Astros: Zack Greinke ailing means ALDS Game 3 is important

Sep 29, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Zack Greinke (21) looks on after giving up a run in the third inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 29, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Zack Greinke (21) looks on after giving up a run in the third inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Houston Astros need to win ALDS Game Three with Zack Greinke ailing.

Amidst the celebration of the Houston Astros taking a 2-0 lead in the ALDS with a 5-2 victory on Tuesday, some unsettling news came out. Shortly after it was announced that Jose Urquidy will start today’s Game Three, manager Dusty Baker revealed that Zack Greinke is dealing with arm soreness and has been examined by doctors with results still pending.

This, of course, casts a cloud over the rest of the series. If the Astros are unable to finish off the sweep today, who would start Game Four? Cristian Javier may not be ready, as the belief has seemingly always been that he could start a potential Game Five. He pitched an inning of relief on Monday, so making a start on two days rest after that would be difficult.

The Astros don’t want to remove Greinke from the roster unless the injury is serious, as they would not be able to have him on the ALCS roster if they did so. It doesn’t sound as though it’s very serious, as Greinke played catch following Tuesday’s game under the watchful eye of pitching coach Brent Strom.

This issue seems to have cropped up in the last couple of days. Greinke threw during the team’s workout on Sunday, so it was probably Sunday or Monday when he started to experience it. The fact that he threw on Tuesday, even off flat ground, is a sign that he’s not seriously hurt. But it’s a concern nonetheless.

What If Greinke Can’t Go?

The Astros came into the playoffs with five starting pitchers who they’d feel comfortable plugging into a game — Greinke, Urquidy, Javier, Lance McCullers and Framber Valdez. The loss of one of them in a best-of-five series with no off days poses a real problem. They don’t have anyone who’d be a shoo-in to take Greinke’s place.

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Josh James started the year in the rotation and was awful, though he pitched well out of the bullpen in the season’s last couple of weeks. Luis Garcia has plenty of talent, but he has just five major league appearances — and those are his only appearances above Class-A. Cy Sneed probably isn’t an option, so the choice would be between starting James or Garcia, or sending Javier out there on short rest to make an abbreviated start.

If the Astros bats do stay hot and Urquidy helps them finish off the ALDS, then the team would have three days off before Sunday’s ALCS opener. That would hopefully give Greinke time to recover and allow Baker to set up the rotation the way he’d like to against either the Rays or Yankees. The Astros will certainly need their veteran hurler against those powerhouse teams.

We’ll hopefully know more later today when Baker meets with the media, but for the time being we’re waiting with bated breath. The Astros have been on fire lately, but losing Greinke would put a real damper on what has been a fun postseason so far.

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