HOUSTON -- By the time the players were introduced on the baselines prior to Tuesday's Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, Red Sox ace Chris Sale had arrived after spending much of the day flying to Houston from Boston.
Having Sale back in uniform was a welcome sight for the Red Sox, who downed the Astros, 8-2, to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
The lefty had been hospitalized early Sunday morning with a stomach illness and was discharged on Monday.
:: ALCS schedule and results ::
The Red Sox remain hopeful that Sale can make his scheduled start in Game 5 on Thursday, but the test will come in a bullpen session prior to Game 4.
"So with Sale, this is what he said: 'I'm good enough.' He didn't throw a bullpen [session] today," Boston manager Alex Cora said after Game 3. "He'll go out there tomorrow. And then we'll go from there."
It was a welcome sight for Sale's teammates to see him.
"Just that deep breath that he's here," said Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts.
Does Boston have a contingency plan for Game 5 if Sale can't go?
"Yeah, we're thinking about it," said Cora. "We still think he can do it, but obviously we have to wait. Like I said yesterday, this is more than us, it's about him, how he feels. I'm not going to put him in a situation where he gets hurt because he's not ready to pitch."
The Red Sox don't have anyone who would either be "stretched out" or on full rest to replace Sale in Game 5. In that scenario, Cora could go with David Price on three days' rest as an opener, or perhaps even Eduardo Rodriguez. If in the unlikely event Sale didn't pitch Game 5, it's all but certain he would be ready to go by Game 6 on Saturday at Fenway Park.
Boston took comfort in knowing its star lefty is feeling better.
"None of us really know what happened. So we know he's OK, and that's the most important thing," said Game 4 starter Rick Porcello. "And it's crazy to say, because these are some of the biggest baseball games of our lives, but somebody goes to the hospital, who really cares about what game he's starting or anything like that? We just are worried about him and his well-being."
In Sale's couple of days away from the team, he was in touch with some of his teammates, including Porcello.
"Yeah, we talked to him. And now that we know that he's OK, when ... is he going to pitch?" quipped Porcello.
Moreland could start Game 4
There's a chance first baseman Mitch Moreland could start Game 4 against Astros righty Charlie Morton. This would be the first start for Moreland since Game 2 of the AL Division Series against the Yankees on Oct. 6, when he injured his right hamstring.
"Yeah, he's feeling a lot better," said Cora. "I think he's feeling better now that we pinch-ran for him with Sandy [Leon]. He's like, 'Come on, man, I can do that.'"
It couldn't help but create some levity in the dugout when Cora had Christian Vazquez run for Moreland when he drew a pinch-hit walk in Game 1, and then Leon pinch-ran after Moreland had a single off the bench in Game 2.
"Especially Sandy," said Cora. "That one, it hurt his feelings to say the least."
Leon again pinch-ran for Moreland when he was hit by a pitch in Game 3, and he wound up scoring on the game-breaking grand slam by Jackie Bradley Jr.
Price could provide relief
The Red Sox didn't end up using David Price out of the bullpen in the ALDS, but it is an option in this series.
With Price due to pitch next in a potential Game 6 on Saturday, Game 4 would seem like the most logical time for him to pitch in relief. Price threw 80 pitches in Game 2 on Sunday.
"He's always in the picture," Cora said. "I don't know about today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe today. All depends how he feels. I haven't talked to him. All these guys -- that's the cool thing about managing now -- you don't have to ask them, and they come in after BP saying, 'I feel great. Let's go.' … That doesn't mean I'm going to use them. But their willingness to do everything for the team, that's great."
Cora is one of the many people who marvels at the talent on both sides of the field in this ALCS.
"I compare this series to those Saturdays in the late '90s when FSU and Miami played [football], that there were a lot of first-rounders and a lot of swag and good athletes," Cora said. "The same here. You've got first-rounders, the best international players and all that stuff. So it's fun."