ALCS Game Four Preview: Boston Red Sox at Houston Astros
Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com (Oct. 13, 2018 – Source: Omar Rawlings/Getty Images North America)
The Boston Red Sox just laid a beating on the reigning World Series champs, but there’s no time to savor the victory. The Red Sox play their second of three consecutive games Wednesday night, their longest stretch of nonstop action thus far in the postseason. Should Boston spend too much time dwelling on the past, they might not have a future. The Red Sox currently have a 2-1 series lead and are just two wins away from a World Series birth. Hopefully, that number will drop to one after ALCS Game Four.
Boston Red Sox at Houston Astros ALCS Game Four Preview
First Pitch: 8:39 PM
Television: TBS (check local listings)
Radio: WEEI (check local listings)
Your Starting Ace: Rick Porcello
Full-time starter, part-time eighth-inning setup man Rick Porcello takes the mound for Game Four against the Houston Astros. After a shaky regular season, Porcello has been lights out thus far in the postseason. Porcello made one October start thus far, allowing one run in five innings against the New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium.
Additionally, Porcello made two separate relief appearances in the postseason, one of which came in Game Two against these very Astros. Porcello has yet to allow a run as a reliever and he’s been nearly as good as a starter. Quite frankly, Porcello is looking a lot like the pitcher of April and May instead of the one from July to September.
More reason for optimism is that Porcello, surprisingly, is better on the road than in Fenway Park. During the 2018 regular season, Porcello put up a 4.77 ERA and a 4.63 FIP when pitching in Boston. Meanwhile, on the road, Porcello allowed a 3.86 ERA and a 3.48 FIP outside of Fenway. Strangely enough, home-field advantage was more of a disadvantage for Porcello, so pitching on the road actually plays to his strengths.
Know Your Enemy: Charlie Morton
Matching Porcello on the mound is 34-year old righty Charlie Morton. Morton is clearly the fourth-best pitcher in the Astros rotation, but that says a lot more about how good the rest of Houston’s rotation is. In 167 innings (30 starts), Morton pitched to the tune of a 3.13 ERA, 3.59 FIP, and a 10.83 K/9. His biggest weakness is his walk rate, as Morton allowed an above average 3.45 walks per nine innings.
Morton is primarily a two-pitch player, utilizing his fastball and curveball. He throws his fastball 58.3% of the time with an average velocity of 95.7 miles per hour. His curveball is his clear second offering, throwing it 29.3% of the time at 79.7 miles per hour. He also sprinkles in an 88.4 mile per hour cutter and an 87.4 mile per hour changeup.
For what it’s worth, the Red Sox have crushed Morton during the regular season. The righty pitched just 10.1 innings against Boston, but still allowed a 6.97 ERA and a 6.16 FIP. During this short sample, Red Sox hitters posted a .348/.400/.652 slugging percentage against Morton. This is obviously not good for Morton, and hopefully, the Red Sox can continue this success on Wednesday night.
Player To Watch: Ryan Brasier
Ryan Brasier has to be one of the most feel-good stories of the 2018 season. After spending 2017 pitching in Japan, the Red Sox signed Brasier to a minor-league contract. That move paid dividends, as the reliever was promoted to the majors on July 8th and has established himself as a bullpen mainstay. Coming completely out of nowhere, Brasier is currently the third arm in the bullpen behind Craig Kimbrel and Matt Barnes.
Brasier has been remarkable, as he’s allowed just one hit and no earned runs in 4.1 innings. However, Brasier has pitched in five of a possible seven postseason games thus far. With three games in a row, Brasier may not be available for Game Four. If Brasier cannot go, there’s a significant hole in the bridge to Craig Kimbrel. Whether the Red Sox decide to use Joe Kelly, Eduardo Rodriguez, or even David Price in this role is anyone’s guess, but it won’t be as smooth as using Brasier.
Rick Porcello has dominated the postseason, albeit in a small sample. Likewise, the Red Sox have crushed Charlie Morton this year in an equally small sample. The Red Sox offense has shown more life than the Astros, and Boston’s bullpen is arguably in better shape than Houston’s following Roberto Osuna’s catastrophic Game Three collapse. Osuna is arguably the Astros best bullpen arm, and not having him makes the Astros back end a lot weaker. This problem compounds when considering Morton’s struggles against the Red Sox. Should Morton get hit around early, the Astros limited depth could be exposed.
Right now, everything is looking up for the Boston Red Sox. Boston’s bullpen (outside of Brandon Workman) has shut down just about everyone they’ve faced while the starters (outside of David Price) have been everything the Sox could ask for. Factor in that Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa are both dealing with fairly significant injuries, and it’s hard to see the Red Sox losing. Obviously, you can never count out a team as talented as Houston, but the Red Sox should have the upper hand in Game Four
Final Prediction: Red Sox 6, Astros 3