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2019 Series Preview #15: Houston Astros @ Boston Red Sox

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The Astros (29-15, 1st in AL West) stomp into Boston for a rematch of the 2018 ALCS against the Red Sox (23-20, 3rd in AL East)

Houston Astros v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Recency Bias

Astros

Houston arrives in Boston after decimating opponents to go 11-1 in the last 12 games and take over the top record in baseball. They’ve looked like the most complete team in the majors during that stretch, logging a ridiculous 98 to 39 run differential. It’s probably not a coincidence that this came during the first stretch of the season against opponents with a current average below .500, but feasting on vulnerable teams is what good teams do. They’ve also opened up a 7.5 game lead on the rest of the AL West, putting the Astros in a good position to run and hide as the season inches past the quarter mark.

Of Bats and Men

MLB: Texas Rangers at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

As I said above, the Astros offense has been absolutely on fire as they get ready for this next series. Of course, anyone paying attention in the last couple of weeks knows that Springer has to be applauded for a ridiculous week at the plate. He mashed 4 home runs, including an inside-the park one, in the last 7 games while slashing .452/.500/.871 to lead the way for the ‘Stros.

However, it’s debatable that Marisnick may have had a slightly better week even though it was in a smaller sample size. Jake would go 7-for-14 with 2 dingers, a triple, and a double, continuing his excellent 2019 season.

After that it’s hard to find much to complain about this week. Bregman went on a home run blitz with 4 in the last two series, Aledmys Díaz drove in 10 men with 3 bombs of his own, Chirinos has had solid AB’s with 7 walks, Correa has continued to be a reliable producer, and most of the rest of the team is delivering on a steady if not elite pace.

Of course it can’t all be rainbows and RBIs as both Tyler White and Max Stassi have under-performed this week. This is especially troubling for White as he sees his playtime diminish with both Jake and Tony Kemp stepping up off the bench.

On the Pen

MLB: Houston Astros at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Another week, another solid performance out of the pen. There’s not really much to say as the bullpen continues to cut down opposing lineups with only minimal blemishes on the season.

Really the most interesting development is the return of McHugh to reliever status. He would make his first appearance against Texas and, while not at his sharpest, would get through 1.2 innings and only give up one run. He would then have a really nice appearance against the Tigers, throwing 2 perfect innings with 4 strikeouts. Devo is the only other reliever to have any runs on his ledger after a rough appearance against the Rangers.

After that it’s business as usual as everyone else would be solid in their appearances. Hinch has been doing a masterful job of weaving everybody in and out of games to get guys work at the right time. Of course it’s been much easier as of late with all the blowout victories and strong starting pitching.

Oh, and Ryan Pressly’s record number of scoreless innings now sits at 37 and he’s tied with Kimbrel for the MLB record at 38 games without giving up a run. Ho hum.

Red Sox

Boston will welcome the Astros to town just as they’ve really begun to kick it into high gear and turn around an absolutely terrible start to the season. Like Houston, the Sox have also caught fire in their last 12 games with a 9-3 record, and are being welcomed back into the conversation for contenders. They’ll have a little work to do as the powerhouse Rays currently own the East and the surprisingly resilient Yankees remain a step ahead. However, the team definitely has the tools to remain competitive and siphon off a win or two against Houston.

Of Bats and Men

Colorado Rockies v Boston Red Sox Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

To the surprise of absolutely no one, J.D. Martinez has been leading the way in the last week as he’s been experiencing a power surge. He’s mashed 4 homers while going 8-for-20 with 4 walks and only 3 K’s. This all comes as Martinez remains one of the Red Sox’s most productive hitters for the season and an ever-potent threat in the lineup.

Boston has really been getting some good offense this week from a few of its players, with third baseman Rafael Devers as the best regular after Martinez. Mitch Moreland, Xander Bogaerts, and Christian Vázquez have also turned in good weeks at the office as the weekend gets underway.

Those have really been Boston’s big offensive contributor for the entire year though, with the addition of Andrew Benitendi. The offense for Boston has been respectable this season, but not nearly in the same level as last season. They have managed to be in the upper-third in most offensive categories so far in 2019 even with a bit of a slow start, so you can’t go to sleep on them.

On the Pen

Detroit Tigers v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

The Boston bullpen is definitely changed since the last time the Astros saw them in the ALCS. With premiere closer Craig Kimbrel still sitting out in favor of a big contract and reliever Joe Kelly departed to more westerly climes, Boston has been cobbling a bit of a committee situation for the back end of its pen.

