Now that the Yankees secured at least one more game in Houston, they have to figure out who’s pitching it.
Both the Astros and Yankees will go with a bullpen game Saturday night at Minute Maid Park. Should the Yankees win Game 6, Luis Severino will start Game 7 against Astros ace Gerrit Cole.
“We’ll kind of talk about it tonight on the plane which way we want to go,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “But it will probably be a little bit of everyone.”
Boone stayed away from Chad Green and J.A. Happ in Game 5 and they’re both likely to eat up innings on Saturday. Tommy Kahnle and Zack Britton combined for six massive outs, five of them from the latter, to serve as the bridge from Friday’s starter James Paxton to closer Aroldis Chapman.
Green will look to bounce back from his scrappy relief appearance in Game 4’s 8-3 loss to the Astros. The right-handed reliever gave up a three-run home run to Carlos Correa after taking over for Masahiro Tanaka in the sixth inning. Green said he hasn’t been told whether or not he’s opening Game 6, but he knows that’s definitely a possibility.
“I’ve opened enough games where it’s not anything out of the ordinary,” Green said on his preparation ahead of Game 6. “I feel like I made one bad pitch that (Correa) put a good swing on. To be a bullpen guy in this game, you have to have a short memory. You can’t have it carry over. You have to move on.”
Happ echoed Green in that he’s not yet sure what the Yankees’ expectations are of the left-hander in Houston. Happ hasn’t pitched since Game 2 at Minute Maid Park, when he gave up a walk-off home run to Correa in the 11th inning. An inning prior, he secured the final two outs of the 10th by striking out Yordan Alvarez and inducing a flyout to Yuli Gurriel.
“I know that I will pitch as long as I can,” Happ said. “I don’t know what that number will be, but I certainly feel fine to give them some length.”
Adam Ottavino has struggled across seven relief appearances in the postseason, giving up four runs (three earned) on seven hits and three walks over 18 batters faced and 2.1 innings pitched. Boone also stayed away from Ottavino on Friday, so he’s expected to be fresh for at least an inning Saturday. The right-hander said he’s prepared for whatever the Yankees ask of him in Houston.
“We gotta win two games by any means necessary,” Ottavino said. “The guys in the ‘pen have to be ready for any situation from the second inning on.”
Paxton’s ability to provide length (in 2019, that means pitching at least six innings) during Game 5 in the Bronx was the best-case scenario for Boone to preserve his relievers ahead of a bullpen day for another must-win in Game 6. If the Yankees survive another elimination game and make it to Game 7, Boone will need Severino to go the distance following a bullpen that’s expected to be taxed on Saturday. Although, at that point, it will be all arms on deck.
“Saving our bullpen was huge,” Aaron Judge said. “Especially the past couple games, they’re getting used in a lot of tough situations and high-leverage situations. For Pax to come out and give us six strong innings, that was huge for us going into this next bullpen game.”