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Series Preview - Astros (23-12) @ Red Sox (13-21)

We finally won a series. Are we gonna win another one? Probably not. Will I be thinking anything other sweep at 7:00 tonight? Absolutely not. Am I setting myself up for disappointment? 100% yes.

The Matchups

Monday May 16th 7:10 PM - Jake Odorizzi (3-2 6.08 ERA) vs Garrett Whitlock (1-1 3.38 ERA)

Tuesday, May 17th 7:10 PM - Jose Urquidy (2-1 4.40 ERA) vs Nathan Eovaldi (1-1 3.15 ERA)

Wednesday, May 18th 6:10 PM - Luis Garcia (3-1 2.94 ERA) vs Nick Pivetta (1-4 5.08 ERA)


The Preview

Call me crazy, but I really like our chances in this series at home. Here is what I said in the last series preview for the Rangers games - "Sox in a sweep... Smooth brains across the internet will say that the Red Sox are back, but my big and extremely grooved brain knows that it's just false hope and we are all going to be very sad again when we face the Astros next week." What has changed from Friday to today? Obviously we didn't sweep. That'll keep our boys humble and hungry. Big brain Cora going with a bullpen game yesterday for some reason, knowing Brasier would let up not only 1, but 2 backbreaking home runs. He's playing chess and I'm playing checkers.

Now, I do have some breaking news for the readers of talkinsox.com: the Astros are good. They hit ball good. They pitch ball good. They field ball good. Dusty Baker manage game good. Astros good at baseball. They have mostly familiar faces leading the way - guys like Altuve, Brantley, Bregman and Tucker. They also had a pretty big departure this offseason in Carlos Correa, so I would think that they'd have a hole at shortstops. Jokes on me, these fucking assholes had someone named Jeremy Pena who has been even better than Correa to this point in the season. On top of that, they also have Yordan Alvarez at DH. He won ROY in 2019, yet is still one of the most underrated hitters in the league, with 11 home runs in 2022. That is good for second place in Baseball, one HR behind Aaron Judge and tied with Byron Buxton. Again, these fuckers can still mash the ball.

Looking at Monday, we'll see Garrett Whitlock take on Jake Odorizzi. Garrett Whitlock is Garrett Whitlock. His last outing was his weakest of the season, allowing 3 earned in 3 IPs. I still wish he was back in the bullpen, but it looks like we won't be seeing that at least until Wacha returns. We will need him to go a little bit longer than he's used to since we decided to go with a bullpen game yesterday. The Astros actually have some of the best stats I have seen against Whitlock, with 7 hits on 22 ABs off our city's favorite rule 5 pick. Tucker and Brantley both have a pair of hits on 3 ABs, and Altuve is 1 for 2 with a home run. The advanced numbers against the Astros are what scares me in a starting role - here is what those look like (via Statcast):

If you have to go around a lineup 3 times, these numbers make me nervous. They are going to tag him a little bit, and the most we can hope for is that the line drives are right at our fielders.

The Sox lineup will get Odorizzi. We have seen Odorizzi several times over the years, so we have a good idea of what we are walking into. 119 ABs, 35 hits, including 9 doubles, 3 triples, and 7 home runs. That is good for a .294 avg and .597 slug. Like we have seen with a lot of these veteran pitchers, Xander has seen him the most and has had a lot of success against him. 12 of 37, 5 doubles, a triple and a home run. Devers is 5 for 10 with a three doubles and a home run. JBJ, who has been one of our best hitters at Fenway and terrible on the road (seriously, how do you have a .938 OPS at home and a .331 OPS on the road?), actually has 2 home runs off of him, but also 9 Ks. Odorizzi throws 5 pitches, and will heavily lean on his fastball, throwing it almost 60% of the time. The other 40% of the time, it will either be a cutter, splitter, slider, or curveball, thrown in that order of frequency. He will pitch to contact, with an 8th percentile whiff percentage and 14th percentile K percentage, but his barrel percentage and hard hit percentage are in the 87th and 84th percentile respectively. This is going to be a solid matchup for our core three hitters, but I think the backend of the lineup struggles like they had all season prior to the Rangers series.

