Alex Bregman provided Boston Red Sox Game 3 starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi with some bulletin board material this week, but neither Bregman’s manager nor Red Sox manager Alex Cora are getting too excited over it.
On Monday, Bregman shared some clips on his Instagram story from a start Eovaldi made against the Houston Astros earlier this year. The right-hander was with the Tampa Bay Rays at the time, and he gave up back-to-back-to-back homers to George Springer, Bregman and Jose Altuve. Bregman said he was rewatching the tape for a “lil pregame video work.”
Bregman’s instagram story right is a video of the Astros going back-to-back-to-back dingers off Nate Eovaldi in June.
— Cespedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) October 15, 2018
Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch was asked about the social media activity, and he basically chalked it up to kids being kids.
“Welcome to the current generation,” Hinch said, per Kristie Rieken of The Associated Press. “Obviously there’s fun banter. … We want guys to have their personalities, have their fun. Then go out and back it up.”
Cora compared the friendly jab to when Aaron Judge walked by Boston’s clubhouse playing the New York Yankees’ victory song in the ALDS, but he said his team doesn’t need any extra motivation.
Cora on Bregman Instagram: ‘We didn’t know about Judge and we don’t know about Alex.’ He kind of waved it off. ‘If you need motivation in Game 3 of the ALCS, you better check yourself.’
— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) October 15, 2018
Of course, the Red Sox went out of their way to troll the Yankees after they defeated them in the ALCS, so it’s not as if they’re in a position to point fingers. If Eovaldi manages to shut down the Astros on Tuesday, you can bet he’ll let Bregman know about it.
The Houston Astros made quite the statement against the Cleveland Indians in a three-game sweep of the American League Division Series, winning the decisive Game 3 in a 11-2 blowout.
The Indians are not a bad team, even if they spent the bulk of the season feasting on the worst division in the league in the AL Central. They boasted four starting pitchers with 200 strikeouts or more, even if one, Trevor Bauer, was not in the postseason rotation. They had a lineup full of big names, including Francisco Lindor, Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, and Jose Ramirez.
The Astros, however, made it all look ordinary in several ways. They decisively beat good pitching. Their performance against ace Corey Kluber in Game 1 surprised many, but the depth of the Houston lineup poses a challenge to even the most talented pitcher. They had the luxury of hitting shortstop Carlos Correa sixth, masking his playoff struggles despite the fact that he’s an MVP-caliber talent when he’s producing.
That’s another big factor in Houston’s dominance. Correa struggled for much of the series, with his first hit of the playoffs coming in the form of a three-run home run in the eighth inning of Game 3. By that point, they were on their way to a sweep anyway. The depth of the lineup can mask struggling hitters as long as someone gets hot, a role filled in the ALDS primarily by George Springer and his three homers.
Cleveland’s advantage in most other matchups would have been their aforementioned rotation, but the Astros have the horses to best them. Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole both outpitched their Cleveland counterparts in the first two games of the ALDS, and while Dallas Keuchel left trailing in Game 3, he only gave up two runs and left the door wide open for Houston to come back. What should have been Cleveland’s big advantage was effectively neutralized, and it could be argued that the Astros won’t face another rotation as good during the remainder of their playoff run.
Even just keeping it close proved enough for Houston, as what was once a weakness of theirs has been molded into a strength. The 2018 Astros’ bullpen is much more stable than last year’s version, when frequent Ken Giles meltdowns left Houston piecing things together far too often for their liking. Houston’s bullpen had the best ERA, WHIP, and batting average against of any relief unit in the majors in 2018. Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly, and Collin McHugh have all seen to that. Such is Houston’s depth that Hector Rondon, who entered September with an ERA hovering just north of two before a handful of mid-month meltdowns, was left off the ALDS roster entirely. He could return for the ALCS, but the fact that they could comfortably leave him off without regretting it speaks to how much better this unit is now than in 2017. The contrast with Cleveland’s bullpen, which struggled all year and sprung more leaks during the playoffs, was stark.
You have to squint to find any weaknesses with Houston, and they should be favored the rest of the way, at least in the AL. The Red Sox have demonstrated that their bullpen will have real issues getting to Craig Kimbrel, while the Yankees lack the starting pitching depth to match Houston. In the NL, Milwaukee’s depth pales in comparison to Houston’s save for the bullpen, while the Dodgers and Braves have some question marks of their own.
