The Houston Astros pulled a surprise Thursday afternoon, announcing that veteran right-hander Zack Greinke is cleared to start Game 4 of the American League Division Series against the Oakland A’s.
Greinke, 36, was scheduled to start Game 3 of the series on Wednesday, but was scratched less than 24 hours prior after complaining of arm soreness. The six-time All-Star started Game 1 of Houston’s wild-card series against the Minnesota Twins, but only lasted four innings after issuing three walks and two hits.
Houston turned to 2019 postseason hero Jose Urquidy to start Game 3 in place of Greinke. He was unable to pitch the Astros into the ALCS after allowing four home runs in 4 1/3 innings.
Greinke’s return means manager Dusty Baker won’t have to dig deeper into his reserves to find a fifth starter in the ALDS. Though if Greinke isn’t 100 percent, it could be another taxing afternoon for Houston’s bullpen.
An Astros win Thursday ends the series. An A’s win would force a decisive Game 5 and likely prompt Houston to turn back to Game 1 starter Lance McCullers Jr. Baker could also choose to go with young Cristian Javier if he does not pitch in relief of Greinke Thursday.
The Astros — baseball’s designated villains since the World Series-winning 2017 club’s sign-stealing scheme was revealed over the winter — are attempting to secure their fourth straight ALCS appearance and seize the baseball spotlight once again.
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