Alex Rodriguez was removed for a pinch-hitter for the second straight game Thursday and rightfully so. Yet A-Rod hasn’t been the Yankees’ worst performer through four postseason games. That title goes to Curtis Granderson.
Granderson went 0-for-5 with three more strikeouts in Thursday’s loss to the Orioles. He’s 1-for-16 with nine strikeouts in the series, with his lone hit being a single. A-Rod is 2-for-16 after collecting himself a single tonight, giving him merely the third worst average in the lineup. Robinson Cano is just 2-for-18, though he at least has three RBI to his credit. Both of his hits have been doubles.
For all of his homers — and he hit 43 of them — Granderson wasn’t a particularly good hitter for the Yankees this year after his hot start. He came in at .196 in August and .178 in September before padding his numbers a bit in the three-game sweep of the Red Sox to close the season (he went 6-for-13 with three homers). If not for that series, his 40-homer season could have been considered the worst ever.
If there was ever a time for Granderson to bust out again, it’d be Friday’s Game 5. He hits quite a bit better at home, and he’ll be facing a right-hander in Jason Hammel. Any time he hits a fly to right in Yankee Stadium, it’s a threat to leave the yard.
But to do that, he’s going to have to make some contact. With those nine strikeouts in 16 plate appearances, even Mark Reynolds is feeling bad for him right now.
The Yankees and Astros are set for Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, and neither team will hold back as they seek a World Series berth. The Astros are prepared to back starter Charlie Morton with any able-bodied pitcher in their ranks — including Justin Verlander, though A.J. Hinch said it would be a “dream scenario” to get anything more from his ace — while the Yankees are prepared to utilize all but a few of their arms. One pitcher you won’t see? Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who last took the hill for the Yankees during their Game 5 shutout on Wednesday.
Tanaka expended 103 pitches over seven scoreless innings in his last start, fending off the Astros with three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts. He hasn’t pitched on fewer than three days of rest all year, and even with a do-or-die scenario facing the Yankees on Saturday night, manager Joe Girardi doesn’t want to compromise his starter’s ability to stay rested and ready for the World Series.
Girardi will also play it safe with fellow right-hander Sonny Gray, who dominated in a five-inning performance in Game 4. All other pitchers should be available and ready to go, though the club is hoping for a lengthy outing from veteran starter CC Sabathia. Sabathia is no stranger to the postseason: over eight separate playoff runs, he touts one championship title and a collective 4.24 ERA in 123 innings. He held the Astros scoreless in his Game 3 start, blanking them over six innings on three hits, four walks and five strikeouts for an eventual 8-1 win.
Even without Tanaka or Gray likely to take the mound for Game 7, the Yankees will enter the series finale with history on their side. Per MLB.com, they have a 4-3 road record in Game 7s and are 6-7 in all 13 Game 7 finales to date. The Astros, on the other hand, dropped their first and only Game 7 clincher back in 2004, when the Cardinals capped the NLCS with a 5-2 win in St. Louis. The teams are scheduled to face off for the first-ever Game 7 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday at 8:00 PM ET.