Red Sox, Yankees facing must-win scenarios for Game 3
By Manny Randhawa
Two teams will try to punch their tickets to the American League Championship Series today, while their opponents look to take the first step on the Division Series comeback trail.
With the Astros leading the Red Sox, two games to none, Houston looks to close out Boston in Game 3 at Fenway Park (2:30 p.m. ET on FS1). And tonight at Yankee Stadium, the defending AL champion Indians seek a sweep of the Yankees (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1).
With their backs against the wall, the Red Sox turn to veteran right-hander Doug Fister (5-9, 4.88 ERA) in Game 3 of the ALDS presented by Doosan. Though he hasn't pitched in the postseason since 2014, Fister has a 1.78 ERA in eight playoff starts. That includes a 3-0 record in elimination games, with a 2.00 ERA (four runs in 18 innings).
The Red Sox had other options to consider for Game 3, namely 2016 AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello and 24-year-old left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, but gave the nod to Fister.
"We felt like the way [Fister] has been throwing the ball, just maybe the evaluation of the stuff, the current action to the sink cutter, a little bit more depth to the curveball," manager John Farrell said. "When we're able to execute pitches with some added depth to them, a breaking ball, we have been able to maybe slow down some of their right-handed hitters a little bit more."
Fister, who pitched for the Astros in 2016, faced Houston once this season, giving up three runs over 5 1/3 innings at Fenway Park on Sept. 29. Right-handed hitters in Houston's lineup have been very good against right-handed pitching in 2017, slashing .290/.350/.500. Alex Bregman, in particular, has hit well against curveballs from righties, with an expected batting average of .315 against that pitch, according to Statcast™, this season.
Houston will give the ball to Brad Peacock (13-2, 3.00 ERA) in the potential series clincher. The 29-year-old right-hander was crucial for the Astros' rotation this season after injuries sidelined Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr. Peacock faced the Red Sox on Sept. 28 at Fenway Park, giving up two runs over five innings in a 12-2 Astros victory.
"Just being here is special for me," Peacock said. "Been humbled along the way, been injured along the way, and just makes it that much more special for me, for sure. Biggest start of my career, and hopefully I can keep saying that as it goes on."
As one ALDS scene shifts to Boston, the setting in the Bronx will have New York hoping for some home cooking to climb out of an 0-2 series hole.
Based on Masahiro Tanaka's recent success at home, the Yankees will have the right hurler on the mound. The right-hander has posted a 1.29 ERA over his past six starts at Yankee Stadium, with 57 strikeouts and six walks in 42 innings. Opponents have hit only .195 against him in that span. In his final regular-season start, on Sept. 29, he tossed seven scoreless innings with 15 strikeouts and no walks against the Blue Jays.
Tanaka faces a dangerous Cleveland lineup that features a red-hot Jay Bruce, who has homered twice and driven in four of the Tribe's 13 runs in the series. With slugger Edwin Encarnacion suffering an ankle injury in Game 2, Michael Brantley is expected to be the designated hitter tonight.
"We need [Tanaka] to pitch like he pitched the other day, where he had 15 strikeouts in the game," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "This is a team that's going to grind out at-bats, and he needs to grind out at-bats with them."
The Indians will counter with right-hander Carlos Carrasco (18-6, 3.29 ERA), who makes his first career postseason start after missing Cleveland's 2016 run to a pennant with a broken hand. Carrasco gave up just one run in 14 innings over his final two regular-season starts, striking out 20 and walking three.
The Yankees will have their hands full with Carrasco, but also with key hitters trying to break out of a series slump: Aaron Judge is 0-for-7 with five strikeouts, Didi Gregorius is 0-for-9, and Brett Gardner is 0-for-8.
But the Tribe isn't looking past the Yankees, knowing New York will be fighting to keep its season alive in a short series that can turn quickly.
"I think we're really good about staying in the moment," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We took the bus out here and I didn't hear anything about [Friday's 13-inning victory]. Whether we win or lose, our guys are good about moving on, staying in the moment. I think that's what good teams do."
Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.