SB Nation Blog
Game times and Broadcast info
- Monday: 7:10pm on NESN and MLB Network for out-of-market.
- Tuesday: 7:10pm on NESN and TBS for out-of-market.
- Wednesday: 6:10pm on NESN.
The opponent in one sentence
Coming into Fenway this week, the Astros are in a familiar position atop their division, and nearly baseball in general, thanks to a tremendous defense and pitching staff that has allowed the third-fewest runs in the sport.
Up. Way, way up. The Astros are one of the hottest teams in the entire league, having won nine of their last 10. They were a .500 team on May 1 and have since raced out in front of the AL West — baseball’s best division, at least in my opinion. They’ve played the Mariners, Tigers, Twins and Nationals during this recent hot streak but winning nine of ten is winning nine of ten. It’s nothing to scoff at regardless of the competition.
Given the strength of their opponent, the rotation schedule lines up pretty well for the Red Sox, who will need all they can get from their starters to hang with Houston.
Game one will feature Garrett Whitlock taking on Jake Odorizzi. Whitlock is in the middle of a transition, being asked to make more starts after dominating since the start of last season in the bullpen. His last four appearances have been starts and his splits in the two roles are starkly different in a small sample size. His numbers aren’t bad, per se — an ERA of 3.00 even over 15 innings, and six walks to 23 strikeouts — but they are drastically worse than what he did as a reliever, ERA of 0.93, 11 strikeouts to just two walks and just one extra-base hit in 9 2⁄3 innings pitched.
On the other side of things, veteran right-hander Jake Odorizzi will seek to keep his personal three-game win streak alive. His third start on April 26 was disastrous, giving up six runs (although only three of them were earned) on four walks and two hits, but that was the last time he allowed a run.
In game two, Nathan Eovaldi will face José Urquidy. It’s been a weird season for Eovaldi, whose numbers don’t look bad but just aren’t “ace level” like you might have expected them to be. He doesn’t seem to be pitching with the same kind of power he’s built a reputation for and as a result, hitters have burned him for nine home runs, the most allowed by any pitcher in the majors. To make matters worse, the game is at Fenway, where he’s struggled mightily this year. His strikeouts go down, walks go up and opponents hit .333 against him at home.
Urquidy was in kind of the same boat as Eovaldi for the first month of the season. He gave up a home run in every start and that was indicative of his 48.5% hard hit rate, which would be a career-high if sustained through a full season. He’s been better of late, though, having surrendered just one run, nine hits and one walk over nine innings pitched in two May starts.
The series finale will pit Nick Pivetta against Luis Garcia. The Sox are just 1-6 in games that Pivetta has pitched, but that’s not totally his fault. He followed up what had been his best start of the season by besting it on Friday against the Rangers. Over those two starts against Chicago and Texas, he has thrown 11 innings and surrendered just one run on eight hits and a walk while striking out 12.
For the Astros, Garcia has been as steady as can be. He’s racked up a 3-1 record while his team has won five of his six starts. The young right-hander’s pitched twice during Houston’s recent hot streak and won both starts against the Tigers and Twins. He’s a hard thrower that misses a lot of bats and racks up a ton of strikeouts. The Sox offense, which showed some signs of life during the three games in Texas, will have its hands full.
Not really any old friends to speak of in this one.
Notable Position Players
This doesn’t look like the Astros of the recent past, when Carlos Correa, José Altuve, George Springer and Alex Bregman were dominating the American League, but Altuve and Bregman are still there doing what they’ve always done: Raking. Although Bregman has struggled to hit for average so far this year, he has an OBP of .352 along with five home runs and leads his club in RBI. Altuve has seven homers, an OPS+ of 152 and holds down second base with an outstanding glove.
The rest of the Astros lineup is a mishmash of essentially a bunch of .250-.270 hitters. Very few of them are posting particularly gaudy numbers but they are deep — 10 hitters have scored more than 10 times and seven have more than 10 RBI.
Correa’s replacement and team leader in WAR, Jeremy Peña seems to be a game-time decision for Monday’s opener but the Sox would rather he and his .853 OPS sit.
Veteran outfielder Michael Brantley and first basemen Yuli Gurriel are steady forces in the order. 24 of their 70 hits have gone for extra bases.
Yordan Alvarez has been a monster so far, mashing 11 home runs and driving in 21 runs. Jose Siri is just a .227 hitter but still owns an OPS+ of 103.
Martín Maldonado is really the only weak point in the Astros lineup but when I say weak, I mean really weak. His OPS+ is 30 and he’s striking out almost 38% of the time.
Chas McCormick gets some action off of the bench but is mostly a platoon guy in the outfield. He’s got just 22 hits this year but three of them were home runs. McCormick has also driven in 10 runs to date.
Houston’s bullpen has been pretty average so far. They convert on 73 percent of their save opportunities and allow 29 percent of inherited runners to score.
Héctor Neris and Rafael Montero anchor the group with ERAs of 0.56 and 0.61, respectively. Cristian Javier is a long reliever who has earned Dusty Baker’s trust with his versatility, making starts and relief appearances in close games. He has only pitched in seven games but still leads the bullpen in innings pitched. Ryan Pressley has made seven appearances and leads the team in saves with four.
As a group, they barely give up any home runs, just 10 in more than 130 combined innings.
Jeremy Peña was expected to play on Sunday against the Nats but left knee soreness that’s been bothering him for a couple of days persisted. He’s considered day-to-day.
Jake Myers has a torn labrum in his left shoulder and won’t be back until June. Lance McCullers injured his right flexor tendon and was put on the 60-day IL on April 18. He’s begun to throw again, but there’s no precise timetable for his return yet.
Same goes for Taylor Jones, who was shut down towards the end of spring training because of lower back soreness. Jones recently said he’s starting to work out and get his baseball timing back, but he won’t play this week.
Grant Williams made it rain in Boston on Sunday, but with that storm moving south to Miami, the skies above Fenway will be clear with temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s.