HOUSTON -- Now that the Red Sox have taken control of the American League Championship Series after beating the Astros in Game 3 on Tuesday night to take a 2-1 series lead, it will be up to Charlie Morton to keep Houston's back from being against the wall.
:: ALCS schedule and results ::
Morton will face former AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello in Game 4 tonight at Minute Maid Park. The Astros' loss at home in Game 3 was only their second in their past 12 playoff games at Minute Maid Park since the start of last season.
In the history of best-of-seven series with the 2-3-2 format, teams that win Game 3 on the road to grab a 2-1 advantage have eventually gone on to take the series 27 of 36 times (75 percent).
The starting lineups
Red Sox: After being shut down by the Astros in Game 1, the Red Sox have started to resemble themselves again over the past two games, which means they are also very dangerous. Jackie Bradley Jr., who is notoriously streaky, is riding some confidence after huge hits in the last two games of the series, including a grand slam that broke open Game 3. Brock Holt is back in the lineup against a righty in Morton. Steve Pearce continues to contribute, so he remains in the lineup.
• Gear up for the ALCS:Astros | Red Sox
1. Mookie Betts, RF
2. Andrew Benintendi, LF
3. J.D. Martinez, DH
4. Xander Bogaerts, SS
5. Rafael Devers, 3B
6. Steve Pearce, 1B
7. Brock Holt, 2B
8. Christian Vazquez, C
9. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Astros: Manager AJ Hinch reworked the top of his lineup for Game 4, sliding Alex Bregman up to the leadoff spot and dropping George Springer to No. 2. Hinch hopes the move forces the Red Sox to give Bregman -- who has walked seven times in 14 plate appearances in the series' first three games -- something to hit.
"Just give them a different look with some different guys behind him," Hinch said. "George being the first guy behind him. Tony Kemp hitting ninth, I like the idea of Kemp getting on base in front of Bregman. We'll give it a different look and see if that changes their approach. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. We'll give Bregman the most at-bats today.
"I've never seen someone pitch any of our players the way that they're pitching Bregman. That's a credit to their game plan, but also they'll have a whole lineup behind him to deal with now."
Springer batted first throughout the 2017 postseason run and for each of the Astros' first six games this October. Altuve starts at designated hitter for the second straight game, giving Tony Kemp another start in left field. Martin Maldonado is back behind the plate at catcher after Brian McCann started Game 3.
"[Altuve] still didn't look entirely comfortable running [in Game 3], except for the straight line," Hinch said. "He scored from first and did the bunt straight line, and I think it took a little bit of stress off the change of directions on defense."
1. Alex Bregman, 3B
2. George Springer, CF
3. Jose Altuve, DH
4. Marwin Gonzalez, 2B
5. Yuli Gurriel, 1B
6. Josh Reddick, RF
7. Carlos Correa, SS
8. Martin Maldonado, C
9. Tony Kemp, LF
Who are the starting pitchers?
Red Sox: Porcello has come up big in this postseason (1-0, 1.35 ERA) as a starter and as a reliever. It is back to the rotation for Porcello, who had a big scoreless eighth inning in relief in Game 2. Porcello has pitched three times against the Astros this season, going 1-0 with a 4.15 ERA. He got the win while facing Morton back on June 3 at Minute Maid Park.
Astros: Morton will be making his first outing since throwing three innings in the Astros' regular-season finale Sept. 30 at Baltimore. He's thrown just 15 innings since coming off the disabled list Sept. 8. Houston put Morton on the DL to skip one start and rest a sore right shoulder.
Last year, Morton started against the Red Sox in Game 4 of the AL Division Series in Boston, and he allowed two runs in 4 1/3 innings in the Astros' series-clinching win. In two starts against the Red Sox this year, Morton is 1-1 with a 6.97 ERA, allowing 16 hits and eight runs in 10 1/3 innings.
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Red Sox: From question mark to strength, Boston's bullpen is rolling in the ALCS. The relief corps fired three scoreless innings in Game 3. The Red Sox would love to get closer Craig Kimbrel on track. Though the righty is 3-for-3 in save opportunities this postseason, he has yet to have a scoreless outing. Lefty David Price could be used in the bullpen if necessary. Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier continue to be the setup men manager Alex Cora trusts the most.
Astros: It should be all hands on deck for Houston, even though the club used six of its eight relief pitchers in Game 3. Closer Roberto Osuna threw the most pitches (27) among the relievers used Tuesday, but if the Astros have the lead in the ninth inning, you can bet he will get the ball. Thomas Pressly threw only 13 pitches and will definitely be available.
Are there any relievers who are unavailable?
Red Sox: None.
Any injuries of note?
Red Sox: Third baseman Eduardo Nunez tweaked his right ankle in Game 3 and came out in the fourth inning as a precaution. Moreland continues to make progress with the right hamstring injury he sustained in Game 2 of the AL Division Series. The left-handed hitter has reached base in all three of his pinch-hitting appearances in this series, and he has come out for a pinch-runner each time.
Astros: Altuve is still battling a sore right knee, though it didn't prevent him from getting two hits and scoring a pair of runs in Game 3, including scoring from first base on a Bregman double and later beating out a bunt hit.
Who is hot and who is not?
Red Sox: Pearce has recorded at least one hit and scored at least one run in each game he has played in this postseason … Bradley has seven RBIs in the past two games … Ian Kinsler is hitless in the two games he's started in the series … The same goes for Vazquez. In fact, Boston doesn't have a hit from any of its catchers in this series.
Astros: Bregman (2-for-6, seven walks, .714 on-base percentage) and Springer (4-for-13) are the only Houston players hitting better than .300 in the ALCS. Meanwhile, Gonzalez (2-for-12), Gurriel (2-for-12) and Reddick (1-for-11) have been struggling at the plate.