Red Sox lineup vs. Astros: Hunter Renfroe drops down to eighth as Boston look to force Game 7 in ALCS

As he alluded to before heading to Houston on Thursday, Red Sox manager Alex Cora has not made any drastic changes to his starting lineup for Game 6 of the American League Championship Series against the Astros on Friday night.

Besides swapping Christian Vazquez for Kevin Plawecki, the most significant difference between Cora’s lineup for Game 5 and lineup for Game 6 would be Hunter Renfroe dropping down in the batting order.

Renfroe, who has primarily batted fifth, sixth, or seventh throughout the postseason for Boston, will be hitting out of the eight-hole ahead of Plawecki on Friday.

After posting a .741 OPS in 23 plate appearances between the Wild Card and division series rounds, the 29-year-old right fielder has collected just one hit (a double) over five games and 18 trips to the plate so far in this ALCS.

During the regular season, Renfroe hit eighth on 15 separate occasions — 13 of which were starts — for the Sox and slashed an impressive .327/.358/.551 to go along with two doubles, three home runs, 10 RBI, and nine runs scored across 53 plate appearances.

By moving Renfroe down to the eight-hole, designated hitter J.D. Martinez will be batting fifth for the third time in this best-of-seven series. He will be followed by left fielder Alex Verdugo, second baseman Christian Arroyo, and Plawecki.

Plawecki, of course, will be catching Red Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi, as he has done for all three of the right-hander’s starts in these playoffs, including Game 2 against Houston at Minute Maid Park this past Saturday.

As was the case then, Eovaldi will be opposed by fellow righty Luis Garcia come Friday night. Garcia, a rookie, lasted just a little more than an inning in Game 2 due to a right knee strain but has since been cleared to return to the mound on normal rest.

The Red Sox will be looking to be stave off elimination on Friday and force a Game 7 against the Astros on Saturday, as Houston currently leads this series three-games-to-two after taking two out of three from Boston at Fenway Park.

With that being said, first pitch for Game 6 from Minute Maid Park is scheduled for 8:08 p.m. eastern time on FS1.

(Picture of Hunter Renfroe: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox lineup for Game 5 of ALCS vs. Astros: Kiké Hernández leading off, J.D. Martinez batting fifth

The Red Sox will look to bounce back from an unexpectedly lopsided 9-2 loss to the Astros in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday with a quick turnaround for Game 5 on Wednesday.

After Boston dropped Game 4 to Houston at Fenway Park, this best-of-seven ALCS is now tied up at two games apiece and has essentially turned into a best-of-three race.

With Tuesday’s loss, the Sox have given home-field advantage back to the Astros, as the series will definitely be heading back to Houston since it will be at least six games in length.

Wednesday’s clash between the Red Sox and Astros will feature a pair of left-handers getting the start for their respective clubs, with Chris Sale getting the ball for Boston and Framber Valdez doing the same for Houston in what will be a rematch of Game 1.

In Game 1 of this series at Minute Maid Park, Sale went just 2 2/3 innings while allowing one earned run on five hits, one walk, and one hit batsman to go along with two strikeouts on 61 pitches (37 strikes).

Valdez, meanwhile, did not last long either, as he surrendered three runs — two of which were earned — on six hits (one home run), three walks, and two strikeouts over 2 2/3 innings of work.

Since a left-hander will be starting for the Astros, Sox manager Alex Cora has made some slight alterations to his lineup. For instance, the right-handed hitting Enrique Hernandez will be leading off in front of the left-handed hitting Kyle Schwarber.

J.D. Martinez, on the other hand, has been bumped up to fifth in the batting order, resulting in Alex Verdugo dropping down to the seven-hole behind Hunter Renfroe.

Christian Vazquez, who will be catching Sale, is batting ninth after second baseman Christian Arroyo. Here is how the rest of the Red Sox will be lining up behind Sale:

First pitch from Fenway Park on Wednesday is scheduled for 5:08 p.m. eastern time on FS1.

(Picture of Enrique Hernandez: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Red Sox sticking with same lineup they used in Game 3 for Game 4 of ALCS vs. Astros

Why fix what isn’t broken?

After mashing their way to a 12-3 win over the Astros in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Monday, the Red Sox are running back the same exact starting lineup for Tuesday night’s Game 4 at Fenway Park.

