With heavy rain forcing a postponement of ALCS Game 4 in New York on Wednesday evening and the Nationals completing a four-game NLCS sweep against the Cardinals the previous night, there was no postseason baseball yesterday for the first time this October. The fallout from the weather-related shakeup is wide-ranging and will undoubtedly have a massive impact on the remainder of an already compelling series. Let’s start with the immediate future before delving into some of the long-term ramifications. It’ll be Masahiro Tanaka versus Zack Greinke when the ALCS resumes with Game 4 on Thursday night, with the Astros holding a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 5 will now be played on Friday, which was originally scheduled as an off-day for both teams. Games 6 and 7 (if necessary) will take place in Houston on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
Obviously, the Yankees benefit tremendously from the postponement, which enables them to hand the ball to Tanaka for Game 4 on his normal four days of rest, instead of their original plan to go with a bullpen game. The 30-year-old right-hander fired six scoreless frames to lead the Yankees to a victory in Game 1 last Saturday. He’s quietly morphed into one of the best postseason performers of his generation, posting a microscopic 1.32 ERA over 41 career postseason innings (seven starts). The short-term benefit of having Tanaka on the mound with a chance to even the series on Thursday night shouldn’t be overlooked. However, the monumental task facing the Yankees over the remainder of the condensed series is that they’ll need to win three games in four days, while facing the Astros’ “Big Three” starters, and relying primarily on their bullpen. In a New York minute, everything could change in this series. A one-game deficit certainly isn’t insurmountable. However, the Yankees need their bats to come alive and strong performances from Tanaka and likely Game 5 starter James Paxton if they’re going to send the series back to Houston.
Meanwhile, the Astros find themselves squarely on the precipice -- just two victories away -- from their second World Series appearance in the last three years. They’ll turn to Greinke on normal rest for Game 4 on Thursday night, rather than their originally scheduled bullpen game, which likely would’ve been started by rookie right-hander Jose Urquidy. The 35-year-old veteran will aim for improved results after he was tagged for three runs over six innings in a Game 1 loss. Astros manager A.J. Hinch confirmed to reporters on Wednesday that veteran righty Justin Verlander, who gutted out 6 2/3 solid frames in a no-decision in Game 2 of the series last Sunday, will start Game 5 on Friday. The central question for the Astros over the next 48 hours is whether they’ll be able to wrap up the American League pennant in New York. If not, the series shifts back to Minute Maid Park for Game 6 (and a potential Game 7 as well), where Hinch would almost certainly face a decision regarding when to deploy ace Gerrit Cole, who is in the midst of a historic postseason run. The ideal scenario for the Astros would be to finish off the Yankees with Greinke and Verlander, enabling them to save Cole for Game 1 of the World Series against the Nationals next week.
Maddon, Angels Re-Unite In Los Angeles
The Angels officially agreed to terms with Joe Maddon on a three-year contract to fill their managerial vacancy. It’s a long-awaited homecoming for the veteran manager, who spent 31 years in the Los Angeles (formerly Anaheim) organization prior to taking over as Tampa Bay’s manager from 2006 to 2014. He spent the last four years managing the Cubs, including winning a World Series title in 2016. The 65-year-old owns a 1,252-1,068 career managerial record over 16 seasons. He's been to the postseason eight times and taken home Manager of the Year honors on three different occasions.
Clearly, the Angels had their sights set on reuniting with Maddon once he became available. The high-profile veteran manager will be replacing Brad Ausmus, who lasted just one season at the helm in Los Angeles before being terminated shortly after Maddon and the Cubs parted ways at the end of last month. On the heels of a disappointing campaign in which they went 72-90 overall and finished fourth in the Amercian League West, the Angels appear poised to make a splash in free agency this offseason and build around franchise cornerstones Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani moving forward.
AL Quick Hits: Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Wednesday that he's “not sure” whether Giancarlo Stanton (quad) will be ready to start Game 4 on Thursday … Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that Mike Butcher is under consideration to be the Angels' new pitching coach.
NL Quick Hits: Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that Buck Showalter is a “strong” candidate for both the Mets and Phillies' open managerial jobs … Dennis Lin and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported Wednesday that the Padres are bringing in managerial candidate Jayce Tingler for a second interview … Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reported Wednesday that, in addition to the Royals, the Giants, Mets and Padres have also shown interest in Mike Matheny for their managerial openings … Hernan Perez has elected free agency after being outrighted off the Brewers' 40-man roster on Wednesday … Marlins sent RHP Hector Noesi and C Tyler Heineman outright to Triple-A New Orleans … Reds claimed LHP Josh Smith off waivers from the Marlins and also designated C Juan Graterol for assignment.