HOUSTON -- For the first time this postseason, the New York Yankees appear to have something of a bullpen problem on their hands. And it comes at a bad time.
Saturday night, the Yankees and Houston Astros will meet at Minute Maid Park in Game 7 of the ALCS to determine who will face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. to force the decisive Game 7.
The Yankees will go into Game 7 without one of their top relievers. Chad Green will not be available. He threw 38 pitches and 2 1/3 scoreless innings in Game 6, as Yankees skipper Joe Girardi tried to keep the Astros at bay and give his offense a chance to get back in the game. Green did his job. The offense didn't.
Green, a career starter who had an elbow injury last year, doesn't pitch back-to-back days for the Yankees. He did it only once during the regular season, back in June. Part of that is Girardi's tendency to use Green for multiple innings, but, even when he goes one quick inning, he doesn't pitch the next day. Green is not available Saturday.
"No," Girardi said when asked about Green being available for Game 7. "I'll have everybody else though."
Not having Green, who was one of the best relievers in baseball during the regular season, in Game 7 puts the Yankees at an obvious disadvantage out in the bullpen. Another problem: the seemingly worn-down David Robertson, who didn't retire any of the four batters he faced in Game 6. That comes after a tough outing in Game 4.
Here are eight batters Robertson faced in Games 4 and 6:
- Seven-pitch walk to Jose Altuve.
- Five-pitch strikeout of Carlos Correa.
- 107.5 mph double by Yuli Gurriel.
- 81.0 mph ground out by Alex Bregman.
- 93.3 mph home run by Altuve.
- 107.2 mph double by Correa.
- 102.2 mph single by Gurriel.
- 98.4 mph double by Bregman.
Robertson has retired two of the last eight batters he's faced. Three of the eight have hit the ball over 100 mph, another was pretty darn close to 100 mph, and another was over 90 mph. That's loud contact.
More than anything, Robertson looks worn down. His stuff was flat in Game 6. Robertson went into Game 6 having thrown 11 innings -- that's 11 intense high-leverage innings, given his role -- in 11 postseason games in the span of 17 days. His 79 1/3 total innings in 2017 are easily a career high. It's not a surprise he's worn down. It's a surprise he wasn't worn down sooner.
No Green and a presumably fatigued Robertson means Girardi's top two setup men are compromised heading into Game 7. Green is flat out unavailable. Robertson's effectiveness is suddenly in question. Furthermore, Dellin Betances is far out of the Circle of Trust™ given his control problems. He almost certainly will not pitch in a close game if the Yankees have the lead.
The Yankees do still have Tommy Kahnle, who has scattered two hits and two walks in 10 dominant innings this postseason, available for setup work in Game 7, and he's shown he can throw two innings at a time. Then of course there's Aroldis Chapman, who figures to go two innings to get a save in Game 7, if necessary. He went two innings to close out Game 5 of the ALDS.
Of course, starter CC Sabathia could erase any concerns about the bullpen by pitching deep into the game, though Sabathia doesn't do that a whole lot these days. . As well as Sabathia pitched in the ALDS, he only went 5 1/3 and 4 1/3 in his two starts. He went six innings in his lone ALCS start because the Yankees had an eight-run lead and Girardi maxed Sabathia out to spare the bullpen a bit.
In a perfect world, the Yankees and Girardi are probably hoping for six innings from Sabathia with Kahnle and Chapman handling the final three. Things rarely go according to plan though, and with Green unavailable and Robertson fatigued, the Yankees suddenly have some questions about their middle relief heading into Game 7.