After the duo grand slam meltdown in the first two innings of Game 2 of the ALCS, the Astros head to Boston in a 1-1 deadlock. But it doesn’t feel like a tie for several reasons.
First, the Astros loss gave home field advantage to the Red Sox. That may not be a huge deal for the road warrior Astros, but every advantage is essential in what looks like a pretty evenly-matched series. Second, the uncertain health situation of Luis Garcia has possibly turned a problem area with the pitching rotation into the proverbial dumpster fire. Garcia had been dealing with knee irritation for a while. Still, shades of Dallas Keuchel (I don’t even remember what injury he was hiding anymore), he had been covering it up until Dr. Martin Maldonado called for the coaches in the second inning. Now we don’t know if Garcia will pitch again (and possibly poorly) or be replaced on the roster (which kills him for a possible World Series appearance).
The biggest negative is the state of the Astros pitching rotation. They started the ALCS behind the 8 ball with Lance McCullers Jr. on the IL. Then Framber Valdez failed to get out of the 3rd inning in the opener, and Garcia could not record an out in the second inning. Right now, the most likely pitchers available are:
- Game 3 is slated as Jose Urquidy, who is uber rested, having last pitched 6 innings on Oct. 3rd
- Game 4 was supposed to be Jake Odorizzi, whose 82 pitches on Saturday nixed that idea. Could this now be Zack Greinke, who is “stretched” out to only 40 pitches, according to Dusty Baker? If they put Garcia on the IL, could this be Peter Solomon or Brandon Bielak? Could they bring Framber back on 3 days rest after only throwing 65 pitches in the first game? Could this be Cristian Javier, who looked great in throwing only 28 pitches in that same game?
- Game 5, 6 or 7 …only Game 5 is sure to happen right now, and it is way too far down the line to speculate on starters for these games yet.
The next negative is just a potential one right now, and that is the effect on the bullpen. So far, the bullpen has done a great job (except for Odorizzi), but having to clean up the mess after short starting stints will eventually take its toll. They need some decent starts the next two games to not get worn to a nub.
The Astros and the Red Sox are good road teams, but both teams are better at home than on the road. The Astros were 51-30 at home, 44-37 on the road, and the Red Sox were 49-32 at home and 43-39 on the road. So, while not fatal, giving that advantage back to the Red Sox could mean the difference in this series. Of course, it just takes an Astro win in the next two games to flip it back.
Though they did not really get back into the second game after falling back 8-0 after an inning and a half, the Astros did not give up, and their bullpen pitched well for the second game in a row.
The Astros were able to expose some weaknesses in the Red Sox bullpen in both games. Especially in the first game of the series, they overcame a two-run deficit to take a two-run lead that they needed to hold Boston off late.
The hitters continued to put up a decent amount of runs, five in both games, which they will need to continue or expand upon in the upcoming games.
The Astros have a ton of experience in big games over the last seven seasons. They will need to draw on that to survive the challenge they face over the balance of a series that does not feel tied right now.