The Houston Astros lead the ALCS two games to one, so it’s not literally a must-win game for the New York Yankees. But it sure feels like a virtual must-win game. For if they do not win they will not only be down 3-1 — and 3-1 holes are not easy to climb out of — but they will be facing three straight actual must-win games with no days off, which is not an ideal situation for a team that relies as heavily on its bullpen as they do. And that’s before you get into the stuff about one of the must-win games will be started by Justin Verlander and another one of those must-win games will be pitched by Gerrit Cole.
Last night’s rainout will, as noted, create some long term pressure for the Yankees should they push this series to the long term. In the short term, however, they get a bit of a boost in that now Game 1 starter Masahiro Tanaka can pitch on full rest for in a game that was originally scheduled to be a bullpen day. Tanaka tossed seven six one-hit shutout innings against the Astros in New York’s Game 1 victory, so with their back almost against the wall, he’s a nice one to have going for them.
For the Astros, Zack Greinke will also return to pitch Game 4 on full rest, replacing what was also supposed to be a bullpen game for Houston. While one might allow that getting Greinke back on full rest offsets the Yankees getting Tanaka back, Greinke hasn’t exactly been reliable this postseason. He allowed three runs and six hits, including two home runs, in the Astros Game 1 loss. Between that and his start against the Rays in the ALDS he has allowed nine earned runs in nine and two-thirds innings this postseason. He’s obviously capable of dominating a game, of course, but Tanaka has been outstanding so far in October and Greinke, well, not so much.
If I had to guess, I’d guess that the Yankees bats which have gone silent in the past two games will come back to life tonight against Greinke. They kinda have to, or else the Yankees will have their backs up against the wall.