NEW YORK — Austin Romine will catch right-hander Sonny Gray for the New York Yankees against Houston in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series on Tuesday, with regular backstop Gary Sanchez moving to designated hitter.
Manager Joe Girardi said Romine and Gray have built a strong rapport since Gray was acquired from Oakland in July. Gray had a 1.45 ERA in three games pitching to Romine, compared to a 4.63 ERA in eight appearances with Sanchez.
"They've seemed to work a little bit better," Girardi said.
Houston leads the best-of-seven series 2-1.
Romine is New York's best receiver. Sanchez tied for the major league lead with 16 passed balls in the regular season, and Gray's big curveball can be difficult to block. Girardi worries about balls rolling to the backstop, and about possible bruises for Sanchez trying to prevent them.
"Sonny is going to beat you up," Girardi said.
Girardi said Sanchez will be back behind the plate to catch Masahiro Tanaka in Game 5 on Wednesday night.
In the meantime, it gives Sanchez a chance to focus on his bat. The star slugger is 6 for 38 with two homers this postseason, including 0 for 11 in the ALCS.
New York could use the boost at DH. The Yankees' designated hitters are 1 for 30 so far this postseason. Chase Headley got that hit Monday night and is available to pinch hit Tuesday.
Lance McCullers Jr. will start Game 4 for the Astros, a decision manager A.J. Hinch announced after New York's 8-1 win Monday night. Hinch was deciding between McCullers and Brad Peacock.
McCullers, an All-Star in July, finished 7-4 with a 4.25 ERA but hasn't started since Sept. 30 or won since June 24.
McCullers was sidelined from July 31 to Sept. 6, his second stint on the disabled list this year due to lower back discomfort, but made his first career relief appearance against the Red Sox in the Division Series. Hinch said McCullers "has some of the best stuff in the big leagues and we believe in him."