HOUSTON -- They say that momentum in baseball is only as good as the next day's pitcher, but after reeling off three electrifying victories in front of raucous Yankee Stadium crowds to move one victory from the Fall Classic, there was a part of manager Joe Girardi that wished the
HOUSTON -- They say that momentum in baseball is only as good as the next day's pitcher, but after reeling off three electrifying victories in front of raucous Yankee Stadium crowds to move one victory from the Fall Classic, there was a part of manager Joe Girardi that wished the Yankees could get right back on the field.
Instead, the Yanks and Astros had a breather on Thursday to prepare for what promises to be a deafening, sold-out Minute Maid Park tonight for Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, with Luis Severino scheduled to face Justin Verlander.
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"I think probably everyone would have probably rather played [Thursday]," Girardi said. "We understand it. We've been on both sides. It's probably good for our bullpen to have a day off. We rely on them heavily."
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Girardi said Thursday's off-day would help reliever Tommy Kahnle in particular. Kahnle was called upon for two innings behind Masahiro Tanaka's magnificent outing in Game 5 of the ALCS presented by Camping World, throwing 20 pitches with a strikeout around a hit.
"It allows us to probably use Tommy [in Game 6] if we need him," Girardi said. "The day off will definitely help our bullpen and I think physically it helps the players. But when you're on a roll, you never want to stop playing."
This marks the Yankees' first series lead of the postseason that did not include a wet and wild clubhouse celebration. They defeated the Twins in the AL Wild Card Game, fell behind 0-2 against the Indians before rallying for three straight wins, then repeated that formula here in the ALCS against the Astros.
"It does feel different," Girardi said. "We've been [in the mindset of], 'We have to win today, we can't afford to lose today,' for a number of reasons. But I still think the attitude will be the same, win one game. That is what we've kind of talked about, and that's kind of what we've stuck to around here, and that's what you try to do, win a game on Friday night."
Flashbacks to '09
Just three members of the 2009 World Series-winning team remain in the Yankees' clubhouse: outfielder Brett Gardner, right-hander Player Page for David Robertson and left-hander Carsten Sabathia, with Robertson returning to New York this summer following a 2 1/2-year stint on Chicago's South Side as a member of the White Sox. They're also the only remaining players from the Yanks' most recent ALCS, a sweep at the hands of the Tigers in 2012.
"I think it's extremely meaningful," Girardi said. "This has been a special year, and it just seems to get better and better as the year has went on. We started off great and people weren't really expecting that, and then we struggled, and we seemed to find our way out of that funk and play well down the stretch. To be able to do what we've done up to this point has been great. ...
"I take meaning because it has been a long time really since we got to this point. We haven't been to the American League Championship [Series] for a while. And with a completely new roster, it does mean a lot."
Out of chances?
Given the stakes of each game, the Yankees are having difficulty finding an opportunity when Dellin Betances can enter a game to work on the mechanical issues that have plagued the right-hander in the second half of the season. Pitching with a seven-run lead, the four-time All-Star didn't record an out in Game 3 of the ALCS on Monday, walking both hitters he faced before Kahnle relieved him.
"With the magnitude of the games, you can't allow sometimes a player to work through something where you might let him do it during the course of the season," Girardi said. "You might give him a little more rope [during the season]. ... I don't know my thoughts of when I can use him. Obviously, he's struggled the last couple of times, but he was really pretty good in the Cleveland series. So again, we're trying to get him going."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.