It was iffy for awhile, but the Houston Astros were able to showcase what makes them such a scary team in their 5-4 Game 1 win over the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series opener on Friday night.
Houston got out to an early lead against Chris Sale but a Jose Altuve error and some big Red Sox hits gave Boston the edge for much of the night until the bullpens got involved.
Altuve made up for his mistake with a two-run blast in the sixth inning off Tanner Houck, which was followed by a go-ahead bomb from Carlos Correa off Hansel Robles in the seventh. That home run — and the ensuing elaborate celebration — gave the Astros the lead for good, as Boston’s Kiké Hernández tried to will the Red Sox to a win all by himself. Houston’s bullpen held down the fort while Boston’s bullpen couldn’t stop a relentless Astros lineup.
The Red Sox will turn to their playoff ace Nathan Eovaldi on Saturday in a Game 2 they would like to win before the series shifts to Boston. Eovaldi will go against Houston’s Luis García, who is looking to bounce back from a nightmarish start against the Chicago White Sox in Game 3 of the ALDS.
First pitch from Minute Maid Park Saturday is at 4:20 p.m. ET. The BetUS Sportsbook has the Astros as -113 moneyline favorites and as +160 favorites on the runline. The Red Sox are +103 moneyline underdogs and -190 underdogs on the runline. MLB playoff odds have the over/under at 8½ runs.
García Only Needs Few Solid Innings
There’s no getting around that, in his second-career playoff outing, García was bad as he gave up five runs (on five hits and three walks) to the White Sox in just 2.2 innings during the Astros’ only loss of the ALDS. But, he’s a much better pitcher than that as he posted a 3.30 ERA in 155.1 innings during the regular season. He also wasn’t helped by being pulled from the game to give way to Yimi García, who immediately gave up a three-run home run (with two runs charged to Luis).
The good news for Houston is that if Luis García doesn’t have it again in this start, Dusty Baker has plenty of options to turn to for multiple innings out of the bullpen. Zack Greinke and Jake Odorizzi are both starters that are now available out of the ‘pen and either would be capable of piggybacking a potentially rough García start. The Astros would probably like one of Greinke or Odorizzi available to start Game 4 but that’s why it’s good they have both, so one can be available today (or in Game 3 after Jose Urquidy’s start) and one can be available for Tuesday’s game.
With that said, expect García to pitch better on Saturday than he did against the White Sox and, even if he doesn’t, the Astros can at least tread water and give the offense a chance to win. If you’re betting online, go with the Astros on the runline — if it weren’t for an ultimately meaningless ninth inning Hernández home run on Friday, it would have hit.
Eovaldi Will Run into a Wall
During the regular season, Eovaldi was a capable pitcher who has been durable for a few years and will usually provide a quality outing. He earned his first All-Star Game selection in 2021. But, when the calendar turns to October and Eovaldi gets to pitch in the playoffs, he turns it up another notch and becomes elite.
Now, with gems in the AL Wild-Card Game (against the New York Yankees) and ALDS (against the Tampa Bay Rays) in this postseason, Eovaldi has a career playoff ERA of 1.93 as a starter and reliever across 32.2 innings. He struck out eight Rays and held Tampa Bay to two runs in five innings in Game 3 of the ALDS — a Red Sox win — and will look to do the same against the Astros with his team trying to avoid a big 2-0 deficit.
Both the Yankees and Rays were solid offensive teams in 2021, but don’t hold a candle to the Astros. Eovaldi got hit hard in his only start against Houston, giving up 11 hits and five runs on June 9. Of course, the playoffs are different and that start might have been a blip in an otherwise great season; however, the Astros, who hit well against any pitcher, save their best work for right-handed starters in particular. They compiled a .806 OPS against righty starters in the regular season, which was 22% better than the league average.
Eovaldi, despite all of his recent playoff success, could be in for a rough one today with the Astros at home and coming off a thrilling win fueled by some big home runs. The MLB lines agree that Houston should be a favorite and you should go along with them.
Cracks In Boston ‘Pen Are Exposed
If the Red Sox are going to have any chance, they need not only their trusted bullpen arms to be nearly perfect but also their peripheral relievers as well. Houck fits into the former group while Robles fits into the latter group, and neither of them got the job done yesterday. Both gave up soul-crushing home runs, allowing a winnable game — that could have totally flipped the script of this series — to slip away.
The only high-leverage arms that weren’t used by Alex Cora on Friday night were Garrett Whitlock — may be the most important Red Sox reliever — and Nick Pivetta, who is useful as a bulk guy or piggybacker. The rough start for the bullpen, in general, does not bode well going forward.
In terms of MLB picks, take the juice and the Astros on the runline because they’ll get the scoring started a bit earlier on Saturday.