On the verge of facing a 3-1 deficit in the American League Championship Series, the Houston Astros used back-to-back, late-game offensive explosions in Games 4 and 5 at Fenway Park to take a 3-2 series lead. Now, the series shifted back to Houston and the Astros can clinch their third World Series appearance in the last five years with a Game 6 win on Friday night.
Luis García, who left Game 2 early with right knee discomfort and was charged with five runs in the loss, is apparently healthy enough to start for Houston. Nathan Eovaldi, who has been pretty good this postseason but was hit hard in the disastrous ninth inning of Game 3, get the nod for Boston.
Houston’s win in Game 5 was much more mundane, as the Astros got a gem from Framber Valdez and broke out offensively against Chris Sale and the Boston bullpen. Valdez threw eight brilliant innings, allowing just three hits and one run. Houston took an early lead on a Yordan Álvarez solo home run and never looked back, adding five more runs in the sixth on big hits from Álvarez, Yulieski Gurriel and José Siri.
With back-to-back nine-run outputs after a relatively sluggish offensive start to the series, the Astros might have finally broken out of their doldrums. The Red Sox blew a chance to bury Houston and, now, there might not be any going back.
Day Off Really Helps Houston
While a rest day obviously benefits both teams, Thursday’s off day might help the Astros more than it does the Boston Red Sox.
The Astros aren’t sure what they’ll get from García coming off his injury and tough showing, so they might have to rely heavily on their bullpen, which was pretty well-rested in Game 5 because of Valdez’s strong start. The bullpen should basically be at full strength tonight in a game where many guys may be called upon.
Ryan Pressly and Kendall Graveman both pitched a lot in Game 4 and, with two days off, will be available for multiple innings in all likelihood. The same can be said for Ryne Stanek, who threw 17 pitches in Game 5.
Since the Astros can back up García with all of their trusted relievers, you should take them on the runline if you’re betting online. Manager Dusty Baker will have a lot of options to turn to if things go south early for García.
Eovaldi Could Be Worn Out
After strong starts against the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays earlier in the playoffs, Eovaldi ran into some trouble against the Astros in Game 2 five days ago. He gave up three runs in 5.1 innings but only struck out three batters against a lineup that is one of the best in baseball at making contact.
Two days later, he struggled mightily in Game 4, giving up a back-breaking single to Jason Castro that gave Houston the lead and allowed the Astros to break the game open. Eovaldi and the Red Sox thought that Castro should have been rung up for strike three earlier in the at-bat but it was to no avail, and the veteran catcher spurred a shocking seven-run ninth inning rally.
So, Eovaldi will only be on two days’ rest for his start on Friday, which could affect his effectiveness. He threw 81 pitches on Oct. 16 and 24 pitches on Oct. 19 and, as the Los Angeles Dodgers have seen with Max Scherzer and Julio Urías, running out normally reliable starting pitchers on short rest in the playoffs can have disastrous results.
The MLB playoff odds really like Houston’s chances of getting to Eovaldi and think the Astros will be able to use their full pitching staff to keep Boston off the board enough to win. If you’re looking for MLB picks, you could do a lot worse than the Astros, who are riding a huge high right now after some enormous road wins.