Nathan Eovaldi (Red Sox) vs. Dallas Kuechel (Astros)
This is a game that has a chance to be the biggest surprise of the series and potentially the lowest scoring one. Eovaldi has been as good as any Boston Red Sox pitcher not named Sale and both Eovaldi and Keuchel benefit from the left/right splits.
The Red Sox lead baseball in OPS against right handed pitching (.817) while ranking 18th against left handed pitchers (.719). The Astros are the opposite. They lead baseball in OPS against left handed pitching (.803) and rank 14th against right handers (.733). So, the Sox have to face a lefty and the Astros a righty.
Another split that suggests that this could be more of a pitchers duel than the starting pitcher matchups might suggest is the home/road splits. The Astros rank 16th in OPS at home while the Red Sox have an OPS of .756 on the road as opposed to .829 at Fenway Park.
It’s reasonable for a heavily right handed lineup like the Astros to hit better against left handed pitching, but for them to rank as low as they do at home is an oddity. The Red Sox left/right splits are equally as strange. They have a few respectable left handed batters, but most of their sluggers are right handed and yet they have been significantly better against right handed pitching than left.
Dallas Keuchel, SP Houston Astros
Keuchel hasn’t been the dominant pitcher he was in his Cy Young season of 2015. The Astros had four starting pitchers make 30 starts or more in 2018 and Keuchel had the highest ERA (3.74) and WHIP (1.31), the least strikeouts and he allowed 55 more hits than the next highest Astro starter (Justin Verlander) and led the Astros in home runs allowed to right handed batters.
In September he made six starts, pitched 31 innings and had an ERA of 4.65. The Red Sox have a chance to make this a short outing, but they haven’t hit lefties well and thats to Keuchel’s benefit.
Nate Eovaldi, SP Boston Red Sox
Eovaldi made 11 starts and pitched 54 innings as a Red Sox. In those 11 starts he only allowed three home runs, zero to right handed batters, walked only 12 batters and had an ERA of 3.33 and a WHIP of 1.28.
In September he had an ERA of 1.33 with 27 strikeouts and eight walks in four starts and 20 innings pitched and he didn’t allow a single home run.
It’s game three of a powerhouse series with two of the lesser known pitchers on these big name staffs and yet this is the game that could have the starters go the deepest and pitch the best.
Mookie Betts finally looked like the MVP that he has been in game two, so he may be ready to break out, but J.D. Martinez hasn’t been that guy yet. They are the players that could feast on Keuchel.
It would be shocking to see Bradley make the Astros pay in this matchup while Benintendi has a chance to take advantage of Keuchels reverse splits against left handed batters. He actually allows a higher batting average, though fewer home runs, to left handed batters. This could be a solid night for Devers and Benintendi.
For Houston, Altuve and Springer have been good, Correa is showing signs that he may be putting his poor 2018 season in the rear view mirror and Marwin Gonzalez launched a bomb in game three, so any them could be “the guy.”
But, it’s Marwin Gonzalez and Josh Reddick that fit the splits best and could be the ones that get the Sox in this one. They are two of the few left handed bats in an overly right handed lineup in a park that plays friendly to that side of the box.
The Red Sox win this one 6-2 after getting to Keuchel early and salt it away with a strong bullpen performance after 6 ⅔ low-walk, low-contact innings from Eovaldi.