Moving on to Tuesday's series, we are looking at Eovaldi and Urquidy. Eovaldi has "struggled" a little bit as of late, but he still is one of the best pitchers in the AL. He has allowed 3 ERs in both of his last 2 starts, going 5 and 6.1 innings in those games. Eovaldi appeared three times in the 2021 ALCS, going 1-2 in those outings over 10.1 IP. He allowed 12 hits and 8 ERs. Beyond that, he has 100 ABs against this Astros lineup, allowing 30 hits, 11 of which are doubles and 4 of which are home runs. Altuve has seen him the best, going 7 for 28 with a double and 3 HRs. Behind him, Bregman is 8 for 14, and Yordan Alvarez is 5 for 6. Other than the three of them though, there is a steep dropoff in performance against him. Brantley and Gurriel both have only 2 hits on 15 and 12 respective ABs. Now, all of this means exactly what? Fuck if I know, I can't see into the future. If I could I would be 100-0 on my picks, sitting on my yacht, still alone and still sad because the Red Sox are 13-21. But hey, at least I'd be on my yacht instead of in my four bedroom apartment in Southie.

The Sox will get Jose Urquidy. He has really struggled in just about every category this year, yet his numbers are not THAT bad. Here are his percentile rankings:

Basically, he won't walk guys, which is usually good for a pitcher, but they will hit the dogshit out of the baseball, which is usually bad for pitchers. He has a similar mix to Odorizzi, with a 4 seamer being his main pitch at 55% usage, then a changeup, cutter, curve and slider being used to make up the other 45%. His big problem is he leaves his fastball over the heart of the dish, and is losing velocity so it isn't blowing by batters anymore. As a team, the Red Sox have 29 ABs against him, with only 7 hits spready throughout basically our entire lineup. Taking all of this into account, I like the Sox the most on Tuesday.

Lastly, we have Garcia vs Pivetta. I fucking hate watching Luis Garcia pitch. He is so fucking slow and has that stupid fucking rock the baby 2-step windup. I also hate watching him pitch because he carves up our lineup so it's a double fuck you to Luis Garcia. Although he blew it in game 2 for the Astros, he ended up getting the closing W against the Sox in game 6 of the ALCS last year, and in that later game we could just not figure him out at all. Verdugo is 2 for 4, and just about everyone else is 1 for 3-6 against him. This year has been much more game 6 than game 2 for Garcia, with 11 ERs over 33.2 inning pitched. He has a .950 WHIP and ranks in the 77th percentile for K%. He has been fairly middle of the road with hard hit % and bottom third in barreled ball percentage. He features the same 5 pitch mix we have seen with the previous 2 pitchers, going fastball 53% of the time, but he has a clear second favorite in his cutter being used 26% of the time. He then goes to his curve, changeup, and slider 8%, 8%, and 5% of the time respectively. He won't overpower with his speed, with a average velocity of just under 92 MPH on the fastball, but it's the movement that gets batters out, with a spin rate in the 80th percentile on the 4 seamer.

In a shocking turn of events, the Astros actually struggle against Pivetta. 44 ABs, 6 singles, 2 doubles, a triple and a home run against him. 14 Ks to 4 BBs. That is really fucking good, especially by Pivetta's standards. He has also been trending better and better every single time I write one of these previews. On 4/20, he had a 10.03 ERA, each game since then it has steadily been improving, going to 8.27, 7.84, 6.07, and after 7 innings of 1 run ball in his last outing Friday night against Texas, he is down to 5.08. In other words he has basically cut his ERA in half over the last month. A welcome trend that I would like to see continue if I am being quite honest. It really isn't clear what is causing all of that to trend back downwards, it could just be bad luck in the beginning of the season followed by good luck towards his more recent starts, but if all goes well we could see another quality start from Pivetta.

The Picks

Game 1: Over

Game 2: Sox

Game 3: Under


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