Saturday, September 23, 2023

MLB Preview: Boston Red Sox (66-58) at Houston Astros (70-55)


STATE OF THE SOX: The Red Sox have won each of their last 3 games…They are 8-3 in their last 11 games. The Sox are 26-16 (.619) in their last 42 games since 6/30, MLB’s 5th-best record in that time. At 66-58 (.532), the Sox own MLB’s 11th-best record.

SERIES BUSINESS: The Red Sox are 3-1-0 in their last 4 series…At 22-16-2, they have already matched their series win total from 2022 (22-24-6).

HOW WAS YOUR WEEKEND?: The Red Sox are coming off a 3-game sweep over the Yankees in the Bronx…BOS outscored NYY, 22-9, and did not trail at any point in the series. The Sox are 8-1 against the Yankees this season, having won each of the last 7 meetings.

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE: Yesterday, the Red Sox concluded a stretch of 13 consecutive games against sub-.500 teams (3-1 vs. KC, 2-1 vs. DET, 1-2 at WSH, 3-0 at NYY). 28 of the Sox’ remaining games will be against teams that currently have a winning record, including each of the next 10 (BAL-7, HOU-7, TB-5, TEX-3, TOR-3, LAD-3).
BOS is 33-32 against teams with a current record of .500 or better, and 33-26 against teams below .500.

PITCHING IN: Boston ranked 27th in MLB with a 5.09 ERA at the end of play on 5/15, but ranks 4th in the AL and 8th in the majors with a 3.97 ERA since then. Overall, the Sox rank 18th in the majors in ERA (4.35).

START ME UP: In their last 26 games, Red Sox starting pitchers have posted a 3.48 ERA (44 ER/113.2 IP)…That is MLB’s 3rd-lowest starter ERA in that time (beginning 7/22). In their last 5 outings, Sox starters have allowed only 6 ER in 23.1 IP (2.31 ERA). Yesterday marked the 14th time the Red Sox have used an opener…They are 7-7 in those games.

LOCK IT DOWN: The Red Sox own MLB’s best record when leading after 6 innings (51-3, .944)…In 2022, they ranked 18th in MLB when leading after 6 (63-10, .863). Boston leads MLB in save % (78.7; 37-for-47), after ranking 24th last season (57.4; 39-for-68).

CLOSING ACT: Kenley Jansen has converted each of his last 20 save opportunities since 5/20, tied with TOR’s Jordan Romano for MLB’s longest active streak. Since 6/9, Chris Martin has allowed only 1 run over his last 27 outings (24.1 IP); he ranks 2nd in MLB with a 0.37 ERA in that span (min. 20.0 IP).

Pitcher (Years) SV
Tom Gordon (1998-99)………54
Koji Uehara (2013-14)……….31
Derek Lowe (2000-01) ………25
Jonathan Papelbon (2011) …25
Craig Kimbrel (2016-17)…….25
Pitcher (Years) SV
Craig Kimbrel (2018)…………23
Jonathan Papelbon (2009-10)…22
Jonathan Papelbon (2005-06)…20
Kenley Jansen (2023)…..20

SLUGGING SOX: The Red Sox have homered in each of their last 9 games, their longest streak of the season…They last had a longer streak from 9/28/21-4/11/22 (10 games). The Sox have homered in 17 of their 18 August games, after homering in only 16 of their previous 28 games. The Sox have hit 9 HR in their last 4 games, the most in MLB during that span (beginning 8/17).

ON THE OFFENSIVE: Among AL teams, the Red Sox rank 2nd in AVG (.262), doubles (266), and XBH (424), 3rd in OPS (.760), and 4th in OBP (.327) and SLG (.433).

