NEW YORK -- After spending parts of five seasons with the A's, right-hander Sonny Gray has had plenty of experience and success against the Astros, and the Yankees will be leaning on him to find that mojo when he takes the mound today for Game 4 of the American League
NEW YORK -- After spending parts of five seasons with the A's, right-hander Sonny Gray has had plenty of experience and success against the Astros, and the Yankees will be leaning on him to find that mojo when he takes the mound today for Game 4 of the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World as the Yankees look to even the series at 2-2.
Gray started against the Indians in Game 1 of the AL Division Series presented by Doosan but struggled, lasting 3 1/3 innings, yielding three runs on three hits and four walks in a 5-0 loss. The Yankees opted to go with veteran Carsten Sabathia for the clinching Game 5 win instead of Gray, so he'll be pitching on 11 days' rest for the second time in his career. Gray did pitch in a three-inning simulated game in Houston during Thursday's workout day, throwing to Matthew Holliday and Ronald Torreyes.
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"I feel good -- I got to work on a lot of stuff," Gray said. "That's something that has been pretty beneficial to me. I've thrown a handful of bullpens and got to throw a sim game the other day. The positive thing is, I feel really good. I feel fresh, and should be ready to go."
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With the amount of days off between starts, Gray should be in good position to go deep into the game if he's sharp. And even if he's limited to a few innings, the Yankees are set up well with their bullpen after Sabathia threw six scoreless innings and Adam Warren tossed two scoreless frames in relief in Monday's 8-1 Game 3 win. Tommy Kahnle had to throw 15 pitches in the ninth after Dellin Betances walked his first two batters, but neither closer Albertin Chapman nor setup men Player Page for David Robertson and Chad Green entered the game, meaning they all have at least two days' rest.
"I was hoping not to use Tommy tonight, but I had to use him," said manager Joe Girardi. "And Green didn't work, he was up a little bit. Robertson didn't work, and Chapman had to get up a little bit. But it's good. It's good to have those guys. And maybe I'll have Tommy for an inning tomorrow, we'll see."
Gray has historically pitched well with extended time off, posting a career 2.44 ERA in 16 outings when going on six or more days' rest. The only other time he pitched following an 11-day layoff, coincidentally, came at Yankee Stadium in July 2015, and he gave up three runs over seven strong innings in an Oakland win after a bout with salmonella.
But the Yankees will need him to be sharp early, and he's struggled at Yankee Stadium since coming over in a deadline deal on July 31. He recorded a 5.65 ERA in five starts in the Bronx since the trade, allowing eight homers in 28 2/3 innings. Gray, though, has a career 3.09 ERA with 45 strikeouts and four homers allowed in 58 1/3 innings over nine starts against the Astros. Notably, against Gray, Carlos Correa is 1-for-16, George Springer is 4-for-16 with a homer and Jose Altuve is 11-for-30 with one double.
"I know these guys pretty well," Gray said. "I've faced them in the last three or four years, a lot of the same guys, faced them quite a bit. You can look back and think back and remember the times that you have had success. I feel like I have thrown the ball pretty well against these guys. And it's going to be a good challenge tomorrow, and one that I'm ready for."
Gray will need better command if he's to succeed against the Astros. He located his four-seam fastball fine against the Indians, throwing 12 of 16 for strikes, but it was his secondary stuff he couldn't command. Of his 27 sliders and curveballs, 13 were thrown for strikes. Gray said he can tell early in his starts if he has his stuff working, and if he doesn't, the Yankees will likely have a quick hook for Gray given his layoff and the bullpen's success this postseason.
"If you're kind of struggling a little, you've just got to keep doing what you do, stay to your strengths," Gray said. "It's when you're not feeling sharp and you're not able to throw that sharp slider every time or throw a 3-1 fastball down and away and just beat a guy to a spot, when you're kind of searching for that a little bit, you kind of need to do some things different. If you're feeling sharp, then you can just go out there and it kind of seems easy."
Rhett Bollinger has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter **@RhettBollinger** and **Facebook**.