With veteran right-hander Zack Greinke on the mound for Houston, Boston will have the opportunity to take a three-games-to-one lead in this best-of-seven series.

Kyle Schwarber, after belting a grand slam on Monday, will once again be leading off and starting at first base for the Sox on Tuesday. He will be followed by center fielder Enrique Hernandez, third baseman Rafael Devers, shortstop Xander Bogaerts, and left fielder Alex Verdugo.

Verdugo batting fifth means designated hitter J.D. Martinez has dropped down to the six-hole once more, while right fielder Hunter Renfroe, catcher Christian Vazquez, and second baseman Christian Arroyo round out the lineup.

Vazquez will be catching righty Nick Pivetta, who Red Sox manager Alex Cora named as his Game 4 starter following Monday’s blowout victory.

Pivetta will be making his first career postseason start come Tuesday night after only being used as a reliever on two separate occasions during the American League Division Series against the Rays.

In those two outings, the 28-year-old hurler turned in a pair of solid performances in Games 1 and 3, posting a 3.12 ERA and 4.67 FIP to go along with 11 strikeouts to three walks over 8 2/3 total innings of work.

Over the course of the regular season, Pivetta faced off against the Astros only once, and that came in Houston back on June 2. He allowed two runs on three hits, two walks, one hit batsman and nine strikeouts in six innings during that outing at Minute Maid Park.

Greinke, on the other hand, last started a game for the Astros on September 19, as he was used out of their bullpen just once and tossed a scoreless fourth inning in Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the White Sox on October 10.

Like Pivetta, Greinke made one start against his upcoming opponent during the regular season. On June 10 at Fenway Park, the soon-to-be 38-year-old surrendered four runs to the Red Sox on seven hits, one walk, and two strikeouts over three uninspiring innings.

With all that being said, first pitch from Fenway on Tuesday night is scheduled for 8:08 p.m. eastern time on FS1.

(Picture of Enrique Hernandez and Kyle Schwarber: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Christian Vázquez catching Eduardo Rodriguez for Red Sox in Game 3 of ALCS vs. Astros

The Red Sox will look to celebrate manager Alex Cora’s 46th birthday by taking a two-games-to-one-lead over the Astros in the American League Championship Series on Monday night.

After splitting the first two games of this best-of-seven series in Houston over the weekend, the Sox have momentarily taken homefield advantage away from the Astros as the next three games of this ALCS will be played at Fenway Park.

In celebrating his birthday on Monday, Cora is rolling out a nearly-identical starting lineup to the one he used in Saturday’s Game 2 victory.

With another right-hander in Jose Urquidy getting the start for Houston in Game 3, Kyle Schwarber will once again be leading off and starting at first base for Boston on Monday. He will be followed by the red-hot Enrique Hernandez in center field.

Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and Alex Verdugo make up the 3-4-5 portion of the Sox’ batting order, meaning J.D. Martinez will bat sixth ahead of Hunter Renfroe, Christian Vazquez, and Christian Arroyo.

Vazquez is the only one of these nine players who did not start on Saturday since it was Kevin Plawecki who caught Nathan Eovaldi. This time around, however, the 31-year-old backstop will be catching Game 3 starter Eduardo Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, who was named by Cora as Boston’s Game 3 starter on Sunday, has posted a 5.40 ERA and 1.97 FIP to go along with seven strikeouts to two walks through his first two starts (6 2/3 innings pitched) of the postseason.

The left-hander is a week removed from his last outing against the Rays in which he allowed two earned runs on three hits, zero walks, and six strikeouts over five-plus solid innings of work in Game 4 of the American League Division Series on October 11.

Earlier this season, Rodriguez faced off against the Astros twice within an 11-day span from May 31 to June 10 — with the first start coming in Houston and the second in Boston.

In those two outings, the Venezuelan southpaw surrendered a total of 12 runs — all of which were earned — on 13 hits, five walks, and nine strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings pitched. That’s good for an ERA of 11.57.

Urquidy, on the other hand, held the Red Sox to just one run on three hits, one walk, and nine punchouts over six innings of work in his lone start against them this year when he opposed Rodriguez at Minute Maid Park back in late May.

That being said, first pitch from Fenway Park on Monday is scheduled for 8:08 p.m. eastern time on FS1.

(Picture of Christian Vazquez and Eduardo Rodriguez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

J.D. Martinez batting fifth for Red Sox in Game 1 of ALCS vs. Astros

The Red Sox have made some slight alterations to their starting lineup for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Astros at Minute Maid Park on Friday night.

