After getting blown out in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, the Astros were just hoping to find a way to get the series back to Houston.
Their situation has improved markedly in a span of 48 hours. Not only are the Astros headed back home, but they now hold a 3-2 lead over the Red Sox, giving them two cracks in front of a raucous home crowd to punch a ticket to the World Series. The first one comes in Game 6 on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.
The Red Sox, pushed to the brink, will try to push the series to two of everyone’s favorite words in sports: Game 7.
Momentum has swayed wildly so far in this ALCS. After the Astros squeaked out a 5-4 win in Game 1, the Red Sox belted Houston around by a combined score of 21-8 in the next two games. Houston responded by thumping Boston, 18-3, the following two days.
When is the game and how can I watch it?
Game 6 will air on FS1 at 8 ET/7 CT on Friday night. It is also available to stream on MLB.TV with authentication.
What are the starting lineups?
Red Sox: In an effort to get the bats going again, Red Sox manager Alex Cora made some modest tweaks to his Game 6 lineup, moving J.D. Martinez up to the 5-hole against a righty for the first time this postseason. Hunter Renfroe, 1-for-14 in the series, has been dropped to the eighth slot. As always, Kevin Plawecki is catching Nathan Eovaldi.
Astros: After scoring 18 runs on 23 hits in consecutive blowout wins in Games 4 and 5 of the ALCS, the Astros haven't changed much aside from center field, where Chas McCormick will make his fourth start of the series.
Who are the starting pitchers?
Red Sox: Nathan Eovaldi, who has built a reputation on big moments in October, had one he’d like to forget when he took the loss in relief in Game 4. Back in his regular role of starting, Eovaldi will try to save the season for the Red Sox with a big performance in Game 6. The hard-throwing righty earned the win in Game 2, holding the Astros to three runs over 5 1/3 innings. Eovaldi was Boston’s ace this season, going 11-9 with a 3.75 ERA. As a starter in the '21 postseason, Eovaldi is 2-0 with a 3.45 ERA, holding opponents to a .200 average.
Astros: Rookie right-hander Luis Garcia, who lasted just one inning in his Game 2 start before exiting with a knee strain, gets the ball for Game 6. He gave up five runs and two hits in one inning in his prior outing. Garcia has pitched much better at home this year (6-5, 2.73 ERA) in the regular season than he’s done on the road (5-3, 4.24 ERA).
How will the bullpens line up after the starter? Are there any relievers who are unavailable?
Red Sox: While Astros manager Dusty Baker said he is holding out lefty Framber Valdez for a potential start in Game 7 and is also likely to stay away from electric righty Cristian Javier, Cora will hold nothing back in an effort to extend the series. Starters Eduardo Rodriguez and Nick Pivetta can both pitch in relief. Though it seems unlikely Cora would go to Chris Sale on just one day of rest after he threw 87 pitches in Game 5, the possibility should not be dismissed.
The good news for Boston is that the team’s best relief option -- righty Garrett Whitlock -- has had two days off since throwing 26 pitches in Game 4. Rookie righty Tanner Houck, who has electric stuff, hasn’t been used since Game 1. With so many possibilities, it’s hard to gauge how Cora will line up his relievers after what he hopes will be an extended start from Eovaldi.
Astros: Thanks to Framber Valdez’s masterful eight-inning performance in Game 5, the Astros’ once-beleaguered bullpen looks to be in pretty good shape. With the off-day Thursday, relievers should be fresh for Game 6.
Any injuries of note?
Red Sox: The Red Sox are healthy aside from veteran righty Garrett Richards, who was taken off the ALDS roster with a left hamstring strain.
Astros: Center fielder Jake Meyers has yet to play in the ALCS, and the Astros can’t replace him on the roster because he injured his left shoulder prior to the series starting.
Who is hot and who is not?
Red Sox: Starting with Game 1 of the ALDS, Rafael Devers has a nine-game hitting streak. In that span, he has a line of .342/.419/.737 with five homers and 12 RBIs ... After a historic surge from Game 2 of the ALDS through Game 3 of the ALCS, Kiké Hernández has suddenly gone cold, generating just one hit in nine at-bats in the last two games ... Nobody on the Red Sox is colder than Hunter Renfroe, who is 1-for-14 in the series with seven strikeouts and has left 11 on base. Alex Cora said he isn’t contemplating any lineup changes for Game 6.
Astros: Yuli Gurriel had three hits in the Astros’ Game 5 win and is riding a six-game hitting streak, dating back to Game 4 of the ALDS against the White Sox. He has four multi-hit games this postseason. Yordan Alvarez has at least one hit in all five ALCS games, including a homer and three RBIs in Game 5.
Anything else fans might want to know?
Rafael Devers is in a four-way tie for the most postseason homers before turning 25 years old in MLB history with eight. He tied Astros shortstop Carlos Correa and two legends: Mickey Mantle and Albert Pujols.
Devers’ eight postseason homers also breaks a tie with Nomar Garciaparra for fourth on Boston’s all-time list behind only David Ortiz (17), Manny Ramirez (11) and Jason Varitek (11).
The Astros' final three runs in a five-run sixth in Game 5 came with two outs, as did their two in the ninth. Forty-one of their 62 runs (66%) in this postseason have come with two outs.
This ALCS marks the 21st to go at least six games since the best-of-seven format was established in 1985. Following a 2-2 series split, all clubs that won Game 5 went on to advance to the World Series, with the exception of the 2017 Astros, who lost Game 5 but beat the Yankees in Games 6 and 7 to win the pennant.