Joe Girardi decided to dust off Austin Romine and start him in a game for the first time since Oct. 1 with Sonny Gray on the mound in Tuesday’s 6-4 win over the Astros in Game 4 of the ALCS.
The move paid off, as Gray had a shutout through five innings before a defensive lapse — ironically by Romine — led to trouble in the sixth.
Still, it was Gray’s best outing since Sept. 23 — and it marked the second straight time he pitched well with Romine behind the plate. And Sanchez had his best offensive game of the series as the DH.
“In the past couple days, we talked and got on the same page about what he liked to do and what makes him good,” Romine said of his partnership with Gray, who has been inconsistent since coming over in a July trade from Oakland. “I think we stuck to that for as long as we could tonight.”
Girardi knew that Gray had a 1.45 ERA in three starts pitching to Romine and an ERA of 4.63 to Sanchez. Just as important was the difficulty Sanchez has had with Gray’s breaking balls in the dirt.
“The numbers bear out that he had better starts with Austin,’’ Girardi said of the right-handed Gray. “Sometimes it just happens. I can’t explain why one catcher mixes with a pitcher a little bit better. To me it also gives Sanchez a little break. Sonny has tended to rough him up a little bit and beat him up physically. And at this time of the year I don’t want our catchers so beat up it affects everything.’’
Romine wasn’t perfect, letting a wild pitch get past him with one out in the fourth that Gray pitched around. Then in the sixth after a leadoff walk to George Springer, Romine’s catcher’s interference put Josh Reddick on base and giving the Astros first and second with no one out. Both runners came around to score on Yuli Gurriel’s three-run triple off David Robertson.
Overall, though, the combination of Gray and Romine worked well — especially considering the long layoff for Romine.
“I had to stay ready for situations like tonight,” said Romine, who caught Gray’s simulated game on Thursday. “You get thrown in there and you owe it to your team to be ready to play.”
— Additional reporting by George A. King III.