Astros' plan fizzles; 'Very evenly matched'
Odorizzi needed for 4 innings after Garcia's exit in 2nd with knee discomfort
HOUSTON -- The Astros had the luxury of having most of Saturday’s game to digest what happened, come to terms with it and let it go. As manager Dusty Baker says, why dwell on the negative? And there was plenty of it for the Astros in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.
The Red Sox became the first team in history to hit two grand slams in a playoff game, when J.D. Martinez took Astros starter Luis Garcia deep in the first inning and Rafael Devers followed with a grand slam off Jake Odorizzi in the second to suck the life out of an orange-clad sellout crowd at Minute Maid Park.
As disastrous as that start was for the Astros, their 9-5 loss to the Red Sox only evened the best-of-seven ALCS at one game apiece. The Astros will work out at Minute Maid Park on Sunday afternoon before heading to Fenway Park for Game 3 on Monday night in Boston.
“We’ve got to go to Boston and just put our best foot forward and try to do whatever we can to win games out there,” said Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel, who capped a three-RBI day with a solo homer in the ninth. “We know we're going through a little bit of a tough stretch right now with the injuries that we've suffered to the pitching staff, but we got to do our job. We’ve got to go out there and try to put up as many runs as we can.”
Teams splitting the first two games at home in a best-of-seven postseason series with the current 2-3-2 format have still gone on to win the series 46 of 83 times (55%). This excludes 2020, when the LCS and World Series were played at neutral sites.
“We're very evenly matched,” Baker said. “That's why we're here. That's why we're in the final four. These are two teams that don't quit.”
The Astros will send José Urquidy to the mound in Game 3 in desperate need of a good start after Framber Valdez lasted 2 2/3 innings in his Game 1 start and Garcia was able to record only three outs Saturday. Garcia left the game after 33 pitches with right knee discomfort, adding another layer of concern for a Houston pitching staff that’s already without ace Lance McCullers Jr. in the ALCS.
“We’ve got to try to figure it out,” Baker said. “We've been trying to avoid using Odorizzi the first couple games. That's why we used everybody [in Game 1]. We had planned on him being a Game 4 starter, but every time you make a plan, it's always followed by something, and today it was followed by the grand slam in the first. I don't know if I've ever seen a grand slam in the first and second.”
Baker didn’t know if Garcia’s injury was serious enough to warrant consideration for removing him from the ALCS roster, which would mean he would be ineligible for the World Series, if the Astros were to advance.
“We're not there yet,” Baker said. “It came to our knowledge that this has kind of been bothering him a little bit on and off, but he hadn't said anything about it. It wasn't bothering him enough not to pitch. We'll make that determination in a couple of days.”
The Astros’ troubling pitching situation could have been much worse, though, had Odorizzi not been able to throw four innings in relief, allowing four runs and seven hits. The results weren’t great, but he was able to save a bullpen arm or two by going four innings. That ties for the third-longest outing by an Astros pitcher this postseason.
But because the Astros were hoping to start Odorizzi in Game 4, it’s unclear who will get the ball for Houston on Tuesday at Fenway.
“We have a formidable guy that we are going to depend on and trust in Urquidy on Monday,” Baker said. “Then we'll go from there.”
After falling behind, 9-0, the Astros held Boston in check over the final five innings, getting a pair of solo homers in the ninth from Gurriel and Jason Castro to give the Astros five runs in each of their first six playoff games in 2021.
“I thought we did a nice job of staying in the game today,” Odorizzi said. “We were able to put some good at-bats against Nate [Eovaldi], and then towards the end of the game Yuli had a big swing. Castro had a big swing. Still good to put up runs and the bullpen put up pitches, and I think that's important in a game like that where we've been trailing the whole game. Have their guys throw as much as possible, and we put good at-bats together, and obviously today is not a great day for us, but we still did well overall, and I think moving forward we're in the same spot. Got a lot of confidence in this team.”