3/30-5/6 35 21-14 .273 .800 5.9
5/7-6/13 33 12-21 .243 .704 3.8
6/14-7/27 34 22-12 .281 .803 5.4
7/28-8/12 15 6-9 .231 .668 3.3
8/13-pres. 7 5-2 .273 .813 6.0

HIGH FIVE: The Red Sox are an MLB-best 53-8 (.869) when scoring 5+ runs…They’ve scored at least 5 runs in 6 of their last 7 games, including each of their last 4 (7, 8, 8, 6). Since 6/14, the Sox are 26-2 when scoring 5+ runs. In their last 4 games, the Sox have hit .297 with a .350 OBP, .527 SLG, and .877 OPS.

SCORING IN BUNCHES: The Red Sox have scored multiple runs in an inning at least once in each of their last 7 games (11 multi-run innings in that time). The Sox have scored 3+ runs in an inning at least once in each of their last 4 games…Since 6/1, they are 26-2 when they score 3+ runs in at least 1 inning.

20/20 VISION: Boston has 3 players with 20+ HR this season (Devers-29, Casas-20, Turner-20), after having only 1 in 2022 (Devers-27). The Astros and Rangers are the only other AL teams featuring as many as 3 players with 20+ HR (3 each).

FOREVER AND DEVERS: Rafael Devers has recorded 3 hits in each of his last 3 games (9-for-14) and has homered in 3 of his last 4…In 38 games since 7/1, he has hit .343 with a 1.050 OPS (48-for-140, 10 HR, 10 2B). Devers is 1 HR shy of his 3rd career 30-HR season (32 in 2019, 38 in 2021)…He’d join Ted Williams and Jim Rice as the only Red Sox with three 30-HR seasons prior to turning 27.

RUNNIN’ RED SOX: The Sox rank 11th in MLB in stolen base % and 17th in steals (80.6, 87-for-108)…They have been successful in each of their last 8 attempts since 8/11. 18 players have stolen a base for Boston this season, most in the AL and tied with PIT for most in MLB.

NO TIME TO REST: The Red Sox are currently on a season-long 10-game road trip (3 at WSH, 3 at NYY, 4 at HOU). The Sox are in a stretch of 32 games in 34 days (7/28-
8/30)…That includes a stretch of 16 consecutive days with a game from 8/15-30.

EAST VS. WEST: Each of Boston’s next 13 games will be against teams outside of the AL East. The Sox are 12-10 vs. AL West clubs, but they have lost each of their 3 road series against the division (0-3 at LAA, 1-2 at OAK, 1-2 at SEA). The Sox are 5-2 in their last 7 games against the Astros…BOS won each of last season’s series, 2-1.

2023 7-3 3.34 16 16 86.1 32 14 23 93 1.14 .230
CAREER 64-36 3.56 153 153 841.0 333 95 254 924 1.20 .238

Allowed 2 runs over 6.0 IP last Wednesday at WSH (5 H, BB, 3 SO, 2 HR). In his last 5 starts (beginning 7/22), has recorded a .282 opp. AVG (31-for-110) but a 2.96 ERA (9 ER/27.1 IP)…Threw 5.0+ innings in each of those starts. Owns a 3.24 ERA (29 ER/80.2 IP) in 14 career starts against HOU. Has pitched 5.0+ innings in 13 of his 16 starts…Has allowed 2 ER or fewer in 11 of them, and issued 2 or fewer walks in 14 of them. Owns a 2.58 ERA at home (11 ER/38.1 IP) and a 3.94 ERA on the road (21 ER/48.0 IP). 41 of his 93 strikeouts have come with the 4-seam fastball. Leads Red Sox starting pitchers in ERA…Has allowed 1 or 0 ER in 7 starts this year.


TONIGHT’S GAME: The Astros will try to snap their three-game losing streak tonight as they open a four-game series with the Red Sox…Houston will start RHP Cristian Javier opposite familiar foe LHP James Paxton, who’s started against the Astros 16 times in his career, including twice in the postseason.

