Sox’s Eovaldi focused heading into Game 3 vs. Astros
Bregman was one of three Houston batters to homer in succession off Eovaldi on June 20 at Minute Maid Park when Eovaldi pitched for the Tampa Bay Rays, and Bregman referred to that decisive string of blasts on social media as the scene of the American League Championship Series changed venues from Fenway Park to Minute Maid Park on Monday. With Eovaldi set to take the ball for Boston in Game 3 on Tuesday, his primary focus was elsewhere.
“I feel I’m a completely different pitcher,” Eovaldi said. “I’m attacking it a lot differently. I’m going to try to keep the same approach as I’ve been attacking hitters now and moving forward. They have (a) lot of aggressive guys in the lineup. They swing early in the counts. Not too many of them like to walk. So, try and keep them in the ballpark and go from there.”
George Springer and Jose Altuve sandwiched solo home runs around the Bregman dinger in the sixth inning of that Astros 5-1 victory, with Altuve recording a 112.3 exit velocity with the second of his two homers off Eovaldi that game. That was one of three home runs Eovaldi surrendered during the season with an exit velocity of 110-plus miles per hour and, of the 14 homers he allowed during the season, four were recorded by the Astros in that contest.
Although he noted a usage increase in his cutter with the Red Sox, whom he joined on July 29, the numbers reveal that Eovaldi relied on his four-seam fastball more during the final month and against the Yankees in the AL Division Series when he allowed one run on five hits with five strikeouts over seven innings in a 16-1 victory in Game 3 at Yankee Stadium. He will make his second career postseason start in similar circumstances: on the road with a series even at 1-1.
Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel will oppose Eovaldi with seven days of rest since his start in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Cleveland Indians. Keuchel has scuffled in his career against the Red Sox (0-1, 9.15 ERA over four appearances), with the challenge of maintaining sharpness between outings something requiring an attention to detail.
“Well, I’m the kind of (pitcher) who needs to get off the mound a lot more than other guys,” Keuchel said. “But then the other side of it, the flipside was I barely touched the mound last year when I was going through some stuff. And kind of know what it takes to get through and make sure you’re ready to go. I’ve been fortunate enough to be healthy this whole season and kind of get off the mound from my bullpen days.
“So I treated a few of the in-between days from Cleveland like a bullpen day — threw a light BP the day before we went to Boston. And it just feels good to get out there and face some live hitting whether it’s our team or whoever. So, I have just been trying to get off the mound as much as possible, try to carry that over.”