Sports Minute: Baker doesn't have many options for Astros Game 4 starter
By JOE REEDYAP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Dusty Baker wanted his Houston Astros to knock out the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday so his team could get rest and maintain momentum.
Houston's 9-7 loss in Game 3 of the AL Division Series gave the A's another chance.
Baker is 3-13 in potential postseason close-out games in five- and seven-game series, losing 10 straight, so he knows about the dangers of letting opponents stay alive.
“You try to ice them as soon as possible. You want to get it over as soon as possible with no panic but try not to let them get off the mat," Baker said before Wednesday's game.
Houston is batting .302 with 22 runs and hit eight home runs against the Athletics. But a young pitching staff that lost Justin Verlander to Tommy John surgery and Gerrit Cole to free agency is beginning to show its inexperience in postseason play,
Baker's bullpen options were limited Wednesday, and his options for a Game 4 starter on Thursday aren't that great, either.
“Right now I don’t even know my options,” said the 71-year-old, a veteran of 23 big league seasons managing in his first season with Houston. “It’s tough but life’s tough.”
The easiest choice would be Zack Greinke, but the right-hander is dealing with arm soreness. He threw off flat ground after Tuesday's game, and Baker maintained he needed to discuss with pitching coach Brent Strom how effective Greinke could be.
Greinke, who turns 37 on Oct. 21, is the Astros' most experienced starter, has struggled down the stretch. He has pitched five inning or fewer in each of his last four starts, including the wild card opener against Minnesota, allowing 12 earned runs over 18 2/3 innings in that span.
If Greinke is unable to go, Baker would be left with rookie right-handers Christian Javier or Luis Garcia. Neither has made a postseason start.
Javier came out of the bullpen and threw a scoreless inning on Monday, while Garcia hasn't pitched since Sept. 27. He was left off the roster in the first round.
José Urquidy, who entered Wednesday with a 1.26 career postseason ERA, allowed four home runs in 4 1/3 innings. The bullpen, which had not allowed an earned run in its first four postseason games, couldn't contain Oakland's offense. Astros relievers gave up no runs and only one hit the first two games but allowed five runs and six hits Wednesday.
“We’re a little thin. Whoever starts we need as many innings as they can provide,” Baker said. “If we keep scoring runs we are in pretty good shape.”
Despite the lack of pitching depth, Baker has an experienced team that has been to the last three AL Championship Series.
“This team has been here before. They don’t seem worried about it. Hopefully we don’t make those mistakes tomorrow,” he said.
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