With Game 4 of the ALCS washed out as expected and set to be made up on Thursday night, the Astros have done the expected thing. And the expected thing could give them an advantage over the Yankees.
Manager A.J. Hinch said earlier this week that the likely plan was to have a bullpen game in Game 4. With the game moved back a day due to the postponement, Zack Greinke will move up and pitch Game 4 on regular rest (instead of Game 5) and Justin Verlander will pitch on regular rest in Game 5 (instead of Game 6).
"Very easy for us," Hinch said Wednesday during a conference call about the rotation changes. "It was our plan if this happened. ... JV on regular rest in Game 5 -- the sooner that we can use our best pitchers, the better for us. It was an easy decision."
With Greinke and Verlander starting in Games 4 and 5, respectively, it means the Astros' likely options for Game 6 (if necessary) will be a bullpen game or turning to Gerrit Cole on three-days rest.
The Astros' bullpen isn't nearly as vaunted as the Yankees' 'pen, so their decision to go with Greinke and Verlander a day earlier than expected due to the rainout could be seen coming a mile away.
Another advantage to using Verlander in Game 5 (instead of Game 6) is that Game 7 (if necessary) will take place on his throw day. That means Verlander will almost certainly be available out of the bullpen in a potential winner-take-all game.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Tuesday before Game 4 was rained out that he would likely turn to Masahiro Tanaka in Game 4 if the rainout happened. Like the Astros, the Yankees had been planning a bullpen day for Game 4 before the rain changed things.