After batting sixth for all three of his starts in the American League Division Series with the Rays, designated hitter J.D. Martinez has moved up to the No. 5 spot in the Sox’ lineup for Friday’s ALCS opener in Houston.

While still recuperating from a left ankle sprain that he sustained in Boston’s regular season finale against the Nationals on October 3, Martinez — after being held out of action in Game 1 — went 7-for-15 (.467) with one double, one home run, four RBI, one run scored, zero walks, and one strikeout in the final three games of the ALDS, all of which the Red Sox won.

With left-hander Framber Valdez getting the start for the Astros to kick off this best-of-seven series, Sox manager Alex Cora has gone with a primarily right-handed heavy lineup.

Enrique Hernandez, a former Astro, will lead off and get the start in center field, while Kyle Schwarber will bat second and start at first base. Schwarber starting at first base means the right-handed hitting Bobby Dalbec will start Game 1 on the Sox’ bench.

Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and Martinez make up the most dangerous portion of Boston’s batting order.

Those three will be followed by the likes of right fielder Hunter Renfroe, left fielder Alex Verdugo, second baseman Christian Arroyo, and — last but not least — Christian Vazquez.

Vazquez, of course, will be catching Game 1 starter Chris Sale, who will be looking to bounce back from a rough outing against Tampa Bay in Game 2 of the ALDS in which he surrendered five runs (all earned) on four hits, one walk, and two strikeouts in just one inning of work at Tropicana Field last week.

The roof will be closed at Minute Maid Park on Friday night. First pitch is scheduled for 8:07 p.m. eastern time on FOX.

(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Elsa/Getty Images)

Red Sox rolling with Eduardo Rodriguez for Game 4 of ALDS vs. Rays

The Red Sox have an opportunity to advance to the American League Championship Series for the first time in three years on Monday night.

After walking off the Rays in dramatic fashion in a 13-inning thriller on Sunday, the Sox are now just one more victory away from taking this best-of-five American League Division Series.

With a two-games-to-one lead in hand, Boston will turn to Eduardo Rodriguez to try to put the finishing touches on this series in front of what is sure to be a packed house at Fenway Park to cap off a memorable Marathon Monday in the city.

Rodriguez struggled in his last time out, as the left-hander surrendered two runs (both earned) on two hits, two walks, and one strikeout over just 1 2/3 innings of work Thursday’s 5-0 loss to Tampa Bay in Game 1 at Tropicana Field.

Opposing Rodriguez will be a familiar foe in Rays right-hander Collin McHugh, who — like his former teammate — took the loss in Game 2 by allowing three runs over 1 2/3 innings of relief in what would go down as a 14-6 win for the Red Sox on Friday.

In facing another righty on the mound to start things out on Monday, Sox manager Alex Cora has rolled out a nearly-identical lineup to the one he put out for Game 3.

Kyle Schwarber will once again lead off and start at first base while Enrique Hernandez will bat second and start in center field. Rafael Devers will bat third and start at third baset, leaving All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts to assume the role as cleanup hitter.

Left fielder Alex Verdugo and designated hitter J.D. Martinez make up the 5-6 portion of Boston’s lineup, while right fielder Hunter Renfroe, catcher Christian Vazquez, and second baseman Christian Arroyo round things out.

Vazquez, who came off the bench to replace Kevin Plawecki in the sixth inning of Game 3 on Sunday, went 1-for-3 with the biggest hit of the night: a two-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the 13th that sealed a 6-4 win for the Sox.

With that being said, first pitch for Game 4 is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. eastern time on FS1. The Red Sox will not be wearing their yellow City Connect uniforms and will instead go with their alternate red jerseys.

(Picture of Eduardo Rodriguez: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

J.D. Martinez once again batting sixth for Red Sox in Game 3 of ALDS vs. Rays

J.D. Martinez made his impact felt in his return to the Red Sox lineup in Friday’s 14-6 trouncing of the Rays in Game 2 of the American League Division Series at Tropicana Field, and he did so while batting out of the six-hole.

Prior to Friday night, Martinez had never started a regular season game below the No. 5 spot in the batting order in his time with the Sox, but his first exposure to the No. 6 spot in quite some time netted extremely positive results.

