7:15 PM EST, FOX – Money Line: Astros -, Run Line:
Division leaders meet up tonight in the Lone Star State for a potential ALCS Preview, as the Houston Astros host the Boston Red Sox in the third entry of a 4-Game Series from Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. A new era is underway for the Red Sox (39-18, 1st in AL East), who throughout the first two months of the campaign must be elated with their performance under new Manager, Alex Cora, who in the early stages has guided his charges to the best record in the Majors. A torrid 17-2 start propelled Boston to a comfortable lead over their counterparts in the American League, though injuries have begun to play a role of late, with a pair notable faces likely to miss tonight’s encounter with the reigning World Series Champions. First and foremost, the team’s Batting Leader, Mookie Betts (.359 BA, 19 2B, 17 HR, 37 RBI) will miss his seventh consecutive outing with tightness in the left side of his body, though he was expected to make his return at some point during this Series. Veteran Second Baseman Dustin Pedroia (.091 BA, 1 H, 0 RBI) on the other hand, is listed as Day-to-Day with soreness in his Left Knee, the same Knee that he underwent surgery last October for, which also caused the 34-Year Old to miss the first Eight Weeks of the season. Pedroia missed Thursday’s Series Opener, a 4-2 defeat, in which the Visiting Side were clearly lacking in the power department; the Red Sox managed to scatter Six Hits, including a trifecta of Doubles, with Xander Bogaerts (.281 BA, 14 2B, 8 HR, 30 RBI) driving in their only Two Runs of the night on his Extra-Base Hit in the Third Inning. Their prized Free Agent acquisition, Designated Hitter J.D. Martinez (.317 BA, 14 2B, 18 HR, 47 RBI), who has been so impressive since arriving in Boston leading the American League in both Home Runs and Runs Batted In, was virtually invisible Thursday Night, Drew Pomeranz (1-3, 6.81 ERA, 36 K, 1.838 WHIP) took the Loss in lasting Five Innings, allowing Four Earned Runs on Six Hits, including a Home Run, while striking out Five and walking Two. Heading to the mound tonight for Cora & Co. is David Price (5-4, 4.04 ERA, 59 K, 26 BB, 1.267 WHIP), who looks to continue his road back from a disastrous 2017 campaign which saw the former Cy Young-winner make only Eleven Starts due to a swath of injuries. The 2018 version of the towering Lefthander appears to be very much in the process of getting his groove back, though if recent performances are any indication, he could be close to recapturing his form. Unbeaten in his last Four Starts, Price has logged a stellar 2.49 ERA, while racking up Twenty-Seven Strikeouts opposed to Ten Walks since missing a Start due to experiencing mild Carpal Tunnel symptoms in his Left Hand. In Eight Career Starts against the Astros, Price has amassed a 5-2 Record with a commanding 2.79 ERA, with a Strikeout/Walk Ratio of 68/12 and a WHIP of 1.017.
Meanwhile, the tour through the American League East continues for the Astros (36-22, 1st in AL West), who managed to turn the tide on a recent poor swing in which they lost Four out of Five Games after an impressive 13-3 Stretch. The reigning World Series Champions are hoping that this particular Set against the Red Sox doesn’t follow the form of it’s predecessor against the Yankees, which saw A.J. Hinch’s charges take the Series Opener in comfortable fashion (5-1) only to drop the following two outings by an aggregate score of 11-8. A return home to Minute Maid Park appeared to be just what the doctor ordered for Houston, who took care of business in Thursday’s 4-2 Victory; the Hosts jumped on Boston early, scoring a pair of Runs in the First Inning via a 2-Run Homer courtesy of Carlos Correa (.262 BA, 14 2B, 9 HR, 38 RBI), who drove home Alex Bregman (.262 BA, 18 2B, 5 HR, 23 RBI), snapping an 0-for-10 Slump and successfully ending a dismal month in which the All-Star Shortstop batted just .192. Then, after the Visitors squared things away in the Second Frame, the Champs responded in the Fourth, scoring another Two Runs which would prove to be enough to seal the deal. Lance McCullers (7-3, 3.89 ERA, 72 K, 27 BB, 1.168 WHIP) posted yet another Quality Start, allowing Two Earned Runs on Four His throughout Six Innings, logging Four Strikeouts and a pair of Walks, with a trio of Relievers (Will Harris, Hector Rondon, Ken Giles) holding the lead over the final Three. Heading to the mound tonight for Hinch & Co. is Justin Verlander (7-2, 1.11 ERA, 98 K, 15 BB, 0.713 WHIP), who in his first full season with the Astros (who acquired him late last season) has appeared to have discovered the proverbial Fountain of Youth. While he may never reach the Cy Young form that made him the most dominant Pitcher in the Majors from 2009 to 2012, he sure does look close to recapturing it; the 35-Year Old Righthander currently leads the American League in a slew of categories, including ERA (1.11), WHIP (0.713), and Hits per Nine Innings (4.8). When we last saw him, he was busy tormenting the Yankees’ powerful Lineup, yielding just One Run on Five Hits over the course of 6.2 Innings, with Five Strikeouts and Zero Walks, extending his current Winning Streak to Three Games. Command has been the key to this ridiculous begin to the campaign, for Verlander has issued a miniscule Two Bases on Balls over his last Three Starts. This was indeed a case in which a change of scenery making a world of difference; since arriving in Houston last August, the 14-Year Veteran has been nothing short of revitalized, going 12-2 in Seventeen Regular Season Starts, sporting a 1.09 ERA, 0.694 WHIP, and 7.05 K/BB Ratio, while playing an integral role in the Astros’ World Series Run, going 4-1 in the Postseason, allowing Nine Runs over 36.2 Innings, with Thirty-Eight Strikeouts in comparison to just Eight Walks, even earning the ALCS MVP Award in the process. Over the course of his career, Verlander has faced the Red Sox Seventeen times, going 5-5 with a 2.88 ERA and 1.139 WHIP, but a 2.66 Strikeout/Walk Ratio, and hasn’t bested them since 2016.