If you had asked me to make a prediction for the ALCS, I would’ve guessed the game would’ve played out as it has unfolded: Yankees in game 1, Astros in games 2 and 3, Yankees in games 4 and 5, and Astros in games 6 and 7. The methodology was simple, I thought the Astros would take any game started by Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. I also thought the Yankees would get a jump on Zack Greinke and acquit themselves well at home.
Well, now Mother Nature had to come in again and give us another reason why October baseball is unpredictable.
With the rain postponing ALCS game 4 from Wednesday to Thursday there are suddenly a lot of interesting questions managers from both teams have to ask.
The first question is who are the starters? The rain delay added an extra day of rest for each team’s starters, meaning plans are going to be shuffled.
Aaron Boone decided to forgo the original plan for a bullpen game and instead go with Masahiro Tanaka who silenced the Astros bats to the silent tune of 1 hit over 6 innings. AJ Hinch also decided to forgo the originally planned bullpen game to give Zack Greinke another chance to re-write his postseason story after stumbling out the gate so far this postseason.
The rain delay would seem to initially favor the Astros, allowing AJ Hinch and his ballclub to get his ace starters involved in the series sooner. But I wouldn’t pop the champagne corks so fast if I were Houston. There are going to be some tricky decisions coming up.
If Greinke falters in game 4, it’s an easy choice to start Verlander in game 5 but after that it is where it gets tricky. If Verlander falters, then Gerrit Cole is likely brought back on short rest to save the Astros season and then some combination of Greinke on short rest and the bullpen are brought in for game 7.
This is obviously worst-case scenario for the Astros, but would actually make decision making easy for AJ Hinch. The harder choice would be if the Astros are up 3-2 going into a Game 6 scenario. Would Gerrit Cole start game 6 on short rest or be saved for a potential game 7 with a bullpen game on the bump for game 6? The short rest didn’t seem to benefit Verlander in his start in the ALDS, so count me as the armchair manager who says save Cole for Game 7 in that scenario. That is, of course, a scenario the Astros would love to have, so we’ll see it how all plays out.
On the Yankees side of things, Aaron Boone has some tough decisions with regards to his bullpen. The rain delay now means the Astros and Yankees could play up to 4 games in a row if the ALCS goes to game 7. The Yankees surely hope Tanaka can give them some length today. If he doesn’t, Aaron Boone has to really monitor his bullpen usage with no days of rest for his guys.
There’s no doubt the Yankees would have the advantage in a bullpen game. However, would they have the advantage in a Game 7 bullpen game if Chapman, Britton, Ottavino, Green and the rest have been used 4 days in a row? That’s something that could develop into a question mark in the coming days. The extra day of rest does benefit the Yankees in that it allows Giancarlo Stanton some more time to heal and potentially get back to the Yankees lineup. A healthy Giancarlo Stanton makes the Yankees lineup look a whole lot scarier.
Either way, Mother Nature gave us the clues to this series by delaying game 4, the clues being you can’t predict October baseball! Maybe the keys to the series are all the things I just wrote about, maybe they are the exact opposite. Maybe MLB changes the rules and game 7 features the ghost of Babe Ruth hitting a home run against a recently un-retired Nolan Ryan. OK, the last one is unlikely, but I wouldn’t rule out much else, it’s Postseason baseball and it’s bound to be crazy. Time to strap in and ride out the storm, and then play baseball.
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