HOUSTON -- The Red Sox avoided disaster in Game 2, bouncing back from their series-opening loss to earn a split at home as the American League Championship Series moves down to Houston for the next three games.:: ALCS schedule and results ::David Price didn't get the postseason win he craved,
HOUSTON -- The Red Sox avoided disaster in Game 2, bouncing back from their series-opening loss to earn a split at home as the American League Championship Series moves down to Houston for the next three games.
:: ALCS schedule and results ::
David Price didn't get the postseason win he craved, but the lefty kept the Red Sox close before turning a one-run lead over to the bullpen in the fifth inning Sunday night. The bullpen took it from there, closing out the win to even up the best-of-seven series.
As the ALCS shifts to Minute Maid Park, how can the Red Sox regain home-field advantage with a win in today's Game 3? Here are three keys for Boston:
Jump on Dallas Keuchel early
Would the Astros be better off employing an "opener" on days Keuchel starts? The former AL Cy Young Award winner has struggled in the first inning this season; his 6.88 ERA in the opening frame is far and away the highest for the left-hander this season.
If you added the combined runs Keuchel has allowed between the second (12), third (8) and fourth (7) innings this season, they are only one more than the 26 he has surrendered in the first.
"I would like to start off a little bit better most of the time, but I think a lot of the time I was overanxious and not letting myself kind of calm down from the pregame warm-up," Keuchel said. "I thought I did a pretty good job in Cleveland of really kind of maintaining my adrenaline and emotion out there. I'll probably try to do the same thing against Boston [today], get in a little bit early, kind of let myself recuperate and go at it."
Boston's offense has been consistently steady through the first four innings this season, posting an OPS between .739 and .781. The fifth has been the key for the Red Sox, whose .937 OPS is higher than in any other inning.
Get J.D. Martinez's bat going
Since his three-run homer against J.A. Happ in the first inning of the AL Division Series, Martinez has been quiet at the plate. In his past five games, Martinez is hitting .176/.304/.176 with no extra-base hits.
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Martinez has still drawn four walks during that stretch, but the Red Sox's offense operates at its peak when the slugger is doing damage to opposing pitching.
Game 3 might not set up great for Martinez, who is 2-for-11 (.182) lifetime against Keuchel. One of those two hits did leave the park, so perhaps Martinez can come up with one big swing early against the Astros' left-hander.
Contain George Springer
Last year's World Series Most Valuable Player has carried his postseason dominance into 2018, posting a .409/.458/.909 slash line with three home runs and an AL-high seven RBIs through Houston's first five games.
"There is a calmness to him despite him being an energy provider and having him be a spark plug for us," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "The world slows down a little bit for him, when everything around him speeds up."
Springer carries an Astros-record 11-game postseason hitting streak into Game 3, though Nathan Eovaldi presents a difficult challenge. Springer is 1-for-9 (.111) in his career against Eovaldi, though the hit was a sixth-inning, go-ahead home run this past June 20 that lifted the Astros past the Rays.
As Houston's leadoff hitter, Springer's job is to get on base for Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman. Nobody has figured out how to hold Springer down since he struck out four times in Game 1 of last year's World Series, leaving the Red Sox with a tall task ahead of them.
Mark Feinsand is an executive reporter for MLB.com.