Astros manager AJ Hinch wasn’t shedding any teardrops about all of the raindrops that caused the postponement of Wednesday’s scheduled Game 4 of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium.
The washout allowed Hinch to bypass a bullpen game and start Zack Greinke on Thursday night and Justin Verlander on Friday night on regular rest. If the Astros win both games, they will be going to the World Series to face the Nationals and the Yankees will be going home.
“It gives everybody a day off and kind of an opportunity to collect ourselves before Game 4,” Hinch said on a conference call Wednesday afternoon. “It changes our pitching a little bit. How beneficial it is is probably easier to answer after I see how guys perform and how the pitching plays out. But like I said, it's kind of a wait-and-see. But it does solidify who we start in Game 4 and Game 5 without having to go to a bullpen game.”
Hinch called it “a very easy” decision to start Greinke, the losing pitcher in Game 1, and then Verlander, who had a no-decision in the Astros’ 11-inning victory in Game 2.
“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 it was. JV on regular rest in Game 5. As soon as we can use our best pitchers the better for us.”
The Yankees can also push back their bullpen game and will use Masahiro Tanaka in Game 4 and James Paxton in Game 5.
If the series extends to six games, both teams are lined up for bullpen games on Saturday in Houston. The Game 7 matchup, as it stands today, is Gerrit Cole vs. Luis Severino. That was the matchup in Tuesday night’s 4-1 Astros victory.
“I know there's a lot of what-ifs,” Hinch said. “Now that our pitching is set for the next couple of nights, we know we're going to have pretty good weather based on the forecast. But I think it's also important for us not to look too far ahead of Game 4. We know we're going to face Tanaka. It's an important game. Every game is magnified as you get deeper and deeper.”
Much has and will be made about the Yankees having to potentially play four days in a row, especially since they are so bullpen dependent. The Astros may be better equipped to handle that because they have the stronger starting pitching.
But, as Hinch said about the new series schedule: “We don't have a choice. It is what it is, the way the schedule is. So we're not going to panic about it until we know what's in front of us. And we're not going to talk about Games 5, 6, and 7 until we get through the next game. It's just not our mentality to worry about the things you're talking about. We're here to win, and win as fast as we can. If it takes all four games, if our bullpen gets used a lot and our pitching gets used a lot, then that's what it's going to take to get to the World Series.”