Posted on October 16, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine

Boston Red Sox

Image via mlb.nbcsports.com

The Boston Red Sox avoided disaster on Sunday night by doing just enough to beat the Houston Astros in Game 2 of the ALCS to even the series at one game apiece. However, the Astros should be satisfied with getting a split of the first two games before the series shifts back to Houston for the next three games. Let’s take a closer look at what could be a crucial Game 3 in this year’s ALCS.

Jump-Started

Mookie Betts was perhaps the biggest difference maker in Boston’s Game 2 win. He had two doubles, an RBI, and two runs scored out of the leadoff spot to help jumpstart the Red Sox lineup against Gerrit Cole. Boston also continued to get contributions from the bottom half of the lineup, as Rafael Devers had two hits and Jackie Bradley Jr. had the biggest hit of the night. However, the Red Sox are going to need more from their stars if they’re going to win this series. J.D. Martinez and Andrew Benintendi are a combined 1 for 16 through the first two games, and at some point, those two have to start producing.

Pitching Matchup

On the mound, the Red Sox will go with Nathan Eovaldi in Game 3. He posted a 3.33 ERA after being traded to the Red Sox over the summer and he was electric in his start against the Yankees during the ALDS, giving up one run over seven innings. That being said, he took a loss when he faced the Astros back in June while he was still with the Rays, giving up four runs, all on solo home runs, in six innings of work. The Red Sox have to be ecstatic with how he’s performed in September and October for them, but they have to be a little concerned about him giving up the long ball at Minute Maid Park.

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The Astros will send lefty Dallas Keuchel to the mound in Game 3. Keuchel struggled at times coming down the stretch, including a start against the Red Sox in which he gave up five runs on nine hits over six innings. He was also somewhat average against the Indians during the ALDS, giving the Astros five innings while yielding two runs. However, he’s generally been good in the playoffs, posting a 3.28 ERA in his eight postseason starts and one relief outing. The Astros won’t be expecting a dominant performance, but they should feel confident that Keuchel will keep them in the game and give them a chance to win.

X-Factor

For the Astros, look for Carlos Correa to be the X-factor in Game 3. Correa struggled down the stretch and was just 1 for 10 in the ALDS against the Indians. However, he has a hit in each of the first two games of this series, so there have been signs that he’s starting to turn things around. He’s also 4 for 13 (.308) in his career against Eovaldi, so he’s someone to watch in the bottom half of the order who deliver a big hit for Houston.

Boston’s X-factor in the bottom half of their lineup could be Ian Kinsler. He’s had a rocky postseason, going 4 for 17 (.235) with 10 strikeouts. However, he’s likely to start Game 3 to give the Red Sox an extra right-handed bat against Keuchel. Kinsler also has 36 career at-bats against Keuchel, more than any other hitter on Boston’s roster. He’s hit .306 with a double and a home run in those 36 at-bats, so he’s someone who may be able to deliver when the Red Sox need a big hit.

Prediction

Both teams should feel good but not great about their starting pitcher in Game 3. However, not all of Boston’s big bats have been able to get going in this series, which makes Houston’s lineup seem that much deeper. With the home-field advantage, look for the Astros to out-slug the Red Sox in Game 3. Houston wins 8-5.

Note: This prediction is the opinion of the author and not necessarily the prediction of Jon Price or Sports Information Traders.

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