The big storyline before game two of the ALCS in Boston was the fact that David Price had never picked up a winning decision as a starter in the playoffs. His 0-9 record led many to believe, myself included, that he shouldn’t even be pitching in such a big game. Well, one game later and Price still doesn’t have a win in the postseason, although this time his team managed to make up for his mediocre stats and won the game anyway. Price struggled yet again, he lasted just four and two-thirds of an inning and gave up four earned runs.
But his counterpart, Astros starter Gerrit Cole, was even worse, as Cole gave up five runs in his six innings of work. The game itself was a back and forth affair with a combined nine runs getting put on the board in the first three innings. Both team’s bullpens slowed the bleeding down, but when all was said and done, the Red Sox came away with the must-have victory, 7-5.
With the win, Boston remains in the hunt in this series as it is now tied at one game apiece. Had the Red Sox lost both of those games at home, this series would have essentially been over. The series now shifts to Houston for three games and Boston must win at least one of the three to send this series back to Fenway Park for a possible game six or game seven.
Starting today for the Astros is former Cy Young Award winner, Dallas Keuchel (12-11 3.74 ERA) and for the Red Sox, it is Nathan Eovaldi (6-7 3.81 ERA). The Astros are -131 home favorites. The game total over-under is set at eight and a half runs. First pitch is scheduled for 2:09 PM PST from Minute Maid Park in Houston.
Nathan Eovaldi was brought over from the Tampa Bay Rays at the trade deadline this season to give the Red Sox some depth in their starting rotation. And he has done an admirable job doing just that. He was especially good down the stretch in September as he had a 1-0 record and a 1.35 ERA, working both out of the rotation and the bullpen for Boston.
But when you take a little closer look at the stats for Eovaldi, it might tell a little different story. Eovaldi has emerged as a Yankee killer in his short stint with Boston, something that has quickly made him a fan favorite with the Red Sox faithful. In twenty-three innings or work, across four appearances, Eovaldi has allowed just one earned run against New York.
That includes a win in the ALDS against the Bronx Bombers where he threw seven innings and allowed just one run and Boston won the game. But against everyone else? Eovaldi has pitched a combined thirty-eight innings and has allowed twenty-six runs. In those nine starts, he failed to make it into the sixth inning in seven of them. So, while he is an elite pitcher against the Yankees, he has been very mediocre against everyone else.
The Astros will start Dallas Keuchel in game three. In any other season, this would look like an enormous mismatch on the mound as Keuchel has been elite in most of his short career for the Houston Astros. But this year he really struggled for Houston. His 3.74 ERA is nearly a full run higher than last year’s 2.90 mark and was one of the highest of his career. But it hasn’t been all bad for Keuchel this season, just inconsistent. In July he went 4-1 with a 1.65 ERA. But in September he went 2-1 with a 4.65 ERA.
This is a very interesting matchup here in game three. We have two starters going that we just don’t know what we are going to get out of them. We know that both are capable of great things, especially Keuchel, who can be elite when he is pitching at his best. But both guys barely made the cut to appear in the starting rotation in the playoffs.
I was actually quite surprised the Red Sox have decided to use Rick Porcello out of the bullpen and start Eovaldi rather than the other way around. And for the Astros to send Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers to the bullpen rather than Keuchel can certainly be debated as well. So, where does that leave us in this one?
I think both guys will pitch decent, but I would be shocked to see either of these guys still pitching in the sixth inning. Both managers are likely to keep these guys on short leashes as they have several strong long relief options waiting in the ‘pen if things turn south. Both of the first two games of this series have gone over the game total, and that is what I expect to happen again here tonight.
These teams are averaging combined double-digit runs in this series through two games, and this is clearly the worst starters we have seen in this series. It’s not that they are all that bad, but this certainly isn’t Chris Sale vs. Justin Verlander, and that game went over too. So, I see this game being a little higher scoring than most expect, and it should come in over the eight and a half-run mark.
As far as the side goes? I just feel that Houston is the much better overall team. They were one weird bounce in game two away from being up two games to nothing in this series, and I don’t see them losing this game today at home. So, I will back the Astros as small home favorites in what I see as a 6-4 type of game. Give me the Houston Astros as home favorites and the over eight and a half runs tonight in game three from Houston!