Cardinals can do better than Randal Grichuk in right field

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That Randal Grichuk started and hit second against Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner in Saturday’s shutout loss wasn’t actually a problem. It will be a problem if he finds himself anywhere near the two hole in the next three games of the NLCS for the Cardinals.

Grichuk, who unofficially became the Cardinals’ primary right fielder with about a week remaining in the regular season, was responsible for the first highlight of NLDS play last week when he took Clayton Kershaw deep in the first inning of Game 1 against the Dodgers. However, he’s 2-for-19 with no extra-base hits, no RBI and an 8/1 K/BB ratio since that homer, having started every game as the Cardinals’ No. 2 hitter.

The problem is that Grichuk really only hits left-handed pitchers. In Triple-A this year, he came in at .325/.376/.505 in 123 at-bats against southpaws and .233/.286/.403 versus righties. His splits weren’t quite as pronounced in previous years, but they were still significant. In the majors, he wasn’t particularly good against either lefties (.242/.254/.435 in 62 AB) or righties (.250/.308/.354 in 48 AB), but all of his homers did come off lefties.

Besides, there’s another benefit to sitting Grichuk versus right-handers the next three games; he’d be the one potentially scary option off the bench against lefties the Cardinals possess. Right now, they’re reduced to using Tony Cruz or Peter Bourjos as a late-game bat against Jeremy Affeldt or Javier Lopez. Grichuk would be much more of a threat.

So, ideally in Game 2 on Sunday, it’ll be Oscar Taveras in right field, perhaps with Kolten Wong batting second. Using Bourjos in center field and Jay in right, as they did a few times last month, is also an option, but a less likely one.

Yankees keep ALCS hopes alive with 4-1 win over Astros

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The Yankees defeated the Astros 4-1 during Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night, staving off a potential postseason elimination and forcing the series to at least six games.

In just the third playoff appearance of his career, Yankees southpaw James Paxton turned in another impressive performance, limiting the Astros to four hits and four walks over six innings of one-run ball. According to MLB Stats, his nine strikeouts made him the second Yankees lefty to record multiple starts of 8+ strikeouts in the same postseason campaign, two decades after David Wells did so for the 1998 championship-winning club.

Paxton’s strong outing was backed by a handful of runs from DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Hicks, both of whom went deep against Astros ace Justin Verlander in the bottom of the first inning. LeMahieu’s leadoff solo shot marked his first postseason home run since Game 1 of the ALDS, while Hicks’ three-run 347-footer was his first home run of any variety since July 24 (and his first in the playoffs since the 2017 ALDS).

Neither team managed a single run after the first inning, leaving the two pitching staffs to duke it out for eight quick innings. Verlander outlasted Paxton — taking the game through the seventh with five hits, four runs, and nine strikeouts — but even with a flawless contribution from Brad Peacock in the eighth, there was little the hurlers could do to help the Astros solve Paxton and an airtight Yankees bullpen.

With the win, the Yankees will try to push the series to a full seven games in order to snatch the AL pennant from the Astros. They’ll have to do in Houston, however, as the Astros will regain home field advantage when Game 6 kicks off on Saturday at 8:08 PM EDT. Neither starter has been announced yet; per Houston skipper A.J. Hinch, it will likely be a bullpen day.