Hitting behind Alex Verdugo and in front of Hunter Renfroe, the 34-year-old slugger went 4-for-5 with a double, a home run, three RBI and one run scored while starting at designated hitter. He was pinch-ran for by Danny Santana in the ninth inning.

Martinez did all that while still nursing a left ankle sprain, and with another right-handed pitcher in Drew Rasmussen getting the start for the Rays, he will once again be batting sixth in Game 3 of the ALDS on Sunday afternoon.

As was also the case with Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s lineup on Friday, the left-handed hitting Kyle Schwarber will lead off and start at first base in place of Bobby Dalbec. He will be followed by center fielder Enrique Hernandez, third baseman Rafael Devers, and shortstop Xander Bogaerts.

Verdugo, Martinez, and Renfroe comprise the 5-6-7 portion of Boston’s lineup, which will be rounded out by Kevin Plawecki and second baseman Christian Arroyo.

Plawecki will be catching right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to begin things on Sunday. The pair developed quite a bit of chemistry over the course of the regular season, which carried over into Tuesday’s Wild Card Game win over the Yankees.

Eovaldi allowed just one run on four hits and eight strikeouts over 5 1/3 strong innings while earning the victory in that outing, and he will look to do more of the same on Sunday opposite Rasmussen.

Rasmussen, one of two pitchers the Rays acquired as part of the trade that sent Willy Adames to the Brewers back in May, made his postseason debut for Milwaukee in last year’s Wild Card Series against the Dodgers. He tossed a scoreless eighth inning in Game 1 of that series.

As Eovaldi goes up against his former team, he will have the opportunity to get the Red Sox ahead of the Rays after the two clubs split the first two games of this best-of-five ALDS at Tropicana Field.

With that being said, first pitch from Fenway Park on Sunday is scheduled for 4:07 p.m. eastern time on MLB Network.

(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

J.D. Martinez not in Red Sox’ lineup for Game 1 of ALDS vs. Rays

Despite being added to their American League Division Series roster earlier in the day, J.D. Martinez will not be starting for the Red Sox in Game 1 against the Rays at Tropicana Field on Thursday night.

Martinez was one of 26 players Boston named to their 26-man roster after he was held out of action for Tuesday’s Wild Card Game win over the Yankees at Fenway Park.

The reason being, the 34-year-old slugger sprained his left ankle after tripping over the second-base bag while jogging out to right field in the fifth inning of this past Sunday’s contest against the Nationals at Nationals Park.

That incident resulted in Martinez’s ankle swelling to the point where he was unable to play on Tuesday, and it will keep him from being used in a starting capacity on Thursday as well — though he will be available off the bench.

In Martinez’s place, Kyle Schwarber will start at designated hitter while batting second behind leadoff man and starting center fielder Enrique Hernandez.

Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and Hunter Renfroe comprise the three-through-five portion of Boston’s lineup, while Alex Verdugo, Bobby Dalbec, Christian Vazquez, and Christian Arroyo round things out.

Vazquez will be catching Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who will be opposed by a fellow southpaw in Shane McClanahan for the Rays.

In three prior starts against Boston this season, McClanahan put up a 2.81 ERA and .598 OPS against over 16 total innings of work. The 24-year-old rookie also owns a lifetime 3.50 ERA in 13 regular season starts (64 1/3 innings pitched) at Tropicana Field since making his major-league debut last October.

Rodriguez, meanwhile, made two starts at Tropicana Field this year and pitched relatively well in both of them, allowing a total of five runs (three earned) on 11 hits, two walks, and 13 strikeouts over 12 innings of work. That’s good for an ERA of 2.25 and OPS against of .625.

As the Red Sox prepare to open up this best-of-five series against their division rivals on the road, first pitch Thursday is scheduled for 8:07 p.m. eastern time on FS1.

(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Christian Arroyo expected to start at second base for Red Sox in Wild Card Game against Yankees

From the time he was activated from the COVID-19 related injured list on September 21 until the regular season ended on Sunday, Christian Arroyo appeared in a grand total of four games for the Red Sox.

Over those four games (one start), Arroyo accrued all of six plate appearances, as he went 1-for-6 with a single, walk, and three strikeouts during the final stretch of the 2021 campaign.

Despite that limited playing time, Arroyo will get the start at second base in Tuesday night’s Wild Card Game against the Yankees at Fenway Park. Red Sox manager Alex Cora confirmed as much when speaking to reporters on Monday.

