Yankees look to even ALCS in Game 6 bullpen battle
NEW YORK — After saving their season with strong pitching on Friday, the New York Yankees will hope to push the American League Championship Series as far as it can go by winning a bullpen battle in Game 6 on Saturday.
The Houston Astros still hold a 3-2 series edge as they head home for the rest of the best-of-seven set. Game 7, if necessary, would be played Sunday.
Both teams will save their ace starting pitchers — New York’s Luis Severino and Houston’s Gerrit Cole — to pitch Game 7 on full rest. That leaves the Yankees and Astros to trot out a string of relievers in Game 6.
Neither manager would name a Game 6 opening pitcher late Friday night.
“I think it’s both teams trying to get outs and trying to do it the best way we can,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
New York rebounded from disappointing showings in Games 3 and 4 by prolonging the series with a 4-1 victory on Friday. The Yankees faced the daunting task of beating Justin Verlander but got a homer from DJ LeMahieu two pitches in and a three-run drive from Aaron Hicks later in the first inning.
The lone positive for Verlander was that he retired 20 of the final 21 hitters he faced, and the only reliever Houston used was Brad Peacock.
“I’m extremely confident in our bullpen,” Verlander said. “Our bullpen’s been incredible all season long. Another reason that I really felt I needed to get deep in this ballgame (was) to save those guys as much as possible going into (Saturday) because I knew it was going to be a bullpen day.”
The bullpen game was originally slated for Game 4, but when heavy rain caused a postponement Wednesday, the Astros seemed poised to secure the series after the Yankees wasted numerous opportunities to produce offense in Games 3 and 4.
“We’re up 3-2, in the driver’s seat,” Verlander said. “We’re going back to Houston, but this is a great (Yankees) ballclub. I know there’s a lot of talk about (them) not playing so great the last couple of games, but this team is stacked.”
The Yankees likely will open Game 6 with Chad Green, who had pitched in each game of the postseason before Friday. Green opened games 15 times this year and had a 3.72 ERA when doing so.
The ideal situation for the Yankees is likely two innings for Green and the rest of the way could be a repeat of Game 2, when New York employed eight relievers before losing on Carlos Correa’s 11th-inning homer off J.A. Happ.
“I don’t know how we’re going to piece it together, but I have a lot of confidence in everyone going into the game,” LeMahieu said.
Houston might begin Game 6 with rookie Jose Urquidy, who was 2-1 with a 3.95 ERA in nine appearances (seven starts) during the regular season. Urquidy rose steadily to the majors after never pitching above the Class-A level before this season.
Urquidy’s lone postseason appearance was 1 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 4 of the AL Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays, when he allowed three hits, a walk and hit a batter.
After Urquidy, Peacock and Josh James probably will appear, as the Astros hope to hand the ball to the trio of Ryan Pressly, Will Harris and Roberto Osuna in the late innings.
The Yankees could use Happ at some point as a bridge between Green and their high-leverage relievers. New York owns a 2.27 ERA this postseason, and that figure is inflated by Adam Ottavino’s massive struggles.
Ottavino had a 1.90 ERA in the regular season, but he owns an 11.57 ERA in the postseason. He has allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits in 1 1/3 innings over four appearances in the ALCS.
–Field Level Media