it’s something that at this time of the year, you just do it,” Green said. “You try not to overthink it and think, ‘I’ve never done this before.’ You just do it. It’s kind of the only mindset to take. I don’t think you can worry about, ‘I’m tired, I’ve pitched three days in a row,’ or, ‘I’ve thrown X amount of pitches in one day.’ It’s just kind of, take the ball when your name is called and see what happens.”
Boone said that he is leaning toward having Aaron Hicks in the Game 4 lineup “in some way, shape or form.” Hicks started in center field for Game 3, going 0-for-2 with two walks, including a 10-pitch free pass from Gerrit Cole.
This date in Yankees history
Oct. 16, 2003: Having entered the game as a defensive replacement, Boone hit an 11th-inning home run off a Tim Wakefield knuckleball and lifted the Yankees to a 6-5 victory over the Red Sox in Game 7 of the ALCS, securing the 39th American League pennant in franchise history.