In Arroyo’s absence, Boston had primarily relied on veteran infielder Jose Iglesias to fill the void at second base. Iglesias performed valiantly in that role, slashing .356/.406/.508 with four doubles, one triple, one home run, seven RBI, and eight runs over 23 games and 64 plate appearances.

Because he signed with the Sox on September 6, though, Iglesias was deemed ineligible by Major League Baseball to play in the postseason since he joined a new organization after the August 31 deadline.

With that rule in mind, the Red Sox essentially have no choice but to roll with Arroyo — whose last start came on September 26 — in Tuesday’s contest against the Yankees.

Arroyo’s 2021 season marked his first full year with Boston, and it was also one that marked by three separate stints on the injured list (not including the COVID-related IL) on account of a left hand contusion, right knee contusion, and left hamstring strain.

Those injuries — as well as a bout with COVID — limited the 26-year-old to just 57 games this season, though he did prove to be effective when healthy by hitting .262/.324/.445 (106 wRC+) with 12 doubles, six homers, 25 RBI, 22 runs scored, one stolen base, eight walks, and 44 strikeouts over 181 trips to the plate.

Additionally, Arroyo provided the Sox with solid defense at second base, as he posted positive-five defensive runs saved as well as an ultimate zone rating of 2.2. across 387 innings at the position, per FanGraphs.

Taking that point into consideration, Arroyo’s ability to handle things at second base could prove useful on Tuesday, as the Yankees this season put up the fourth-highest groundball rate in the American League (43.4%) while also hitting into a league-leading 154 double plays.

On the flip of side that, the right-handed hitting Arroyo may not have had the best season against right-handed pitchers (.213/.302/.383), but he is 1-for-2 with an RBI single and strikeout in his career against Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, who will be starting for New York on Tuesday.

Although it’s unclear at this point where in the Red Sox lineup Arroyo will be hitting come Tuesday night, he has fared well against fastballs this season (.290 batting average, .505 slugging percentage). This, too, could prove beneficial since Cole relies heavily upon his four-seam fastball (47% of the time this season).

All that being said, Arroyo will be playing in his first career postseason game at the big-league level on Tuesday, so it’s safe to assume he is looking forward to that.

(Picture of Christian Arroyo: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Tanner Houck starting, hitting for himself Saturday as Red Sox go for series victory over Nationals

In their penultimate game of the regular season, the Red Sox will turn to Tanner Houck to start Saturday afternoon’s contest against the Nationals at Nationals Park.

The Sox came into the weekend having not named a starter for Saturday’s game, likely under the assumption that Houck could be needed out of the bullpen on Friday if Eduardo Rodriguez was unable to pitch deep into his final start of the year.

Instead, Rodriguez provided Boston with five-plus scoreless innings before five different relievers (Ryan Brasier, Matt Barnes, Darwinzon Hernandez, Adam Ottavino, and Hansel Robles) combined to close out a much-needed 4-2 win over Washington.

Houck, meanwhile, last appeared in a game this past Tuesday, allowing one earned run on three hits and one walk to go along with three strikeouts in a 4-2 loss to the Orioles in Baltimore.

The 25-year-old right-hander needed 41 pitches (27 strikes) to get through those two frames, but Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters (including The Eagle-Tribune’s Mac Cerullo) that the club will be treating Saturday as a normal start for Houck even though he will be working on just three days rest.

Since making his major-league debut last September, Houck has only pitched in a National League ballpark on two separate occasions — both of which came against the Marlins and Braves during last year’s COVID-shortened campaign.

Major League Baseball adopted the universal designated hitter rule for the 2020 season on account of the pandemic, meaning pitchers in National League ballparks did not have to hit for themselves.

That is no longer the case this year, though, as Houck will step up to the plate for the first time in his big-league career and bat out of the nine-hole for Boston on Saturday.

Here is how the rest of the Red Sox will line up behind Houck as they go up against fellow rookie right-hander Josiah Gray for the Nationals.

First pitch from Nationals Park Saturday is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN. As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, “a Red Sox win would mean Boston is guaranteed to play past Sunday, either in a tiebreaker game or the American League Wild Card Game on Tuesday night. If the Sox win their last two games, they are guaranteed a spot in the Wild Card Game.”

(Picture of Tanner Houck: Abbie Parr/Getty Images)