5th Inning: No Problems for Cessa and Urquidy
For the first time since the first inning, the Yankees went down in order in the fifth, as Jose Urquidy, the rookie right-hander, finally stabilized things for the Astros. Gleyber Torres bounced out to Alex Bregman at third and then Aaron Hicks and Edwin Encarnacion struck out, the latter for the second time in the game and the 10th time in the series.
Funny thing about Urquidy: Right handers hit .300 off him this year in the regular season, and lefties only .179. A big reason for that is his changeup, which falls away from lefties. Two of the next four Yankee batters are lefties (Didi Gregorius and Brett Gardner).
Cessa pitched out of a tiny bit of trouble in the bottom of the inning after Martin Maldonado reached on a perfect bunt. Cessa got Josh Reddick to hit a harmless fly ball to center and then George Springer ripped a ball down the third base line. But that’s where Gio Urshela works, and he scooped it up and started a double play.
4th Inning: Urshela Pulls One Back for Yankees
Gio Urshela homered off Jose Urquidy to draw the Yankees to within a run, at 3-2. It was his second home run of the A.L.C.S. He also homered in Game 1. Brett Gardner followed with an opposite-field single for a base hit, and Astros Manager A.J. Hinch was getting nervous again. But Urquidy escaped when he got D.J. LeMahieu to pop out to center, and then he struck out Aaron Judge. That’s a big moment for Urquidy, a 24-year-old rookie from Mazatlan, Mexico.
Urquidy only pitched in nine games for the Astros this year (seven of them starts) but he could have a big role tonight. Hinch would probably like him to eat up some outs in the middle of this game to save his back-end relievers for later in the game.
Luis Cessa got the bottom of the fourth for the Yankees, and Urshela showed off his good glove (and arm) work, corralling an awkward high bouncer from Yuli Gurriel and then making a terrific off-balance throw across the diamond.
The Astros made only weak contact against Cessa. They don’t appear to be handling the parade of relievers as well as the Yankees are.
The Astros also announced that Peacock left the game with right knee discomfort, so perhaps that was the reason he lost his command, instead of fatigue.
3rd Inning: 3 Pitchers in 3 Innings, ‘Welcome to 2019’
Aaron Boone and A.J. Hinch will have to be alert and nimble in this game with all the pitching decisions they will make. One of the keys is not waiting too long to make a change, because some of the relievers they will rely on in this game are not programmed to throw a lot of pitches, or to sit down between innings and come back out again, or to face left and right-handed batters in succession.
But whereas in the later innings you might not think twice about taking out a lefty for a right-handed hitter, you can’t burn too many pitchers early in the game. But with the Yankees producing a lot of traffic on the bases, Hinch is feeling the pressure in the Astros’ dugout. He might have stayed a little too long with Brad Peacock, and he was practically begging for Josh James to escape a jam in the third. But James could not, as he walked Edwin Encarnacion to load the bases. Hinch went to Pressly, who got Didi Gregorius out on a weak ground ball but appeared to be injured on the play as he limped to the dugout.
The Astros have used three pitchers through three innings so far.
“It’s crazy thinking we’re in the Game 6 of the A.L.C.S. and we’re going to have upwards of double-digit number of pitchers pitching in a game of such magnitude,” Hinch said before the game. “Welcome to 2019.”
Meanwhile, Happ got through the third without giving up a run, despite George Springer’s leadoff walk. Luis Cessa was warming up for the Yankees, and the Astros are turning to Jose Urquidy in the fourth.
2nd Inning: Openers Give Way to Parade of Relievers
The Yankees clawed back a run and chased Brad Peacock out of the game as Gary Sanchez struck a single up the middle with a runner in scoring position, no less.
Peacock recorded five outs, but he started to lose command when his pitch count rose. (Relatively speaking, of course. He only threw 27 total, but he is not a starter.) With two outs, Didi Gregorius doubled to right field. Peacock statistically has greater success against right-handed batters, who only hit .197 against him in the regular season. He clearly began to tire and walked Gio Urshela, so A.J. Hinch made the first of what should be many pitching changes in this game, asking Josh James to face Brett Gardner. James got out of the jam when he caught Gardner looking a dubious strike three call. The pitch looked outside and maybe high.
The Yankees turned to the former Astros lefty J.A. Happ in the bottom of the second, and he had a nice, quiet inning. It was just what the Yankees needed. Martin Maldonado, Houston’s catcher, squared up one ball and hit a sharp line drive down the third base line, but Urshela caught it.
This game is going to get more fascinating as it progresses with all the matchups and decisions. James is still in for Houston.
1st Inning: Gurriel Blast Puts the Astros Ahead
Yuli Gurriel hit a three-run home run off opener Chad Green to give the Astros a 3-0 lead. Green struck out George Springer to start the inning, but he labored after that, giving up a double to Jose Altuve and then one out later he walked Alex Bregman. Gurriel connected on the first pitch — with Altuve breaking for third base — and lined it over the wall in left field as the crowd erupted. The Astros were borrowing from the script the Yankees provided in Game 5, when they scored four runs in the first inning on home runs by D.J. LeMahieu and Aaron Hicks.
For the Astros, Brad Peacock picked up where he left off last night, setting down the Yankees in order on 7 pitches (he needed 8 to get through the 8th inning of Game 5 on Friday). Astros Manager A.J. Hinch said before the game that he liked the idea of using Peacock because of his measured demeanor. Hinch acknowledged that the game could end up being chaotic with all the pitching changes and matchups.
“And who better to kick off the chaos of a bullpen day than a calm Brad Peacock,” he said. Chad Green
1. D.J. LeMahieu, 1B
2. Aaron Judge, RF
3. Gleyber Torres, 2B
4. Aaron Hicks, CF
5. Edwin Encarnacion, DH
6. Didi Gregorius, SS
7. Gary Sanchez, C
8. Gio Urshela, 3B
9. Brett Gardner, LF
Chad Green, P
1. George Springer, CF
2. Jose Altuve, 2B
3. Michael Brantley, LF
4. Alex Bregman, 3B
5. Yuli Gurriel, 1B
6. Carlos Correa, SS
7. Yordan Alvarez, DH
8. Martin Maldonado, C
9. Josh Reddick, RF
Brad Peacock, P
Encarnacion, who is mired in a 1-for-19 slump in his last five games, is back in the lineup as the designated hitter instead of Giancarlo Stanton. Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said the long flight was a factor for Stanton, who is recovering from a quad injury, and added that he thought Encarnacion would do well.
Astros Manager A.J. Hinch said he was opening with Peacock because he felt Peacock matched up well with the top of the Yankees’ order. Peacock pitched the eighth inning of Game 5 Friday, and got Gardner, LeMahieu and Judge in order on eight pitches.