At this point, the Astros should be considered favorites to repeat. They were utterly dominant against Cleveland, and there’s no sign that they’re going to slow down anytime soon.
- Houston Astros
When you think of postseason heroes for the Houston Astros, names like Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman are probably the first that come to mind. In the early part of the 2018 playoffs, it has been Marwin Gonzalez playing that role.
In Game 3 of the ALDS on Monday, Gonzalez came to the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 7th in a 2-2 game. He delivered his sixth hit of the series with a double down the left field line that scored two, giving Houston a 4-2 lead.
Marwin Gonzalez with the "I ain't here to take walks" approach, making softball players everywhere proud. pic.twitter.com/xbm1ONnTKz
— Dan Molloy (@DanMolloyTV) October 8, 2018
Gonzalez was largely responsible for the Astros taking the second game of the series, as it was his double in the 6th inning of Game 2 that gave Houston a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish. Twitter was buzzing after Gonzalez came up clutch again in Game 3:
Marwin Gonzalez again. He hits unhittable pitches. Astros take a two-run lead. Inning still alive and just nine outs from a sweep.
— Jerome Solomon (@JeromeSolomon) October 8, 2018
— Astros Fans UK (@AstrosFansUK) October 8, 2018
Marwin Gonzalez has been the MVP of this series for Houston, big time hits.
— Jordan Honeycutt (@JHoneycutt_34) October 8, 2018
6th October: Marwin Gonzalez hits two-run double.
8th October: Marwin Gonzalez hits two-run double.
— bet365 (@bet365) October 8, 2018
Many people were also in awe of how high the pitch was that Gonzalez somehow turned into extra bases.
Marwin Gonzalez double had a hit probability of 8%.
— Daren Willman (@darenw) October 8, 2018
Marwin Gonzalez double was off a pitch 4.22 feet off the ground… The 2nd highest pitch he's ever gotten a hit off of. pic.twitter.com/4oDzUwO8CA
— Daren Willman (@darenw) October 8, 2018
Even Gonzalez looked surprised that he was able to keep that ball fair, which is probably why we didn’t get the same type of bat flip he busted out after his big hit in Game 2.
MLB released the scheduled game times for the remainder of the division series round of the playoffs, and the schedule did not go over well with Houston Astros and Cleveland Indians fans.
The Indians and Astros are scheduled to play on Friday, Saturday, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. They play on the same days as the other ALDS, which features the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. MLB does not want the games to overlap, so they have to make a choice about who plays early and who plays late. In every case, the Astros-Indians series is scheduled to be the early game, while the Yankees and Red Sox are scheduled for later in the evening — the primetime slots. Not one Astros-Indians game is scheduled to start later than 4:37 pm ET.
MLB has announced all game times for Indians-Astros ALDS
Game 1: 2:05 pm ET (Fri)
Game 2: 4:37 pm ET (Sat)
Game 3: 1:30 pm ET (Mon)
Game 4: 4:35 pm ET (Tue)
Game 5: 4:07 pm ET (Thu)
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) October 4, 2018
The schedule reveal led to some criticism from a Cleveland media member:
I understand the national appeal of NYY-BOS, but for MLB not to grant HOU-CLE even one primetime game is a massive misstep. Grow the game by sharing its widespread talent, w/ two rosters loaded w/ stars like Lindor, Ramirez, Correa, Bregman, Altuve, Kluber, Bauer, Verlander, Cole
— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) October 5, 2018
Multiple fans also grumbled about the seeming lack of respect for the Astros and Indians.
