Seemingly forecasting what was to come later that afternoon, Astros manager A.J. Hinch spent some time on Sunday discussing the chore of juggling playing time with a roster stacked with proven contributors, making particular note of the task of getting at-bats for his four-man bench.
A pair of reserves played critical roles in helping Houston complete a sweep of the Oakland Athletics, the first three games of a six-game homestand that continues against the New York Yankees on Monday at Minute Maid Park. Aledmys Diaz and Tony Kemp were a combined 4-for-8 with five RBI, three runs, two homers and two walks in the Astros' 9-8 victory. Sunday marked the first action for Diaz, who clubbed a three-run home run in the first inning and scored the winning run in the ninth, since March 31. Kemp filled in as the designated hitter, a position Hinch will continue to use in order to distribute at-bats among his regulars as evenly as possible.
"I want to spread it around as much as I can," Hinch said. "You'll see George (Springer) do it a little bit more just because we have five outfielders and he's comfortable being the DH. I almost did it back-to-back days and played Tony in center but decided to play George in center (on Sunday).
"Ideally, I can move it around: Tyler White will DH (Monday) against (Yankees right-hander Masahiro) Tanaka. I have some plans for these guys. I don't see one guy necessarily as the DH."
Right-hander Justin Verlander (1-0, 4.09 ERA) will start the opener against New York. He lasted just four innings in his previous outing, allowing four runs on six hits and three walks with four strikeouts in the Astros' 6-4 loss against the Texas Rangers on April 2. Verlander is 7-7 with a 3.49 ERA over 20 career starts against the Yankees, including a 1-0 mark and 0.61 ERA in two starts last season.
Tanaka (1-0, 1.46 ERA) gets the starting assignment for the Yankees. He has allowed one earned run in both of his starts this season while recording 12 strikeouts against no walks over 12 1/3 innings. Tanaka is 0-2 with an 8.87 ERA over five career starts against the Astros. He did not factor in the decision in a 6-5 victory at Minute Maid Park on May 3, 2018, after allowing three runs on five hits with five strikeouts over six innings.
Even with their roster decimated by injuries, the Yankees capped a three-game series sweep of the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday, flexing a depth of power that apparently is injury proof. Despite an injured list bloated with regulars, the Yankees bashed seven home runs in their 15-3 win at Camden Yards, getting three from one of their healthy primary starters: catcher Gary Sanchez.
Absent the likes of Giancarlo Stanton (bicep), Miguel Andujar (shoulder) and Aaron Hicks (back), who combined to slug 92 homers last year, the Yankees still have ample power. That much was evident by the fact that New York scored its first 18 runs of the series via the home run, a streak that was snapped when left fielder Clint Frazier delivered an RBI single in the sixth inning on Sunday. Of course, Frazier also homered twice, doing so in the second and ninth.
"It's never too much for us," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of the reliance on the dinger. "I am good with hitting as many as we need to."
--Field Level Media
Astros hope Verlander can shut down hot-hitting Yankees
More TOP STORIES News