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2019 Series Preview #17: Boston Red Sox @ Houston Astros

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The Astros (33-18, 1st in AL West) host the rematch of the rematch of the 2018 ALCS with three against the Red Sox (27-23, 3rd in AL East)

MLB: ALCS-Boston Red Sox at Houston Astros John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports

Recency Bias

Red Sox

Boston arrives in town after a four-game set against the Blue Jays where they would take 3 out of 4. They would also run the gamut of emotions during that one as they mashed double digit runs one game before having the same done to them the next, and then win a squeeker in the third game. Either way, Boston continues to play more in line with the what we saw from the 2018 champs last season, shaking off their cold start to the season. They’re also currently in the middle of 17 games without a break and the bullpen has been seeing a fair amount of innings, but Houston will need to get to Price and Sale in the first two games to take advantage of that.

Of Bats and Men

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

Xander Bogaerts has been red hot for Boston this week, slashing .419/.455/.613 in the last 7 games. He certainly was a thorn in the side of the Astros during their road trip, smacking five hits during those three games along with a couple of doubles. In short duty Steve Pearce has also been a beast at the plate during his 16 plate appearances this week.

In truth there hasn’t been much to complain about from a majority of Boston’s lineup this past week, even with the series loss to Houston. 7 of their batters have an OPS over .800 during that time.

One of those players is Michael Chavis, who has been Boston’s hot-hitting rookie, and has managed to endear himself to the Fenway faithful as the season has gone on. He’s slashing .279/.375/.943 on the season with 10 home runs in just 29 games.

For 2019 as a whole, J.D. Martinez continues to slug and Mookie Betts has been dangerous as ever since shaking off his own cold start to the season. Rafael Devers and Christian Vasquez have also been flashing some muscle on the season, with Vasquez in particular already having matched his home run total from last year.

On the Pen

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest change in the Red Sox bullpen this week is the return of Hector Velázquez, who you may remember getting spanked by the Astros his last time out. Once David Price returned from the IL, Velázquez was returned to his previous role.

After that not much has changed since last we saw Boston, so far as the bullpen is concerned. Matt Barnes continues to be one of the better relievers but comes in mostly in a fireman role, leaving the save opportunities to most of the other relievers in the pen.

Marcus Walden also continues to be good for Boston out of the pen, sporting a 1.59 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 28.1 innings pitched. He’ll come in for multiple innings if he needs to, but generally appears in high leverage situations for the Sox. He would blow the last save opportunity for Boston in Toronto, but overall he has been pretty lockdown otherwise this season.

There were also some heroics out of the bullpen in the previous series as Ryan Weber would make a start after appearing primarily as a reliever. He would go six innings of 1-run ball, helping to preserve Boston’s arms during this tough stretch of games. I think it’s safe to say that Weber is not available this series.

Astros

Houston welcomes Boston to town after a somewhat disappointing series against the White Sox that started strong but promptly fizzled out. The offense, which had been clicking like crazy coming into that series, would fall asleep in the last two games. This culminated in the Astros being on the wrong end of a complete game shutout by White Sox ace Lucas Giolito. Of course, this does come after an extended period of success so is simply one of the many ebbs and flows to a season, but hopefully the bats can have a quick turnaround for this series.

Of Bats and Men

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Reddick has been on fire this past week with a pretty hefty .318/.379/.545 slash line in the last two series. He’s also managed a homer and a couple of doubles with a steal during that time. He’s joined by Bregman in having one of the better weeks, though Bregs had his due more to his eye at the plate than his bat. He would only hit .238 on the week, but also walked 8 times while only striking out once to lead the the team with a .467 OBP.

Unfortunately there weren’t really any other standout performances from any of the other Astros regulars. Brantley would continue his steady season and Correa had some timely hitting, but after that things went a little cold for the ‘Stros.

However, in limited duty Stassi has had a nice couple of games this week, managing to go 3-for-6 with a walk. While Stassi’s value lies in his defense and pitching presentation, it would be nice to see a little more production out of him in the lineup.

In a bit of injury news, it looks as though Springer may make his return to the lineup against Boston, which would be none-to-soon as the Astros face off against a couple of tough lefties.

On the Pen

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Houston Astros Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros’ bullpen would continue to roll along this week as there were at least fairly solid contributions from most everyone. Of course you all know about how good Osuna and Pressly have been, but it was nice to see Josh James beginning to string together some solid outings.

