Bronx, NY – TOP KEYS FOR ASTROS GOING INTO ALCS GAME FOUR
1 PATIIENCE FACING MASAHIRO TANAKA
Masahiro Tanaka was born for playoff baseball. His history proves it and he will be the focus of Yankee Nation Thursday when he tries to basically save their season. A loss and 3-1 hole and you can pretty much say this season and series will soon be over in the Astros favor. The Astros saw Tanaka, who was making his seventh career postseason start, at his best in Game 1 when he held Houston to one hit , facing the minimum in six scoreless innings. That effort was huge for Tanaka who became the first MLB pitcher to allow 2 or fewer runs in those 7 starts. He'll need to make it number eight. He knows it, so does Aaron Boone, his teammates and the nearly 50 thousand that will fill up Yankee Stadium. He won't throw his fastball too often instead relying on his curveball and slider just like he did in Game 1 and all season.
2 GREINKE NEEDS TO STICK TO HIS GAMEPLAN
With the postponement of Game 4 because of the inclement weather in the NYC area it allowed Manager A.J. Hinch to make what he called "a very easy decision" slotting Justin Verlander in Game 5 and inserting Zack Greinke into Game 4 Thursday night. So far in his two playoff starts Greinke has give up 5 home runs in 9 2/3's innings. Yankees got to him in Game one, but then he settled down gave up just 3 runs in 6 innings. He's got to avoid the mistakes pitches to the power guys in this Yankee lineup in the homer friendly Yankee stadium.
Hinch added in his conference call Wednesday, " As soon as we case our best pitchers, the better for us." The Astros big three of Verlander, Cole and Greinke have allowed only 5 runs in their combined 19.2 innings of work. A good outing today by Greinke , perhaps a win, will set up the rest of the series and Hinch's bullpen in a positive way. Four games in four days potentially means you need to have arms ready to go.
3 DON'T LOOK AHEAD
The third key for the 'Stros in Game 4? Don't look ahead to Game 5 and beyond. Yes the Astros are the favorites and now have the momentum in this series but it's far from being over. Astros Manager A.J. Hinch said today his team stays locked " in the moment". Hinch added, " For us it's only about Game 4." Great approach and it really is something HInch believes and knows his team buys into 150%. They stay focused at the task at hand. They know what's up in Game 5 and what it means for the weekend at Minute Maid Park should a Game 6 or Game 7 be needed.
4 TUNE OUT THE YANKEE CROWD
Easier said than done at this historic stadium and with these passionate baseball fans. I made the rounds throughout the concourse prior to and early in Game 3 on Tuesday. I wanted to just watch and listen to embrace what these Yankee diehards are all about. I've heard stories and I've been here covering the Astros several times now since 2015. Each trip is different and unique in its own way. The language isn't great in the stands or for that matter in the restroom line or concession stand areas. These people say and do what they want. They are all Yankees fans 24/7/365. They won't hesitate to throw beer, popcorn or nachos around the crowd. I saw that most are being themselves and doing it the New York way.
How do the Astros silence this group? Just like in Game 3 when Jose Altuve and Josh Reddick homered then let Gerrit Cole lock in. Done deal at that point and the Astros need more of that tonight in Game four.