Analysis

How Might Yankees Plan for Battle of the Bullpens in ALCS?

The Yankees bullpen and Astros bullpen are preparing for a battle in Game 6 of the ALCS, but how might the former go about it?

Following a gutsy performance from James Paxton on Friday night, the New York Yankees are surviving. They stayed alive with 4-1 win at Yankee Stadium to force a Game 6 in the ALCS against the Houston Astros. Now, they are set to face a battle of the bullpens on Saturday night.

Both teams will be hoping to get the most out of their bullpens as the series goes back to Houston. Because the Yankees have the better bullpen, there is optimism for the elimination game. But how the Bronx Bombers go about using their bullpen isn’t clear. Even manager Aaron Boone isn’t yet sure what avenue they will explore.

“We’ll kind of talk about it tonight on the plane which way we want to go,” Boone said after the Game 5 win. “But it will probably be a little bit of everyone.”

Yankees Defeat Astros, 4-1, in ALCS Game 5: Instant Analysis

While the Yankees have a few ways to go, here’s a look at how they could be planning to use the bullpen in the crucial Game 6 matchup:

Opener: Chad Green

This one is a bit obvious. Whenever the Yankees went with a bullpen day during the regular season, Green was the choice. Despite his slight hiccup in Game 4—giving up a home run to Carlos Correa—Green has been strong. His fastball command has been extremely consistent, and he seems to find ways to get outs with ease.

In four appearances during the ALCS, Green has pitched 5.0 innings. He has allowed four hits and two earned runs, but he has also recorded five strikeouts while allowing a measly .211 opponent batting average. Green didn’t have to pitch in Game 5, which was great, and it is likely he’s the opener.

Next Man Up: J.A. Happ

It very well might not be Happ. However, the veteran left hasn’t pitched since he allowed the walk-off home run in Game 2 to Correa. Seeing as he’s well-rested, the Yankees might go with the righty in Green and then switch up the look with the lefty in Happ. With the rest he has, it could be that the Yankees hope he eats some innings—especially if they can jump out to an early lead against the Astros bullpen. When looking at who is available to throw more than two innings, Happ is the most logical choice to follow Green even if it is risky.

 The mid-to-late inning guys

We know Aroldis Chapman and Zack Britton will likely combine to get the final six or so outs in some way if the Yankees have the lead. For the middle-to-late innings (fifth through seventh), the top options are likely Tommy Kahnle, Jonathan Loaisiga, Luis Cessa and Adam Ottavino.

Yankees bullpen ALCS Game 6
Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Kahnle has been superb in his 4.1 innings pitched. The other three have their own question marks. Ottavino has struggled with command while Cessa and Loaisiga are somewhat wild cards with volatility. However, Boone is likely hoping to patch up some outs with a combination of those four pitchers.

Conclusion

We don’t know for sure how the Yankees will go about the bullpen day. But, there is a high chance Green is the opener. Following that, Boone likely will try to string together innings to get the ball to Britton and Chapman in the final innings.

The Yankees have to win Saturday night to force a Game 7 against Gerrit Cole, and getting the edge in the battle of the bullpens is the next step in doing so.

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