Both pitchers light on experience as Astros try to sweep A’s

MLB

LOS ANGELES — The Houston Astros might have a commanding 2-0 lead in their American League Division Series against the Oakland Athletics, yet all is not grand on their way to a fourth consecutive AL Championship Series.

After defeating the Oakland Athletics 5-2 in Game 2 at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday, manager Dusty Baker announced that Zack Greinke no longer would be his starting pitcher in Game 3 of the best-of-five set.

Arm soreness that required Greinke to visit a team doctor will lead to right-hander Jose Urquidy starting the potential series-clincher Wednesday instead.

Greinke did make the ALDS roster, so there was some optimism he could be ready for a Game 3 outing, but it did not pan out.

“Greinke is ailing some,” Baker said Tuesday. “He didn’t say much about it, but it’s pretty evident the last three or four starts that he wasn’t himself.”

Greinke had a 1-4 record with a 6.08 ERA in five September starts, giving up four home runs in that stretch. He faced the A’s on Sept. 8 in Oakland and allowed four runs on seven hits over six innings in a 4-2 defeat.

Urquidy has two career starts against the A’s, going 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA. He pitched against them on Sept. 10, giving up two runs on two hits over six innings, but the A’s pulled out a 3-1 victory.

“I’ve been up 2-0 (in a series) before,” Baker said. “You’ve got to put them away when you have a chance. If you let them off the mat, these guys know how to win. We’d like to win it (Wednesday) and not get any drama in Game 4 or 5. We know it’s not done yet.”

The A’s announced their Game 3 starter well after Game 2 ended. It will not be right-hander Mike Fiers, who detailed the Astros’ 2017 cheating scheme in an interview with The Athletic in November. Plenty of scorn has been heaped on the Astros ever since.

Oakland manager Bob Melvin delivered a bit of a surprise when he announced that left-hander Jesus Luzardo would get the start over right-hander Frankie Montas in the win-or-go-home contest.

Luzardo has just 18 career major league outings in two seasons, with all nine of his regular-season starts coming this year. He started Game 1 of the wild-card series against the White Sox last week, giving up three runs on six hits over 3 1/3 innings. It was the only game the A’s lost in the best-of-three series.

Luzardo has faced the Astros three times (two starts) in his brief career, going 1-0 with a 2.87 ERA. Montas has a 4.50 ERA in nine appearances (seven starts) against the Astros in his career, including a 4.11 ERA in 15 1/3 innings this season.

The Astros have six home runs already in the series, with Carlos Correa and George Springer hitting two each. The A’s, meanwhile, have five homers. However, Oakland was 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position in the opener, then never had an at-bat with a runner on second or third in the second game.

“When you have runners on, you know the job you have to do and the approach you have to have,” said A’s third baseman Chad Pinder, who hit a mammoth home run on Tuesday. “Everyone is trying to do those things. Sometimes you don’t get it done, and we do have to be better about it as a collective.

“We have tomorrow, and we have to keep fighting.”

–By Doug Padilla, Field Level Media

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