The heir-apparent to Kimbrel seems to be Matt Barnes as he has been one of Boston’s ace relievers in 2019. Originally he had been seeing more high-leverage situations in innings other than the 9th, but he appears to have taken over the closer position since fellow reliever Ryan Brasier had a string of bad appearances. However, Cora is shying away from definitively naming a closer for the time being.

I should also mention Marcus Walden as one of the better arms in the pen, indeed he seems to have slightly better numbers than Barnes with a .140 AVG and 0.69 WHIP. He’s also someone who can deliver multiple innings when called on, having 24.2 total innings in just 15 games. Brandon Workman has also been in the mix and seems to be having a good year until you see his atrocious walk numbers, which explains why he’s not more trusted.

Boston’s pen has actually been one of the stronger parts of the team during its dreadful start to 2019. While not as strong as Houston’s, the arms available to Cora can certainly shorten games, even against a strong offense like the ‘Stros.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Gerrit Cole, RHP (4-4, 3.88 ERA) vs. Rick Porcello, RHP (3-3, 5.15 ERA)

Cole starts this game after another multi-digit strikeout game where he fanned 12 while throwing 6 innings of 1-hit ball. This came after a 4-run outing against the Royals, which was the third time this season that he has given up more than three runs. While Cole has some ugly numbers on the year, mainly thanks to his terrible outing in Arlington, his 2.92 FIP and 2.32 xFIP suggest that he might be able to go on a tear if he can keep doing what he’s doing. I mean, an 86 to 15 K/BB ratio usually suggests pretty good things.

Porcello will make this start after a so-so outing against the Mariners where he gave up four runs, but would at least eat up 6.2 innings. That was probably his worst start in a month though, as he had been on a 3 game quality start streak before that, including 8 innings of shutout ball against the A’s. Porcello’s ERA is a little inflated thanks to a rocky start to the season where he would get slapped around by Seattle and Arizona for 11 earned runs in back to back games. He has settled down since then to become a somewhat steady arm in the rotation.

Game 2: Corbin Martin, RHP (1-0, 3.38 ERA) vs. Hector Velázquez*, RHP (1-2, 3.95 ERA)

The hype has been running on Corbin Martin ever since his excellent MLB debut on Mother’s Day this past Sunday. He was able to keep the Rangers off balance as he tossed 5.1 innings with 9 strikeouts and 2 runs surrendered. Martin would also limit the hits with just three given up and a single run, displaying some major league stuff in his first game. He’ll face a bigger test as he comes up against the defending WS champs, so we’ll see if he can continue with his early returns.

Velázquez is not a certainty to start this game as he has spent time back and forth from the rotation to the pen and might get called on in game 1 if needed. Otherwise expect him to start this one as he has taken this spot the last couple of times through the rotation. His most recent appearance featured 5 innings against the Mariners and was his longest outing of the year. More often he has gone in the neighborhood of 3 innings when he has made starts, and has done alright in the role. His numbers are nothing to write home about but they’re not absolutely awful either.

Game 3: Brad Peacock, RHP (4-2, 4.01 ERA) vs. Chris Sale*, LHP (1-5. 4,24 ERA)

A change in delivery has brought good results for Peacock as he has had a couple of good starts in a row, including the best of his career where he went 7 innings and fanned 12 Royals. His most recent game wasn’t quite as good though as he would only go 5 innings while walking 4, but he only allowed a single run in that one. Brad has had a bit of an up and down season so far in 2019 so hopefully this new delivery can lead to sustained success.

Sale will head to the mound for Boston after a start to the season that had everyone questioning what was wrong with him. He would get rocked several times in the early going, including his first start of the season, and looked to be having difficulty finding his command. Not so in recent games as he has struck out 10, 14, and then 17 batters in his most recent starts. Like Cole, a favorable FIP and xFIP suggest that Sale might be in for some brighter days ahead and the fact that he’s Chris Sale makes it feel more likely than not.

*These pitchers have not been confirmed by Boston as of writing this article.

Fun Fact

Is that elite?

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Friday, May 17th @ 6:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Red Sox - WEEI 93.7, WCCM 1490 AM/103.7 FM
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Red Sox - NESN / MLB Network (out-of-market only)

Game 2: Saturday, May 18th @ 6:15 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Red Sox - WEEI 93.7, WCCM 1490 AM/103.7 FM
Watch: FOX

Game 3: Sunday, May 19th @ 12:05 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Red Sox - WEEI 93.7, WCCM 1490 AM/103.7 FM
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Red Sox - NESN / MLB Network (out-of-market only)

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (36 votes)
  • 65%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (131 votes)
  • 15%
    Red Sox Win 2-1
    (30 votes)
  • 1%
    Red Sox Sweep 3-0
    (3 votes)
200 votes total Vote Now