HOMEBOY: RHP Cristian Javier has only pitched once at Minute Maid Park over the last two months, making that start on July 28 vs. TB (3ER/6IP)…on the season, Javier has been stellar at home, posting a 4-1 record and a 3.19 ERA (17ER/48IP) in nine starts…for his career, Javier’s home ERA (2.67) has been over a run and a half better than his road ERA (4.23).

THE MAYOR OF MINUTE MAID PARK: Tonight, the Astros will celebrate public address announcer Bob Ford, who will throw out a ceremonial first pitch prior to the game…Ford is in his 30th season as the Astros public address announcer.

BACK ON THE AIR: AT&T SportsNet SW is back on the air tonight and will televise the Astros next 12 games through Sept. 2…in addition to the local broadcasts this week, TBS will televise Tuesday’s game, while MLB Network will televise Wednesday’s game (both blacked out in Houston).

\VS. THE RED SOX: The Astros are facing the Red Sox for the first time this season and will play them seven times in the next 10 days…these two teams have seen each other three times in the postseason dating back to the 2017 season, most recently meeting in the the 2021 ALCS, won by Houston in six games.

YESTERDAY’S MATINEE: Despite a five-run 3rd inning, the Astros could not overcome an early 6-0 deficit in their 7-6 loss to the Mariners yesterday at Minute Maid Park…the offense produced 12 hits on the day, which included multi-hit games by both DH Yordan Alvarez (2×4, BB, 2RBI) and 3B Alex Bregman (2×4, 3B, RBI)…the Astros bullpen pitched well, as six relievers combined to allow just one run in 6.1 innings.

MARTINEZ RECALLED: The Astros have recalled RHP Seth Martinez from Triple A Sugar Land today…he takes the roster spot of LHP Parker Mushinski, who was optioned to Triple A after yesterday’s game.

2K JOSE: On Saturday night vs. SEA, 2B Jose Altuve recorded his 2,000th career in a 3×5 game…he’s now the third player in club history to reach 2,000 career hits, joining 2B Craig Biggio (3,060) and 1B Jeff Bagwell (2,314).

HIP HIP JOSE!: 2B Jose Altuve finished Saturday’s game with exactly 2,001 hits, 201 homers and 291 stolen bases in what was his 1,630th career game…according to MLB Stats, Altuve is the fastest player in MLB history (in terms of games played) to reach at least 2,000 hits, 200 homers and 200 stolen bases… the previous record holder was Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who did so in 1,669 games.

MVP NUMBERS: RF Kyle Tucker owns a share for the AL lead in RBI (92), while ranking third in OPS (.901) and fourth in SLG (.525)…he’s also one of just three players in the Majors with 24-or-more home runs and steals, joining NL MVP candidate Ronald Acuña Jr. (28 HR, 56 SB) and SS Bobby Witt Jr. (24HR, 37 SB)…defensively, Tucker, the reigning AL Gold Glove winner, has more starts (116) than any other AL player in right field, and has committed just one error in his 234 total chances.

YAINER BOMBS: C Yainer Diaz connected for his 17th homer of the season on Saturday, becoming the ninth rookie in franchise history to hit 17-plus homers in a single season…you don’t have to look far to find others on that list, with SS Jeremy Peña (22 HR in 2022) being the last to do so, and LF Yordan Alvarez (27 HR in 2019) owning the franchise rookie record.

ROOKIE RESULTS: As pointed out by reporter Brian McTaggart and Astros broadcaster Steve Sparks, the Astros have had eight top-five finishers in the last nine years in the AL Rookie of the Year Award voting…they’re on pace to do so again this season with three rookies having strong seasons: RHP J.P. France (2.7 bWAR), C Yainer Diaz (2.2 bWAR) and RHP Hunter Brown (1.1 bWAR).

