The uncertainty stems not from an uneven rotation, but from an uncertain group of relievers. Manager Alex Cora’s other available starters – Eduardo Rodriguez, Tanner Houck, and Nick Pivetta – will be available out in the bullpen for the start of the series, writes MLB.com’s Daniel Kramer. That’s a strategy that worked for Cora in the ALDS. Pivetta proved crucial out of the pen against the Rays, a performance redolent of Eovaldi’s own in the 2018 World Series. Houck tossed seven innings of relief in the series as well, yielding just a pair of runs.
Whereas the Red Sox were able to patchwork their bullpen for a four-game series win against the Rays, they will likely need an even more dynamic approach to survive a seven-game tilt against the Astros’ potent offense. There is definite potential for this series to turn into a slugfest, not only because these two clubs boast the first and fifth ranked offenses in the game by runs scored in the regular season, but because the Astros are likely to be without Lance McCullers Jr. Results of the MRI on his sore forearm have yet to be revealed.
McCullers may not be viewed nationally as an ace, he’s been nothing short of stellar in the postseason. He owns a 2.83 ERA in 57 1/3 career postseason innings.
And while McCullers can boast the distinction of having started a game seven of the World Series back in 2017 (a win), he could be replaced by another righty who’s held that honor. Zack Greinke started game seven of the World Series in 2019 for Houston (a loss), and though he’s not likely to put up a full starter’s load, he could be used as an opener in McCullers’ stead, writes The Athletic’s Jack Kaplan. Jose Urquidy, Cristian Javier, and Jake Odorizzi are also candidates to pick up bulk innings if McCullers is unavailable.
What we do know is that Framber Valdez will take on Sale in game one, while Luis Garcia will go head-to-head with Eovaldi in game two, per Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. The Red Sox have the experience edge, but Valdez is no stranger to postseason success. Garcia, meanwhile, has at least gotten his feet wet in the playoffs: he had a scoreless two-inning outing in 2020 and 2 2/3 innings as the starter in game three versus the White Sox.