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Rest vs. no rest? History tells us little

Yanks' break after sweep might not negate Astros' home-field edge
@MandyBell02
October 12, 2019

HOUSTON -- As the Astros went the distance against the Rays in the American League Division Series, the Yankees had the luxury of receiving an extra three days of rest following their sweep of the Twins in the first round of the postseason. But the question looms: Will the time

HOUSTON -- As the Astros went the distance against the Rays in the American League Division Series, the Yankees had the luxury of receiving an extra three days of rest following their sweep of the Twins in the first round of the postseason.

But the question looms: Will the time off actually be looked at as a luxury?

“You can sit and make a case for both ways; wanting to keep on playing and playing high-stakes games, and us having a little bit of rest,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I'm sure whatever way the first couple of games go, I'm sure people will harken back to that and say the rest helped or hurt us or vice versa.”

Game Date Time Matchup/
Result
TV/
Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 12   NYY 7, HOU 0 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 13   HOU 3, NYY 2 (11) Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 15   HOU 4, NYY 1 Watch
Gm 4 Oct. 17 8 p.m. HOU vs. NYY FS1
Gm 5 Oct. 18 7 p.m. HOU vs. NYY FS1
*Gm 6 Oct. 19 8 p.m. NYY vs. HOU FS1
*Gm 7 Oct. 20 7:30 p.m. NYY vs. HOU FS1

This isn’t the first time that a team fresh off a sweep will take on a competitor that clinched its spot in the AL Championship Series in Game 5 of the prior round. So what has history told us?

The Astros wrapped up the ALDS on Thursday before Game 1 of the ALCS on Saturday. New York, on the other hand, hasn’t played since clinching on Monday in Minnesota. In the Wild Card era (since 1995), there have been eight other series with two teams in these scenarios. Of those, four were won by the team that swept the previous round and four by the team that went the distance, showing that extra rest hasn’t been a clear benefit or detriment.

“I guess there could be good and bad for having some time off, letting your body rest a little bit,” Astros outfielder George Springer said. “That's always big at this point in the year. Everybody's been playing since early February. So any time off is a good thing. But, again, I don't really know if there's a correlation between having the three or four days off or 24 hours. I honestly don't know.”

Whether the Astros' continued adrenaline from nonstop play will outweigh the Yankees’ fresher legs will remain to be seen. But here’s a look at the previous individual series since ‘95, with the game number in parentheses indicating how long that LCS went:

LCS where the team that went five games in the LDS defeated a team that swept:
• 2010 ALCS: Rangers over Yankees (6 games)
• 2002 NLCS: Giants over Cardinals (5 games)
• 2001 NLCS: Diamondbacks over Braves (5 games)
• 2000 ALCS: Yankees over Mariners (6 games)

LCS where the team that swept the LDS defeated a team that had to go five games:
• 2017 NLCS: Dodgers over Cubs (5 games)
• 2005 ALCS: White Sox over Angels (5 games)
• 1999 ALCS: Yankees over Red Sox (5 games)
• 1995 ALCS: Indians over Mariners (6 games)

While history may not give us an edge in predicting how a longer break for the Yankees could impact their success moving forward, the previous series do reflect the importance of home-field advantage.

In six of the eight matchups (all but the ‘95 ALCS and ‘02 NLCS), it was the team with home-field advantage that was victorious despite how the previous rounds had gone. That is a good sign for an Astros team that went 60-21 at home during the regular season and 3-0 at Minute Maid Park in the ALDS.

“I really think there's a big thing to say, any team that plays at home, you're comfortable there,” Springer said. “You get to go home to your own bed. You get to kind of do things the way that you want to do off the field. And I really think that that makes a big difference.”

For Houston, Zack Greinke will get the ball in the opener and will remain on normal rest after having 11 days off before his 2019 postseason debut on Monday in Tampa Bay. That extended down time certainly didn’t help his sharpness in his six-run, 3 2/3-inning outing against the Rays, and getting back on a normal rotation could play in the right-hander’s favor.

“I imagine it affected him a little bit for the feel of his pitches, specifically his changeup,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “That's what we got burned on against Tampa. And some of that was just they put good swings on some pitches, and some of it was he threw it in some areas they controlled the strike zone a little bit.”

On the other hand, Masahiro Tanaka will be getting the ball after taking the past six days off. The righty has made five starts this season on at least six days of rest, posting a 6.12 ERA and 1.240 WHIP in those contests.

Both bullpens will be well-rested after Gerrit Cole’s eight-inning performance on Thursday and Friday’s day off. In 555 innings this year, the Astros’ relief corps pitched to a 3.75 ERA, while the Yankees ’pen owned a 4.08 ERA in 664 2/3 frames.

“I don't think there's a magic formula,” Boone said. “These are obviously two great teams. And hopefully we'll kind of deliver I think what the baseball world is probably anticipating.”

Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.