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Indians/Red Sox

After getting blown out in Game 2, the Red Sox head home with their season hanging by a thread. Obviously the first two games didn’t go well for Boston, but Cleveland’s short-handed staff gives the Red Sox a chance to get back in the series.

Cleveland Indians (Josh Tomlin) at Boston Red Sox (Clay Buchholz), 4:00 PM ET

PECOTA odds of winning: 55% Indians, 45% Red Sox

Projected Starting Lineups

Indians vs. Buchholz (R)

Red Sox vs. Tomlin (R)

Carlos Santana (S) DH

Dustin Pedroia (R) 2B

Jason Kipnis (L) 2B

Brock Holt (L) 3B

Francisco Lindor (S) SS

Mookie Betts (R) RF

Mike Napoli (R) 1B

David Ortiz (L) DH

Jose Ramirez (S) 3B

Hanley Ramirez (R) 1B

Lonnie Chisenhall (L) RF

Xander Bogaerts (R) SS

Coco Crisp (S) LF

Andrew Benintendi (L) LF

Tyler Naquin (L) CF

Sandy Leon (S) C

Roberto Perez (R) C

Jackie Bradley (L) CF

Injuries/Availability

The starters from the previous two games are unavailable of course, so no David Price, Rick Porcello, Corey Kluber, or Trevor Bauer. Crucially, Terry Francona didn’t need Cody Allen or Andrew Miller in Game 2. Each will be fully rested after throwing 40 pitches apiece on Thursday.

Outlook

Despite a respectable 4.17 DRA, Tomlin wasn’t exactly Cleveland’s first choice to start Game 3. Injuries to Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco have forced Francona’s hand, and so he turns to Tomlin, the soft-tossing righty who coughed up 36 homers and posted a 5.59 ERA in the second half of the season. It’s tempting to call this a bullpen game from the start, but let’s play with some endpoints first:

Tomlin through July 17: 107 IP, 3.34 ERA, .254/.278/.468 opposing slash line

Tomlin after July 17: 66 IP, 6.11 ERA, .293/.312/.516 opposing slash line

Why July 17? That’s the day catcher Yan Gomes, a strong pitch-framer and reputable game-caller, went down with a shoulder injury. We haven’t untangled the relationship between a pitcher and his catcher, so I don’t want to make too much of this. It’s relevant that none of the peripherals we’d normally look for changed significantly. Nonetheless, it’ll be interesting to see if Francona decides to reconnect Tomlin with the battery mate he had so much success with.

Regardless, it’s hard to imagine Tomline getting through more than three or four innings. What’s interesting is to imagine what happens from there. If the game is close, will Francona again lean hard on his main bullpen? If so, he runs the risk of tiring his elite relievers a day before starting Trevor Bauer on short rest, a sequence of events that could propel the Red Sox back into the series. If he doesn’t, expect Boston’s slumbering lineup to wake up against the belly of the pitching staff. Cleveland clearly has an edge, and I’d imagine that Francona manages aggressively if the Tribe can get an early lead against Buchholz, who isn’t really a great option either. But it’s also not hard to envision a scenario where he rolls the dice with an eye toward game 4.

Rangers/Blue Jays

After a rout in Game 1 and a comeback that fell just short on Friday, Texas heads to the most hostile road environment in the league needing to take two games against the surging Blue Jays to extend their season. They’ll need soft-tossing Colby Lewis to stymie an offense that bashed five homers against Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels.

Texas Rangers (Colby Lewis) at Toronto Blue Jays (Aaron Sanchez), 7:30 PM EST

PECOTA odds of winning: 58% Blue Jays, 42% Rangers

Projected Starting Lineups

Rangers vs. Sanchez (R)

Blue Jays vs. Lewis (R)

Carlos Gomez (R) LF

Ezequiel Carrera (L) LF

Ian Desmond (R) CF

Josh Donaldson (R) 3B

Carlos Beltran (S) DH

Edwin Encarnacion (R) 1B

Adrian Beltre (R) 3B

Jose Bautista (R) RF

Rougned Odor (L) 2B

Russell Martin (R) C

Jonathan Lucroy (R) C

Troy Tulowitzki (R) SS

Nomar Mazara (L) RF

Michael Saunders (L) DH

Mitch Moreland (L) 1B

Kevin Pillar (R) CF

Elvis Andrus (R) SS

Darwin Barney (R) 2B

Injuries/Availability

All of the previously-used starting pitchers are probably out, as is Francisco Liriano. Liriano, who took a line drive to the back of the head in Game 2, suffered a concussion and will miss the rest of the series. Danny Barnes was added to the roster.

Outlook

For all of the well-intentioned concerns surrounding Aaron Sanchez and his workload during the summer, the right-hander enters today’s game with a career-high in innings but no signs of fatigue. In his last three regular season starts, Sanchez capped a dazzling season by striking out 21 and allowing just three runs and one homer. He was throwing as hard as he has all season, and with plenty of rest since his last outing, there’s no reason to think his stuff will be anything but crisp.

On the other side, Colby Lewis chewed through innings this season, but his 3.71 ERA masks a few alarming peripherals. Only three full-time starters had a lower SO/9 than Lewis, and he had one of the higher homer rates in the league as well. Not surprisingly, his DRA was over 5.00. Lewis will battle, but unless the Rangers get out to a big lead, he probably shouldn’t be asked to get through Toronto’s order twice.

Predicting individual baseball games is fool’s errand; more money than I can count has been squandered in the name of trying to exploit a favorable pitching matchup. The Rangers have a deep and talented bullpen, and if Jeff Banister is aggressive with it, he can flip what looks like a substantial disadvantage pretty early in the contest. That said, this one doesn’t set up well for Texas. Lewis is one of the most homer-prone starters in baseball. He can’t blow the ball by anyone—his average heater was under 90 mph and he got whiffs with less than six percent of them—and he’s facing a team stacked with power hitters in a launching pad. Only once this postseason has a team come back from a multi-run deficit: the Rangers might need to as well to extend their season.

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