LONG BALL

Pax­ton’s start pushed back to Game 2 so Tanaka can open ALCS for the Yan­kees ... Astros con­fi­dent Osuna will re­bound from rough out­ing vs. Twins ... Greinke grunts

Edmonton Sun - - SPORTS - ROB LON­G­LEY’S news and notes on the Astros-yan­kees ALCS

HOUS­TON — For James Pax­ton, a sec­ond chance at a first ca­reer post-sea­son win will have to wait a night longer than many had ex­pected.

With New York Yan­kees man­ager Aaron Boone shuf­fling up his ro­ta­tion, the big Cana­dian starter has been bumped to Sun­day’s Game 2 of the ALCS here at Minute Maid Park.

The B.C. na­tive Pax­ton made his play­off de­but in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Min­nesota Twins, but was not his dom­i­nat­ing self as he al­lowed three runs over 4.2 in­nings in a non-de­ci­sion.

In­stead of Pax­ton, Boone an­nounced on Fri­day that he has opted to go with Masahiro Tanaka in Satur­day’s open­ing game of the best-of-seven se­ries fol­lowed by Pax­ton on Sun­day and Luis Sev­erino for the first of a pos­si­ble three con­tests back at Yan­kee Sta­dium next Tues­day.

“Again, I felt like it was a good de­ci­sion,” Boone said not long af­ter the Yan­kees landed in Hous­ton for a lateafter­noon work­out. “Tough one to be made, but sim­i­lar to the Di­vi­sion Se­ries where I was go­ing back and forth a lot. Just felt like Masa here in Game 1 is the way I wanted to go in the end.”

Pax­ton was a solid 15-6 with a 3.82 ERA in his first year with the Yan­kees af­ter spend­ing the first six years of his ca­reer with the Seat­tle Mariners. He’ll go head-to­head with Astros co-ace Justin Ver­lan­der who is sched­uled to start in Game 2.

“I feel very for­tu­nate to be here,” Pax­ton said ear­lier in the play­offs. “This is a team that com­mits it­self to win­ning and to mak­ing it to the post­sea­son ev­ery year. That’s a dream for all baseball play­ers when we’re young — to pitch in the post-sea­son and pitch in the World Se­ries.”

Mean­while, Boone stressed that he be­lieves his bullpen will be a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor through­out the se­ries, which is where former Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ is ex­pected to be based.

“I think it’s clear the bullpens will have to get sig­nif­i­cant outs,” Boone said. “You would ex­pect some close games and, if you’re go­ing to be able to win a ball game, you’re go­ing to have to close it out. Start­ing pitch­ing is ob­vi­ously very im­por­tant and if you’re go­ing to get to where you want, you’re go­ing to have to get good starts.

“But usu­ally when we look back at the end of these things, the teams that are able to close out leads keep on ad­vanc­ing.”

CLOS­ING TIME

Two years ago, Astros man­ager A.J. Hinch had clearly run out of con­fi­dence in closer Ken Giles and had to work his way through the post-sea­son with some cre­ative mainip­u­lat­ing of his bullpen.

So how does Hinch feel about Roberto Osuna, whom the Astros ac­quired from the Jays in ex­change for Giles and his abil­ity to be the shut­down man? Ap­par­ently bet­ter.

“I trust him at the end of the game,” Hinch said. “It doesn’t wa­ver one bit just be­cause of the stuff and the pitch abil­ity and his de­meanour and his calm­ness. I look for­ward to him clos­ing out some games in this se­ries.”

Osuna pitched the ninth in a non-save sit­u­a­tion in Thurs­day’s clinch­ing Game 5 of the ALDS and did so with a 1-2-3 in­ning. Hinch was par­tic­u­larly im­pressed with Osuna’s strike­out of the Rays’ Ji-man Choi to end the game.

Ear­lier in the se­ries, Osuna strug­gled in Game 2 when he al­lowed a pair of hits and a pair of walks, lead­ing to some doubts. It was im­por­tant then, for Hinch to see his closer so ef­fec­tive in his most re­cent out­ing.

“As much con­ver­sa­tion as there was about the rocky (Game 2), I think he was ex­cep­tional (on Thurs­day),” Hinch said. “His tempo. His stuff. We couldn’t throw throw Choi strikes the en­tire se­ries and he at­tacked him to get the last punch out.”

AD­MIR­ING COLE

As Boone sat at home in New York and watched Astros starter Ger­rit Cole fin­ish off the Rays with a dom­i­nat­ing eight-in­ning, two-hit per­for­mance, a thought struck the Yan­kees skip­per: He’s too good.

“He’s like the kid still pitch­ing in Lit­tle League that was a lit­tle too good for the league, you know?,” Boone said. “He’s ob­vi­ously a great pitcher in the prime of his ca­reer and in a re­ally good stretch right now.

“Any time you go up against a guy like that, it’s hard, but it’s also re­ally fun.”

THE ZACK ACT

To the point of veer­ing to­wards ig­no­rant, Astros Game 1 starter Zack Greinke will con­tinue to be a man of few words, ap­par­ently.

In his re­quired media ses­sion in ad­vance of Satur­day’s opener, Greinke mum­bled half-hearted re­sponses to a half-dozen ques­tions. When asked of the chal­lenges the Yan­kees pro­vide, Greinke of­fered this gem. “A lot of good hit­ters. It’s (tougher) to get good hit­ters out than not as good hit­ters.”

The Greinke act is mostly met with a shrug and a chuckle from his team­mates.

“What you see is what you get,” Astros out­fielder George Springer said. “He’s a great team­mate. He wants to win. It’s all right if he’s quiet, it’s not a big deal to us. He’s into the game so that’s pretty much all that mat­ters.”

CLOSED SIT­U­A­TION

Weather fore­cast in Hous­ton for to­mor­row’s first pitch is sunny and 21C, but the Astros have al­ready an­nounced that the roof at Minute Maid Park will be closed. Far be it for us to sug­gest skull­dug­gery, but the Astros like the lid on and the noise louder than loud to en­hance the team’s well­doc­u­mented home­field ad­van­tage.

For now, the Astros have an­nounced that Sun­day’s roof sta­tus is a game-time sit­u­a­tion. Not sure who would be buy­ing that.

EMILEE CHINN/GETTY IM­AGES

Cana­dian left-han­der James Pax­ton of the Yan­kees, re­act­ing af­ter giv­ing up a home run to the Twins’ Jorge Polanco in the ALDS, was be­lieved to be New York’s starter for Game 1 of the ALCS tonight. But the team in­stead named righty Masahiro Tanaka (in­set) with Pax­ton go­ing up against Astros’ Justin Ver­lan­der in Game 2 on Sun­day.

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