Come Monday, a rematch of last year’s American League Championship Series awaits as the Houston Astros visit the Boston Red Sox for the first of three games.
“If we need motivation, they’re right there, right in front of us,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “They did what they did to us in October, and we’ve just got to be ready. They are playing good baseball.”
The Red Sox were unable to complete a three-game sweep in Texas after Sunday afternoon’s 7-1 loss to former teammate Martin Perez and the Rangers.
Boston was shut out after Rafael Devers hit a fifth-inning RBI single. Devers (3-for-4) had three of the team’s seven hits.
Boston had scored 30 runs in its previous four games.
The Red Sox are set to give Garrett Whitlock (1-1, 2.19 ERA) another turn in the rotation. He has allowed three runs or fewer over each of his first four career starts.
Whitlock, who allowed just two earned runs over his first 12 innings as a starter, is coming off his worst start of the season last Wednesday at Atlanta. On 82 total pitches, he had five strikeouts while allowing three runs on four hits and four walks.
The Sox aim to continue extending Whitlock, who dominated four relief outings before starting April 23 at Tampa Bay.
“Obviously he’s not going to jump into seven innings. We know that,” Cora said before Whitlock’s last start. “The pitch count is something we’ll take a look at, and stressful innings. He hasn’t done that in a while.”
Whitlock has allowed one earned run in just 2 2/3 career innings (two appearances) against Houston.
The Astros had an 11-game win streak snapped Saturday in Washington, but they bounced back for an 8-0 Sunday win as Justin Verlander threw five shutout innings.
“We had our horse on the mound,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “He wasn’t real sharp early and rarely do you see 30 pitches in that first inning. We were just hoping we didn’t have to go through our whole bullpen. He did a great job and battled and battled.”
Houston hit four home runs over the final five innings in support of the 39-year-old Verlander, who threw 28 pitches to escape a first-inning jam. Yuli Gurriel had the second of those to highlight a 3-for-4 day.
After starting second baseman Jose Altuve (leg) and shortstop Jeremy Pena (knee) missed time during the last series with nagging injuries, Mauricio Dubon was acquired in a Saturday trade from San Francisco. He made his first appearance Sunday.
“I think I can bring a lot — defensive versatility, and I can hit,” Dubon said. “It’s just a matter of what they need from me. I’ll be ready to go.”
Altuve homered during his Sunday return.
Pena’s return is imminent, as he was also expected to play Sunday before waking up sore.
“Just a little discomfort, and I feel like we just took cautionary steps to see what’s up,” the Rhode Island native told MLB.com.
Jake Odorizzi (3-2, 3.38 ERA) looks to continue a dominant run during the series-opening start in Boston. The righty has won his last three starts, allowing just one run on six combined hits over 17 2/3 innings in that stretch.
Odorizzi shut out Detroit for five innings last Sunday, allowing one hit.
Odorizzi pitched at Fenway last June, earning the victory in his 20th career start against Boston. He is 5-7 with a 4.87 ERA all-time against the Sox, who have beaten him in three of his five most recent starts dating back to 2017.
–Field Level Media