The Red Sox have set their starting rotation for the first two games of their American League Series clash against the Astros in Houston.
Chris Sale has been named Boston’s Game 1 starter, while Nathan Eovaldi has been named Boston’s Game 2 starter, Sox manager Alex Cora announced when speaking with reporters from Minute Maid Park on Thursday evening.
Sale will get the ball opposite Astros left-hander Framber Valdez on Friday night to open up this best-of-seven ALCS while working on six days rest. First pitch is scheduled for 8:07 p.m. eastern time on FOX.
The 32-year-old lefty had made just one start so far this postseason, as he got rocked for five runs (all earned) on four hits, one walk, and two strikeouts in just one inning of work against the Rays in Game 2 of the American League Division Series at Tropicana Field last Friday.
While the Red Sox ultimately came back to trounce the Rays by a final score of 14-6, Sale’s struggles are still concerning considering the fact that they are prolonged in that he’s pitched a total of 3 1/3 innings in his last two starts dating back to October 3.
Still, if the situation had arisen, the veteran southpaw was available to pitch out of the Boston bullpen in Game 4 of the ALDS on Monday, but it did not.
That being said, Cora reiterated on Thursday that Sale will not be used as an opener, but rather as a traditional starter on Friday. Eduardo Rodriguez, on the other hand, will be in the bullpen for Game 1.
Following Sale on Friday will be Eovaldi on Saturday night. Eovaldi, who will be working on five days rest, will be opposed by Astros rookie right-hander Luis Garcia. First pitch for Game 2 is scheduled for 4:20 p.m. eastern time on FOX and FS1.
Through his first two starts of the postseason, the 31-year-old righty has posted a 2.61 ERA, a 2.88 FIP, and .559 OPS against to go along with 16 strikeouts to just one walk over 10 1/3 innings pitched.
The first of those two outings came against the Yankees in last Tuesday’s Wild Card Game at Fenway Park. The second came against the Rays in Game 3 of the ALDS in Boston on Sunday, meaning he Red Sox won both of those contests.
Among the 13 pitchers who have taken the mound for the Sox since the postseason began, Eovaldi leads the pack in innings pitched and strikeouts, cementing his status as the de facto ace of Boston’s pitching staff.
Over the course of a successful regular season in which he was selected to his first All-Star team and reached 10 years of major-league service time, Eovaldi only faced off against the Astros once. He gave up five runs — all of which were earned — on a season-high 11 hits, three walks, and five strikeouts to them at Fenway Park back on June 9.
Saturday will not mark Eovaldi’s first exposure to Minute Maid Park in a postseason environment, however, as the Houston-area native appeared in two games there for the Sox in the 2018 ALCS. The veteran hurler allowed a total of two earned runs in 7 1/3 innings pitched across those two outings (one start, one relief appearances) three years ago.
(Picture of Chris Sale: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)