Post-rain, Greinke, JV to form Games 4-5 punch

October 17th, 2019

NEW YORK -- The decision, Astros manager AJ Hinch said, was an easy one. He will start former American League Cy Young Award winners in Game 4 and in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series, which is set to resume Thursday following Wednesday’s rainout.

The Astros, who beat the Yankees, 4-1, in Game 3 on Tuesday to take a 2-1 lead in the series, hadn’t announced a starter for Game 4 before the forecast of heavy rains forced Major League Baseball to postpone the game until Thursday, pushing back Game 5 into Friday’s previously scheduled off-day.

That will allow Hinch to start Greinke on full rest Thursday against Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees. Verlander is set to start Game 5 on Friday, likely against James Paxton.

“It was our plan if this happened,” Hinch said. “It’s Zack’s normal day. He was going to pitch on Thursday no matter what game number it was [and then] JV on regular rest in Game 5. The sooner we can use our best pitchers, the better for us. It was an easy decision.”

Greinke versus Tanaka will be a rematch from Game 1, a 7-0 win by the Yankees in Houston. Greinke allowed three runs on a pair of homers in six innings while Tanaka threw six innings of scoreless ball, allowing one hit and one walk. Greinke yielded six runs in 3 2/3 innings in a loss to the Rays in Game 3 of the AL Division Series, but he was pitching on 11 days of rest.

“I think for him execution is always key,” Hinch said. “He’s one of the best at it when he gets locked in with his mechanics and timing and delivery. When he makes his pitches, he’s really difficult to hit, and you can see that based on how good he is for as long as he’s been good. It will all come down to pitch execution.”

Tanaka changed speeds masterfully in Game 1, using his slider to miss barrels. Tanaka’s postseason ERA is 1.32 over 41 innings through seven postseason starts, and he has never allowed more than two earned runs in any start.

Hinch said he would like the Astros to take a more disciplined approach against Tanaka come Thursday.

“He was really good at making his pitches,” Hinch said. “He stayed with his game plan. He doesn’t throw a lot of fastballs. He didn’t change his approach. He stayed with his split and his slider. He was really good at locating his pitches that looked like strikes and ended up barely balls. He got us to chase quite a bit. Any time the moment gets really big, he’s got a good knack for slowing the game down himself and taking maybe a little bit off of his pitches as opposed to powering through it.”

Hinch isn’t about to look beyond the games in the Bronx, meaning he’s not ready to reveal who will start the potential Games 6 and 7 in Houston on Saturday and Sunday. The Astros could opt to bring back the unbeatable on short rest in Game 6 or save him for full rest for Game 7. That decision would likely depend on where they stand in the series.

It’s more likely, if the Astros get to a Game 6 with a 3-2 series lead, they would start rookie to kick off a bullpen day. If they lose the next two games and are down 3-2, it could be Cole on short rest in Game 6 with all hands on deck for a winner-take-all Game 7.

“We'll look into whatever Game 6 is going to bring, but there's so much baseball that has to be played we haven't begun discussions on if or when or whether or not that would even be important or relevant at this point,” Hinch said.