The ALCS is basically a five-game series now between the Astros and Red Sox. While the Astros technically hold home field advantage, the last two games of the series, if necessary, go back to Fenway Park.
From the Astros‘ perspective, a tied 1-1 series against the 108-win Red Sox and coming back home to Houston for the next three games is a prime opportunity. The outcome of the next three games could very well determine the end result of this year’s ALCS.
Dan Szymborski of FanGraphs published the latest ZiPS probabilities for both the NLCS and ALCS here. By ZiPS, the Astros currently have a 55.4% of winning Game 3 along with a 52.7% chance to advance to the World Series. It is always interesting to see how the percentages favor, or don’t favor, your favorite team. But probabilities do not always translate into actual events as the Red Sox have the talent to, gulp, eliminate the Astros from the postseason.
For Game 3, the Astros are sending out Dallas Keuchel to counter Boston’s pitcher of choice, Nathan Eovaldi, a product from Alvin High School near Houston. We’re all familiar with Keuchel’s arsenal by this point, but Eovaldi is a different pitcher. For one, he is a right-hander whose average four-seam fastball velocity sits around 97.6 MPH per Brooks Baseball. He utilizes four-to-five pitches in his arsenal, led primarily by his four-seam fastball and cutter. Eovaldi can also mix in a splitter, curveball, and slider in his game plan.
Since Boston acquired him from Tampa Bay in late July, the age-28 right-hander has thrown 54 regular season innings over 12 appearances (11 starts). In those appearances, he has maintained a 3.33 ERA and 2.88 FIP. Quite the contrast from his numbers with the Rays when he posted a 4.26 ERA and 4.28 FIP in 57 innings. That said, Eovaldi has had more success at Fenway Park (.239 wOBA in 31 innings) than on the road since his acquisition (.363 wOBA in 23 innings). Not enough history to make any concrete claims about the Red Sox starter, but it is still interesting nonetheless.
Now, let’s see how Boston will situate their lineup for Game 3.
RF Mookie Betts
1B Steve Pearce
2B Ian Kinsler
The Astros have made a few interesting changes to their lineup in advance of Tuesday’s game.
DH Jose Altuve
3B Alex Bregman
1B Yuli Gurriel
RF Josh Reddick
LF Tony Kemp
Thanks to lingering knee injury that was aggravated in the ALDS, Jose Altuve will take over as the team’s DH for Game 3. Marwin Gonzalez moves to second base from left field, where he has been playing for the majority of the postseason. Brian McCann replaces Martin Maldonado as the primary catcher, and Tony Kemp gets the nod in left field. Tyler White and Evan Gattis are the two potential pinch hitters if the situation arises while Jake Marisnick is a potential defensive replacement late in the game.
Keuchel will be asked to replicate his performance against Boston in last year’s ALDS when limited the Red Sox to just one run over 5 2/3 innings. He did hold Cleveland to two runs over five innings in this year’s ALDS in the clinching Game 3. With the bullpen well-rested, though, I wouldn’t be shocked they’d remove Keuchel if he starts to noticeably struggle.
The plan for Houston is the same as it has been all postseason long. Wear out the starting pitcher and hope to make some noise against the bullpen. The Astros’ offense was one of the best teams at limiting strikeouts (19.5%) and drawing walks (9.2%) throughout the 2018 season. Unless Eovaldi is dealing, I do not expect him pitch much beyond the second time through the lineup. For example, his wOBA jumps from .286 to .358 in between his second and third times through a lineup. In today’s baseball, especially in the postseason, teams are not scared to turn to the bullpen earlier in the game.