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Astros/Red Sox

On paper, it sounds pretty good for Boston. Fresh off a series-extending Game 3 victory, the Red Sox turn to reigning Cy Young winner Rick Porcello to even the series at 2-2. Of course, Porcello has mostly been a mess this season, going from a league-leading 22 wins last year to a league-leading 17 losses this year, along with a league-high 236 hits and 38 homers allowed in 203 innings for a 4.65 ERA. Porcello is the Red Sox’s fourth starter because they want to avoid relying on him as much as possible, and yet here he is with the entire season on the line.

Charlie Morton was hardly Houston’s ace this season, but he did post a solid 3.65 ERA with 163 strikeouts in 147 innings, including a 2.54 ERA and 33/6 K/BB ratio in September. The last of those September starts came against Boston, as Morton tossed 5 1/3 innings of two-run ball at Fenway Park, whereas Porcello got rocked for seven runs in his lone 2017 start vs. Houston. This game may simply come down to whether the 2016 or 2017 version of Porcello takes the mound, because the 2017 version stands little chance of not being lit up by the Astros’ lineup.

Assuming the whole thing isn’t washed away by rain, of course.

Houston Astros (Charlie Morton) at Boston Red Sox (Rick Porcello), 1:08 PM ET

PECOTA odds of winning: 53% Red Sox, 47% Astros

Projected Starting Lineups

Astros vs. Porcello (R)

Red Sox vs. Morton (R)

George Springer (R), CF

Dustin Pedroia (R), 2B

Josh Reddick (L), RF

Xander Bogaerts (R), SS

Jose Altuve (R), 2B

Andrew Benintendi (L), LF

Carlos Correa (R), SS

Mookie Betts (R), RF

Marwin Gonzalez (S), LF

Mitch Moreland (L), 1B

Alex Bregman (R), 3B

Hanley Ramirez (R), DH

Yulieski Gurriel (R), 1B

Rafael Devers (L), 3B

Evan Gattis (R), DH

Christian Vazquez (R), C

Brian McCann (L), C

Jackie Bradley (L), CF

Injuries/Availability

David Price saved the Red Sox’s bullpen (and possibly their whole season) in Game 3, working four shutout innings of relief after starter Doug Fister failed to make it out of the second inning. Craig Kimbrel has only appeared once in this series, mopping up in Game 2, and setup men Addison Reed (seven pitches) and Carson Smith (13) had light workloads Sunday. John Farrell has also said that Chris Sale could be available. The manager also decided to swap Bogaerts and Pedroia in the batting order after Bogaerts led off for most of the past month.

Lance McCullers wasn’t nearly as effective as Price in Game 3, but he did soak up three innings in relief following starter Brad Peacock’s early exit. No other Astros reliever threw more than 14 pitches in the blowout loss, so everyone else should be available. In particular, Chris Devenski figures to get a chance to bounce back from an ugly outing in short order. Gattis, not Carlos Beltran, gets the start at designated hitter versus a right-hander.

Outlook

A rainout might be the ideal scenario for the Red Sox, because it would allow them to possibly skip Porcello, flip back to the top of their rotation, and maybe even work Price back into the mix as a starter or long reliever. Barring mother nature taking charge of things, they’ll need another big effort from the lineup in a game where the Astros’ bats seem likely to do damage. PECOTA sees the Red Sox as favorites, albeit only to the usual extent of a team with home-field advantage.

Indians/Yankees

All eyes will be on Trevor Bauer following his brilliant Game 1 outing, but there’s also plenty of drama and intrigue surrounding Luis Severino’s first time back on the mound after his hideous Wild Card game start against the Twins. New York pushed Severino back as far as possible and you can be certain that manager Joe Girardi will have an extremely short hook if things get ugly in the first inning again. Of course, if the first-inning exit vs. Minnesota was merely a blip on the radar, it won’t take long to remember that Severino was one of the AL’s top five starters this season, ranking third to Corey Kluber and Chris Sale in both strikeout rate and DRA.

Cleveland Indians (Trevor Bauer) at New York Yankees (Luis Severino), 7:08 PM ET

PECOTA odds of winning: 60% Yankees, 40% Indians

Projected Starting Lineups

Indians vs. Severino (R)

Yankees vs. Bauer (R)

Francisco Lindor (S), SS

Brett Gardner (L), LF

Jason Kipnis (L), CF

Aaron Judge (R), RF

Jose Ramirez (S), 2B

Gary Sanchez (R), C

Jay Bruce (L), RF

Didi Gregorius (L), SS

Carlos Santana (S), 1B

Starlin Castro (R), 2B

Austin Jackson (R), LF

Greg Bird (L), 1B

Michael Brantley (L), DH

Todd Frazier (R), 3B

Roberto Perez (R), C

Jacoby Ellsbury (L), DH

Giovanny Urshela (R), 3B

Aaron Hicks (S), CF

Injuries/Availability

Terry Francona noted after last night’s 1-0 loss that at least the Indians forced the Yankees to use Aroldis Chapman for five outs, which got his pitch count up to 34. It’s possible he’ll be available again tonight, but it’s unlikely to be for more than one inning. That increases the odds of Dellin Betances being called into a key spot, and David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, and Chad Green are all fully available to Girardi.

Andrew Miller took the Game 3 loss thanks to an unlikely homer by Greg Bird, but the good news is that he only used 12 pitches and should be available tonight, perhaps for more than one inning. Everyone else of note in Cleveland’s bullpen will be fully available. Designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion remains sidelined by an ankle injury, pushing Michael Brantley into the starting lineup despite health issues of his own.

Outlook

Severino is fully capable of matching Bauer with a dominant performance, but the Yankees will be on high alert for another clunker. And while Bauer was fantastic down the stretch and in his Game 1 start, he’s also not so far removed from the type of pitcher who’d have his manager on high alert in a playoff start. Plus, the Cleveland right-hander will be working on short rest, which was all part of Francona’s plan in not starting Kluber until Game 2. Bauer went out of his way to say that he prefers working on short rest, but his previous short-rest playoff start—Game 5 of last year’s World Series—lasted only four innings in a loss.

PECOTA sees the Yankees as the clear favorites, in part because of home-field advantage and in part because it’s taking the long-term view of both Severino and Bauer.