Unfortunately there would be a hiccup for James as he would surrender a grand slam to the White Sox, allowing two of Cole’s inherited runners to score and taking two on his record himself. James would also wobble a little bit in his next outing against the White Sox, but managed to collect himself and keep the Sox off the board.

That game also included a fantastic performance from Framber Valdez, who would soak up multiple innings after Corbin Martin was forced to leave the game early. Those innings eaten by Valdez and James will go a ways in keeping other elements of the bullpen fresh for Boston.

Brady Rodgers would also appear out of the bullpen for the first time as he fills in for an injured McHugh. While he did give up a home run, that was the only base runner he allowed in his 2 innings of work.

Pitching Match Ups

MLB: Houston Astros at Boston Red Sox Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Game 1: Chris Sale, LHP (1-5, 4.31 ERA) vs. Wade Miley, LHP (4-2, 3.51 ERA)

In a rematch of last Sunday’s game, Chris Sale will make this start against Wade Miley. The Astros were able to get under Sale’s skin the last time out, hitting him for 3 runs before chasing him from the game after 5.1 innings. He did manage 10 K’s though, so it’s not like he was on the ropes the whole time. This came after a string of games that looked like Sale had found his old dominance again, so it was encouraging to see Houston get to him at least a little.

Miley was not too much better in that game, though he turned in a decent enough performance. He would only go five innings while scattering 7 hits and allowing 3 runs, 2 earned. It was the first time in his last seven starts that he failed to get into the 6th inning. Miley has had a couple of sub-par games his last two times out in comparison with what he’s done the rest of the season, so hopefully he can regain a little bit of that form in this start.

Game 2: David Price, LHP (2-2, 3.29 ERA) vs. Brad Peacock, RHP (5-2, 3.59 ERA)

Price made his triumphant return to the rotation after a stint on the IL that would sideline him for a few weeks. He only allowed 3 hits and 2 unearned runs in that start, but only go five innings and leave after just 67 pitches, so he may be on a pitch count for this game as well. Price had enjoyed a fairly successful start to 2019 before going on the IL, though his first two games were nothing to write home about. He has probably been Boston’s best performing starter during what was a rough time for the rotation this season.

Houston counters with Brad Peacock, who has been on something of a roll since his masterful 7-inning performance against KC. In his last three games Peacock has gone 17 innings while only giving up 1 run. He would make the White Sox look silly in his last start, with 5 runs of shutout ball that included 9 strikeouts. Peacock continues to improve after he switched up his delivery to pitch out of the windup more often.

Game 3: Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP (4-3, 5.43 ERA) vs. Justin Verander, RHP (8-1, 2.24 ERA)

Rodriguez has struggled his last two times out, getting rocked for 5 and then 6 runs against the Rockies and Toronto, respectively. This came after a successful period that was sandwiched between a terrible start to the season and his last two awful outings. He’s managed to pitch decent baseball otherwise, but not at a consistently excellent level like the one-two punch at the top of Boston’s rotation.

Justin Verlander brought it with yet another masterful performance his last time out, striking out 12 White Sox across 8 innings while holding them to just on run on a single hit. Unfortunately that one hit was a homer, but that and a walk were JV’s only blemishes. Verlander continues to add to his Cy Young resume as the season progresses, having now pitched 8 games where he would go at least 6 innings and only give up a single run. He continues to astound with his elite-level consistency in spite of reaching an age where most other pitchers would begin to decline.

(Not so) Fun Fact

Thank God triple plays don’t count here.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Friday, May 24th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Red Sox - WEEI 93.7, WCCM 1490 AM/103.7 FM / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Red Sox - NESN / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB Network (out-of-market only)

Game 2: Saturday, May 25th @ 6:15 pm CDT
Listen: Red Sox - WEEI 93.7, WCCM 1490 AM/103.7 FM / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: FOX

Game 3: Sunday, May 26th @ 1:10 pm CDT
Listen: Red Sox - WEEI 93.7, WCCM 1490 AM/103.7 FM / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Red Sox - NESN / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB Network (out-of-market only)

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (11 votes)
  • 49%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (46 votes)
  • 31%
    Red Sox Win 2-1
    (29 votes)
  • 7%
    Red Sox Sweep 3-0
    (7 votes)
93 votes total Vote Now