By Caleb Stine
Tonight is the biggest game of the Red Sox season outside of the Wild Card.
A win tonight spurs momentum, and allows both Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi to be available for series clinchers, depending on Alex Cora’s moves for Game 4. A loss puts the ball in Correa and Co.’s court, and necessitates both at least a slight comeback from Boston, as well as a sixth game in Houston if the Red Sox remain competitive.
To say the winner of tonight wins the pennant would not be a careless prediction. If Boston continues to hit well, and mend critical gaps in their bullpen, they can ensure that a pennant victory is celebrated with “Dirty Water” blaring, and guarantee to never play a game in sitting-room-only Minute Maid Park for the remainder of the postseason.
Support starters properly
I love being wrong about Eduardo Rodriquez. That is, because my predictions of him are almost always cautious at best, and tensely nervous on average. In last week’s series clincher, he allowed just three hits and didn’t walk a single Ray. Predicting three innings at most, E-Rod went five, and allowed just two earned runs. I’m proud of him.
As he’s projected to throw again tonight, it’s worth echoing similar ideas as last week. E-Rod can do well, as was the case in his last start. He can also crap the bed, as was the case in Game 1 of the ALDS. As is a critical component of the playoffs, the latter can be remedied with the proper relief. Last week, I named four trusted relievers that would reliably help Eddie in Ryan Brasier, Tanner Houck, Garrett Whitlock, and Josh Taylor. Last Monday’s four relievers were the very four mentioned last week, and while Braiser had a rare fall in allowing two earned, it was overall a solid performance from the pen.
Thanks for reading, Cora: These guys can be trusted. Hirokazu Sawamura and Hansel Robles cannot, and Adam Ottavino should only be used sparingly as a fifth member of the core four, or in case one has a disappointing outing (Ottavino for Brasier as damage control last Monday would have been the right move). If Nick Pivetta can produce a fraction of his ALDS Game 3 performance, it would be in Boston’s best interest to include him as a middle reliever as well. Any pitcher besides those six coming out of the pen is inexcusable, and given the strength of potential starters, utilizing six relievers would not stretch the bullpen in an unsustainable way.
There’s no harm in continuing the three-starter trend of Sale, Eovaldi, and E-Rod and having some games where the bullpen cumulatively pitches five or six innings, as long as the pen is producing trusted hands.
Bats need to stay hot
Kiké Hernandez is single-handedly causing climate change. A .667 average with a 2.478 in the series so far dwarfs my little league stats (probably), and recording fewer strikeouts than home runs is a remarkable feat. If he stays hot, Jose Urquidy is in for some bad news tonight.
After some concern over the middle of the lineup producing results, those in question were able to produce and then some. With Raffy Devers and J.D. Martinez’s two grand slams on Saturday, confidence in the meat of the lineup is back, and Scoops’ minor injury is barely any cause for concern going forward. This lineup can do what it should, it just has to do it more going forward.
Trust the trusted pitchers, and continue slugging. Make Houston pay.