NEW YORK -- The Yankees’ bullpen did its job during the team’s 4-1 victory over the Astros in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night, giving the group and the rest of the team confidence that it can do so again in Game 6 on Saturday night as the series returns to Minute Maid Park. New York manager Aaron Boone announced postgame that the team will go with a bullpen game in the potential elimination game.
The bullpen combined for three shutout innings and struck out three to preserve James Paxton's six-inning gem. Relievers Tommy Kahnle, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman turned the page from the bullpen’s Game 4 outing on Thursday night, when it allowed four runs in four innings during an 8-3 loss that put the Yankees on the brink of elimination.
But it was a different story on Friday, although it didn’t look that way at the start. Right-hander Kahnle, who pitched Thursday, entered the game in the seventh inning and faced three hitters, retiring just one. With runners on first and second, left-hander Britton entered the game and got Michael Brantley to hit into a force for the second out, then got Alex Bregman to line out to center fielder Aaron Hicks to end the threat.
It was smooth sailing the final two innings as Britton and Chapman retired the sides in order in the eighth and ninth frames.
“We needed it,” Britton said. “Me and Chappy knew going in that we could throw two innings or an inning-plus. It lined up perfectly to how Aaron wanted to use the bullpen. Paxton was obviously the big reason for that. He pitched that good of a game.”
The Yanks are still down in the series and need their bullpen to be dominant once more in a Game 6 that will be a battle of the bullpens, with New York once again facing a win-or-go-home situation.
“We knew going into today we had four straight games with the rainout. Just get yourself ready and be ready to go,” Kahnle said.
It’s not known who will start for New York, but all hands are on deck. Kahnle, Britton and Chapman said they are ready to throw on Saturday in Houston. If Kahnle is on the mound, it will mean he would throw three games in a row, something the Yankees have avoided with all of their relievers throughout the season. But Kahnle threw just 14 pitches in Game 4 and eight pitches in Game 5.
“I feel good. I should be good to go tomorrow,” Kahnle said.
Britton and Chapman said they could pitch at least two innings if needed.
“A couple of times in my career, when I was closing with the Orioles, I had a two-inning save,” Britton recalled. “I would come back the next day for an inning-plus. It’s not a common occurrence, but I feel fine. At this stage, I will do whatever it takes to win.”
Chapman believes he could pitch two innings. It helped that he threw only nine pitches in the ninth inning for Friday’s save.
“Yes, I think [I could throw two innings],” Chapman said. “I’m just ready for whatever. If that’s the case tomorrow, I’ll be ready for that.”