Major League Baseball made the weather decision Wednesday to push Game 4 of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium in New York back 24 hours, and both the Yankees and Astros have adjusted accordingly as they set their starting rotations for the next two matchups.
When each starter -- Astros RHP Zack Greinke (18-5, 2.93 ERA) and Yankees RHP Masahiro Tanaka (11-9, 4.45 ERA) -- returns to the mound for first pitch Thursday at 8:08 p.m., the rematch of Game 1's 7-0 Yankees win from Minute Maid Park in Houston has series-altering implications.
With potential for four games in as many days through Sunday, should the series reach Game 7, did manager Aaron Boone make the right call to start Tanaka off five days of rest?
With Tanaka's start, the anticipated bullpen outing via an opener gets pushed back to Game 6 -- if the Yankees last until what would be Saturday night's matchup at Minute Maid Park in Houston -- as LHP James Paxton (15-6, 3.82 ERA) "likely" takes the ball against RHP Justin Verlander (21-6, 2.58 ERA) for Friday's 7:08 p.m. Game 5 at Yankee Stadium in New York.
If the series gets to Game 6, the Yankees could face RHP Gerrit Cole (20-5, 2.50 ERA) on three days of rest. He lacked his best stuff Tuesday in Game 3, but Cole still managed to throw 7.0 scoreless innings through 112 pitches with seven strikeouts to five walks and four hits.
Tanaka has been lights out in the postseason -- he boasts a 5-2 record and 1.32 ERA with 36 strikeouts to nine walks through seven starts over 41.0 innings, including a 2-0 mark and 0.82 ERA across the Yankees' wins over the Astros and Minnesota Twins (8-2, ALDS Game 2) this October -- but the decision could blow up before the Yankees and Boone.
In the past, Tanaka has explained how he feels his effectiveness is better on seven days of rest -- which he did between ALDS Game 2 and ALCS Game 1, allowing one run on four hits and striking out 11 while walking two over 11.0 innings -- and goes back to the mound Thursday after five days.
The Yankees likely would have thrown Tanaka regardless Thursday, but Wednesday's rainout compounds the issue for the bullpen.
If Tanaka throws up a dud against the Astros, the Yankees have to dig into their bullpen earlier than expected -- and then hold on for dear life the next four days.
Would the Yankees be better off with the bullpen game Thursday?
While the bullpen has suffered from some inconsistency -- highlighted by RHP Adam Ottavino (6-5, 1.90 ERA), who carries a blown save with three runs allowed on six hits and three strikeouts to three walks over 2.1 innings in six appearances this postseason -- the right plan via an opener could give the Yankees they desperately need as their series-evening quest continues.
RHP Chad Green (4-4, 4.17 ERA) has been effective as an opener. Behind Green, the Yankees still have an arsenal dominant bullpen arms -- RHP Tommy Kahnle (3-2, 3.67 ERA), LHP Zack Britton (3-1, 1.91 ERA) and LHP Aroldis Chapman (3-2, 2.21 ERA) -- to deploy.
On the field, the Yankees miss RHPs Dellin Betances (0-0, 0.00 ERA) and Domingo German (18-4, 4.03 ERA) -- who are out for the postseason between Betances' Achilles injury and German's domestic violence allegation -- but Boone showed the ability to maneuver the abundance of arms before Game 2's 3-2 loss in 11 innings ultimately unraveled from a poor performance at the plate.
This is why they play the games, but the Yankees and Boone are officially pushing all of their ALCS chips into the center of the table Thursday in Game 4 with Tanaka.