Austin Romine will be the Yankees starting catcher for the first time in the 2017 postseason, as Gary Sanchez will be the designated hitter for Game 4 of the ALCS on Tuesday.
It’s nothing personal against Sanchez. After all, Joe Girardi split time catching with Jim Leyritz and Jorge Posada on championship teams in the late 90s. “You know, I think there can be from a physical and mental grind of the playoffs,” Girardi said. “The good thing is you never, unless there’s a rainout, play more than three days in a row, and guys shouldn’t need too many days off. But I think the physical and mental grind can take its toll during the playoffs.”
Sometimes stats can be misleading, but here are some numbers: Gray had a 1.45 ERA pitching to Romine, and a 4.63 ERA pitching to Sanchez. “Sometimes it just happens,” Girardi said. “Sometimes I can’t explain why one catcher mixes with a pitcher a little bit better.”
Romine hit .218 with two home runs in 80 games in 2017. On a team with plenty of power, Romine found himself on the bench. But Chase Headley, Jacoby Ellsbury and Matt Holliday have struggled mightily in the designated hitter role in October, so Sanchez is now the DH as Romine catches. “I also look at run prevention and the importance of run prevention in the playoffs, and it’s why I made the decision,” Girardi said.
This is the first start for Gray since October 5, when he gave up three runs in 3.1 innings against the Indians in Game 1 of the ALDS.
“You know, Gary had had a couple of good starts with Sonny, but I looked at the game in the ALDS and how beat up Gary got and Sonny struggled a little bit, so I decided to make a change,” Girardi said.
The right-hander has been susceptible to the longball, giving up 10 homers in his final seven starts after allowing only two homers in his previous nine starts.
The Yankees manager will be closely monitor his starting pitcher who hasn’t toed the rubber in a game in nearly two weeks. “You worry about command,” Girardi said. “That’s what you worry about. The sharpness and if he’s able to locate is what you worry about when a guy hasn’t been out there for a while. And you worry about the emotions being pumped up today. And maybe overthrowing. So we’ll have to watch that, too.”
This is the kind of game the Yankees acquired Gray, a former All-Star, for. Just because he’s fourth in the rotation shouldn’t matter. Remember Orlando Hernandez starting Game 4 of the 1998 ALCS in Cleveland and winning the biggest game of the year for the Yankees?
The Yankees try to tie the ALCS tonight and a vital part will be the Gray-Romine battery.