The Red Sox will have to win at least one game in Houston in the next three days to survive in the 2018 ALCS. After a 108-win season and a four-game takedown of the hated Yankees in which they won two games on the road, beating the Astros is Texas is certainly doable.
That said, the Astros certainly seem to pose a bigger challenge to the Sox than the Yankees did. That narrative starts with Houston’s starting staff, which will trot out Dallas Keuchel in Game 3 Tuesday afternoon (5:09 p.m., TBS). Keuchel is a former Cy Young Award winner (2015), but his dominance has tapered off in recent seasons. The lefty went just 12-11 this season with a 3.74 ERA.
He was roughed up in his lone start against the Sox this season back on Sept. 9 at Fenway as Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and JD Martinez did considerable damage. Keuchel coughed up five earned runs on nine hits in 6.0 innings in that one, the highlight for the Red Sox coming when Martinez ripped a three-run homer over the Green Monster.
The Red Sox’ starter for Game 3 is also shaky, however, as Nathan Eovaldi was surely sad to see the Yankees go. Eovaldi was the Sox’ Yankee-killer this season but didn’t fare quite as well against non-Pinstripe wearing teams.
Eovaldi did not face the Astros as a member of the Red Sox this season but he did see them earlier this year when he was still pitching for the Rays. Back on June 20 at Houston, Eovaldi allowed four home runs to the Astros’ big guns as Jose Altuve bashed a pair of dingers and George Springer and Alex Bregman each clouted solo shots. Eovaldi took the loss in that outing, surrendering seven hits in six innings of work.
Sick ace, unreliable closer
When the 2018 Red Sox were clicking on all cylinders, ace Chris Sale and closer Craig Kimbrel were each dominant. But in this postseason there have been serious questions surrounding both players.
Sale spent Sunday night at Mass General and was kept overnight for what the team dubbed a “stomach illness.” The lefty certainly did not look right in his Game 1 start as he threw more balls (31) than strikes (29) in his first 60 pitches and walked four batters total. His velocity was again down in Game 1 as his fastball averaged 92 mph. His fastball normally hovers around 98 mph.
As for Kimbrel, his issues appear to be more mental than physical. This is the second straight postseason the Sox’ closer has been shaky as in his last five playoff appearances he has a 6.36 ERA.
Sunday night’s Kimbrel appearance was another journey despite him recording another save. George Springer doubled off of Kimbrel and he was able to move to third on a Kimbrel wild pitch. Altuve singled home Springer before Kimbrel eventually got Bregman to record the final out of the ballgame.