Bullpenning: Astros, Yankees Looking for Night of Relief in Game 6 of ALCS


The Yankees have $152 million invested in three relievers -- Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino.

They are looking for a payoff for those moves in Game 6 of the ALCS on Saturday against the Astros at Minute Maid Park.

The Yankees and Astros are both going to "bullpen" the game, making sure their starting rotation has proper rest in case of a Game 7. The Astros have some breathing room. If they lose on Saturday they get another shot at winning the ALCS. The Yankees, however, are playing a win-or-go-home.

And the Yankees do have the lesser bullpen, in terms of stastistical results. The Astros bullpen had a record-season ERA of 3.75, the third lowest in MLB. The Yankees ranked ninth with a 4.06 bullpen ERA.

The heavy dependence on the bullpen in baseball has been a recent development. In the last decade, there have been 22 post-season games in which a team has used it's bullpen for 7 2/3 innings or more. The results are not resounding. The team with the bullpen that has a heavy workload is 12-10.

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The Astros feel they have a bit of an edge because of Justin Verlander. Yes, he suffered the loss in Game 5, which if the Astros had won they would have claimed the ALCS and been enjoying an off day on Saturday in preparation for Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday against the Washington Nationals.

But Verlander did rebound after giving up four runs in the first inning to allowing only one baserunner (Didi Gregorius singled with two out in the fourth) over the next six innings, resulting in Astros manager A.J. Hinch needing to use only one relief pitcher for one inning in the game. In other words, giving the Astros a well-rested bullpen.

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The Astros do enjoy playing at Minute Maid Park, where they had a best-in-baseball .741 winning percentage during the regular season. But the Yankees are not exactly intimidated on the road. They did win the ALCS opener in Houston and they were 46-35 on the road in the regular season, tied with the Red Sox for the sixth best road record in MLB.

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What remains to be seen if the tandem of George Springer and Carlos Correa will both deliver home runs. They both homered not only in Game 2 against the Yankees but also in Game 4 at Yankee Stadium. They have hit home runs in the same post-season game six times in their career, the most of any tandem in post-season history.

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