Not even one primetime game??? Cmon mlb that's disrespectful to astros fans and Indians fans
— Dakota Lehigh (@LehighDakota) October 5, 2018
— Don Fowler (@donf0615) October 5, 2018
— Brad Borgione (@47BradB) October 5, 2018
— • Shelbeee Lynn (@ShelbyyLyynn_) October 5, 2018
— Mr. K (@dk2day87) October 5, 2018
I’m trying to figure out why Indians-Astros don’t have one single primetime game for this series! Absolutely ridiculous! #MLBPostseason
— Mike C (@mikecoutee94) October 5, 2018
The anger from the fans is understandable. Both teams have excellent players and have had recent success. The fans of both teams are passionate and excellent overall. But there is no bigger rivalry in baseball than the Red Sox and Yankees. There is no bigger draw than these two teams meeting in the postseason. It’s a dream for MLB and its TV partners to have the opportunity to televise this series, so of course they’re going to put it in primetime. MLB is making the right call here. The winner of the Indians-Astros series will have plenty of opportunities to be in primetime later.
A young Houston Astros fan was discouraged from enthusiastically supporting her team at a recent game, and some players are not happy about it.
Stephen Morgan of FOX 26 in Houston shared a video from Sunday’s game that shows an 8-year-old Astros fan named Chloe being told “enough!” by another fan who was sitting in front of her. Chloe’s mother told Morgan her daughter has been diagnosed with Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder and was merely trying to cheer on the home team.
8yr old Chloe was cheering at Sunday’s @astros game when a fan sitting in front yelled, “enough!” Chloe’s mom says she has DMDD (Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder) which means she can’t comprehend emotions greater than that of a toddler. Her cheering abruptly stop. Thoughts? pic.twitter.com/auhg4mDKB7
— Stephen Morgan Fox 26 (@StephenOnFOX) September 25, 2018
The video drew a number of strong reactions, including those of two players with the Astros organization. Second baseman Tyler White and minor league pitcher Brandon Bailey encouraged Chloe to keep cheering.
Chloe please cheer at the games as loud as you can, and if anyone tells you to stop cheer louder. https://t.co/RjjfjoZ5Zu
— Tyler White (@twhite409) September 26, 2018
— Brandon Bailey (@BBailey_19) September 26, 2018
Bobby Vasquez, who drives the train above Minute Maid Park’s left-field wall, also expressed support for Chloe.
The only thing I want louder than my train horn is Chloe's cheering!!!
I'm so thankful for fans like her who cheer for us in the ballpark or wherever they watch or listen to Astros baseball. I hope she comes back to MMP so I can give her a big high five! https://t.co/pti3AzwB6i
— Bobby Dynamite (@AstrosTrainGuy) September 26, 2018
While scolding an 8-year-old for cheering isn’t quite as bad as some of the other things we’ve seen fans do to children at the ballpark, it seems pretty uncalled for. Don’t be surprised if the Astros hook Chloe up with some tickets to a future game.
Dallas Keuchel is one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball when he’s on his game, and no one has a better idea of how good he can be than Houston Astros catcher Martin Maldonado.
With Keuchel scheduled to pitch in Houston’s series finale against the Boston Red Sox on Sunday, Maldonado tried to illustrate just how much movement Keuchel has on his pitches. He summed it up perfectly.
Dallas Keuchel, who starts for the Astros tonight on Sunday Night Baseball against the Red Sox, has so much movement on his fastball and changeup that Martin Maldonado told him that it's easier to hit against Keuchel than it is to catch him.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) September 9, 2018
Hitting against Keuchel can be an impossible task, so we can only imagine how tough it must be to catch every one of his pitches.
Keuchel was struggling a bit earlier in the season, but he has seemingly identified the problem and addressed it. The left-hander has lowered his ERA from 4.22 on June 27 to 3.46 heading into Sunday.
We’re into the home stretch of baseball season, and the month of September will settle the playoff races. There are plenty of teams still in it, even if the American League picture looks mostly settled, but the races promise to be exciting.
There are, however, no flawless teams. Every contender has a weakness that can be exploited, albeit some more obvious than others. Looking at teams who are presently within three games of a playoff spot — sorry, Philadelphia — here’s the Achilles’ heel that could trip up each team down the stretch or in the postseason.
Arizona Diamondbacks — Run-scoring
In a pivotal weekend series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Diamondbacks scored just nine runs across four games, three of which they lost by one run. That sums up where Arizona’s challenge lies. Only six National League teams have scored fewer runs than Arizona has this season. It’s odd to see a lineup with Paul Goldschmidt in it struggling this much, but he, David Peralta, and A.J. Pollock are the only three Diamondbacks hitting above .250.