FROM THE TRAINER’S ROOM: The Astros have three players working their way back from injury…updates on each:

  • 1B José Abreu (lumbar spine inflammation) is scheduled for a full pregame workout today, which includes running the bases… Abreu has missed 10 games since his IL placement (Aug. 10).
  • OF Michael Brantley (right shoulder surgery) will work out at Minute Maid Park today before resuming his rehab assignment with Triple A Sugar Land tomorrow…Brantley went 2×4 with an RBI in his last game on Saturday and is now 4×11 (.364) with a homer and four RBI in his three rehab games so far.
  • RHP Phil Maton (right elbow contusion) threw off the bullpen mound on Saturday without issues and is scheduled to throw a side session today…Maton has missed eight games since being placed on the IL on Aug. 12.

BARBER SIDELINED: Astros prospect OF Colin Barber is currently sidelined with right hip flexor discomfort, which has kept him out of action since Aug. 15…Barber, who ranks as the Astros No. 9 prospect, has played his entire season at Double A Corpus Christi, hitting .247 (60×243) with 15 doubles, nine homers, 37 RBI and a .794 OPS in 72 games.

LAST START – 8/15 AT MIA: took a no-decision after allowing 5 runs (4ER) on 4 hits through 4.2 IP and striking out 2 batters with 1 walk…Astros went on to defeat the Marlins, 6-5… prior to his outing at MIA, had made 5 straight starts allowing 3 runs or fewer.

VS. THE SOX: has faced the Red Sox 5 times in his career but will be making just his 2nd start against them…his only other start came last season on Aug. 2 at Minute Maid Park…picked up a quality start that day, tossing 6 IP and allowing 2 runs on 4 hits while striking out 7 batters.

  • has faced the Red Sox twice in the postseason, with both outings coming in relief and during the 2021 American League Championship Series…tossed 5 scoreless IP of relief through the 2 ALCS outings, allowing just 3 hits and striking out 3 batters…the Astros won both games Javier came on in relief (Gm 1 and 4) during the series and went on to win the series in 6 games en route to a trip to the World Series vs. ATL.
  • picked up the 1st save of his career on June 9 in 2021 at BOS…tossed 4 scoreless IP in relief to finish out an 8-3 win…allowed just 1 hits and struck out 3 batters during the appearance… matched the longest relief appearance of his career, with his only other 4-IP effort coming on May 28, 2021, vs. SD.
  • has held key Red Sox hitters in Trevor Story, Justin Turner and Alex Verdugo to a combined
    0x7 with 3 strikeouts in his career.

BACK ON TRACK: went on a tough 3-start stretch from 6/21-7/3, in which he logged a 15.19 ERA (18ER/10.2IP)…outside of those 3 starts, he’s recorded a 3.60 ERA (44ER/110IP) on the year.

EL REPTIL: The Dominican hurler has made 23 starts in 2023…the Astros have gone 16-7 in his 23 starts this season and are 22-7 in Javier’s last 29 starts dating back to Aug. 31, 2022…in those 28 starts, he’s recorded a 3.76 ERA (65ER/155.2IP) with 156 strikeouts, a 1.12 WHIP and a .214 opponent batting average.

LEAGUE LEADERBOARD: has pitched primarily as a starter over the last 2 seasons for the Astros (2022-23)…among qualifying AL pitchers over that span, ranks 3rd in opponent average (.200), 5th in strikeouts per 9.0 innings (10.16), 9th in WHIP (1.07), 10th in strikeouts (306) and T-11th in wins (19).

INVISIBALL: has held opponents to a .195 average (300×1537) throughout his MLB career… it’s the lowest opponent’s batting average among qualified AL pitchers since entering the league in 2020…the next-closest player is Shohei Ohtani (.200).

HOME SWEET HOME: has recorded a 3.19 ERA (17ER/48IP) at Minute Maid Park this season, compared to a 5.33 ERA (44ER/74.1IP) on the road…has fared better at Minute Maid Park throughout his career, logging a 2.67 career ERA (63ER/212IP) at MMP, compared to a 4.23 ERA (101ER/214.2IP) on the road…it is the 2nd-lowest home ERA among qualified AL pitchers since his debut in 2020, trailing only RHP Shohei Ohtani (2.22 ERA).

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