Houston’s pitching staff will need to adjust quickly after allowing 25 runs and 32 hits to Boston in the first three games of the AL Championship Series, a barrage that made the loss of injured Lance McCullers Jr. seem acute.
Kyle Schwarber hit Boston’s third grand slam in an 11-inning span, a drive off starter José Urquidy as part of a six-run second inning in Monday night’s 12-3 rout, which gave the Red Sox a 2-1 series lead.
Boston hit four home runs, raising the total to nine off Astros pitching, which has a 7.96 ERA.
“It’s kind of like Groundhog Day, a reoccurring nightmare where you hope to get some innings out of these guys,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said.
Urquidy, pitching on 14 days’ rest, lasted just 1 2/3 innings.
“It was a bad day,” he said. “They made good contact. I was trying to compete. I was trying to throw everything through the zone and they hit it.”
The Astros’ bullpen has pitched 15 1/3 innings in the last two games, and Baker figures to need to go to relievers early once again in Game 4 on Tuesday night.
Luis Garcia’s early exit from Game 2 forced Baker to use projected Game 4 starter Jake Odorizzi for four innings of relief, taking him out of the mix to get the ball Tuesday. Zack Greinke will start two days shy of his 38th birthday, likely backed up by a fresh Cristian Javier.
“As long as he can go. As along as his endurance is fine,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said of Greinke.
Greinke is coming off two stints on the injured list last month, one for a positive COVID-19 test and another for neck soreness. He’s thrown 49 big league pitches in two total outings over the last four weeks, giving up five home runs in the last 12 1/3 innings.
And he hasn’t gotten an out in the sixth inning since Aug. 23.
“Haven’t gone real deep recently, but we’ll just see what happens,” Greinke said. “We’ll be ready, and we’ll go from there.”
He will be facing a Boston lineup that has 18 home runs in its last six games and 20 total this postseason.
Houston’s 4.06 bullpen ERA was seventh in the AL during the regular season. Relievers will have to rebound if the Astros are to extend the series back to Texas.
“It’s big. It’s an important start,” Greinke said. “Great group of guys here. One of the best I’ve been around. It’s an important game. I’ll do what I can and hopefully help us out.”