The Boston Red Sox dropped five of their final six contests in the regular season last year and were swept out of the playoffs in three games by the Cleveland Indians. The Red Sox are hoping a similar slump at the end of the 2017 campaign doesn’t doom them to the same fate and they will try to avoid a fifth loss in six games when they host the Houston Astros on Saturday.
Boston’s recent slump has put the American League East race back in the picture, and the New York Yankees are sitting two games behind with two left to play. The Red Sox surged into first place in the East on the strength of a solid pitching staff but is seeing that erode of late and did not have a starter log a quality start in the last turn through the rotation. The Astros (100-60) aren’t likely to roll over for Boston as they try to hunt down the Cleveland Indians (101-59) for the best record in the AL and homefield advantage throughout the AL playoffs. Houston, which is riding a five-game winning streak, will send Lance McCullers Jr. to the mound on Saturday while the Red Sox try to coax a quality start out of lefty Drew Pomeranz.
TV: 1:05 p.m. ET, FOX
PITCHING MATCHUP: Astros RH Lance McCullers Jr. (7-3, 4.01 ERA) vs. Red Sox LH Drew Pomeranz (16-6, 3.38)
McCullers battled injury over the last two months and is trying to prove he deserves a spot in the Houston rotation during the playoffs. The Florida native, who turns 24 on Monday, made his first start since Sept. 6 on Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels and was limited to 63 pitches, allowing two runs and four hits over 3 1/3 frames. McCullers last started at Boston on May 13, 2016, and was ripped for five runs on seven hits and three walks across 4 2/3 innings.
Pomeranz suffered through his shortest outing of the season against Toronto on Monday, when he was ripped for five runs on seven hits and a walk in two innings. The 28-year-old, whose velocity was down in his last outing, allowed a total of three runs and 12 hits in 18 1/3 innings over his previous three turns. Pomeranz started at Houston on June 16 and yielded one run on four hits over 6 1/3 innings but did not factor in the decision.
1. Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia, who is playing through a knee injury, is 3-for-36 in his last 10 games.
2. Houston RF Josh Reddick was sent back to Texas to have his back examined by team doctors but is expected to be ready for the postseason.
3. Boston INF Eduardo Nunez (knee) is doubtful to play this weekend but could return for the playoffs.
PREDICTION: Astros 6, Red Sox 1