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
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.