BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox will head to Houston Thursday afternoon and then hold a workout at Minute Maid Park ahead of Friday’s Game 1 of the ALCS against the Astros. At some point during the day, Boston Alex Cora will name his starting pitchers for Games 1 and 2.
But Cora indicated Wednesday that he will once again be aggressive with his pitching staff, taking an “everyone be ready” approach with the first two games of the series. That paid off in Boston’s ALDS win over the Tampa Bay Rays, and it also worked out pretty well back in 2018 when Cora employed Nathan Eovaldi the famous “rover” role during Boston’s run to a World Series title.
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Eovaldi will very likely get the ball in Friday night’s Game 1, so someone else will have to rove out of the bullpen this time around. And Cora made it clear that all of his starters could be used during Games 1 and 2, so they need to be ready to go at any given moment.
“We can be aggressive in Game 1 and 2,” Cora said Wednesday. “Then after that, we’ll see where we’re at. We’ll see which route we go. But having guys that are able to bounce back is very important. We already saw it in this past series. Obviously you have to be careful.”
Cora said he’ll take things “one day at a time” as Boston looks to punch its ticket to another Fall Classic.
“We’ll take care of Day 1 first. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll take care of Day 2 and we keep on moving forward,” he said. “The versatility of our guys will help us to maneuver our rotation and our pitching staff the way we want to be aggressive.”
Perhaps Nick Pivetta, who tossed four clutch innings (those high-pressure extra innings) out of the bullpen in Game 3 against the Rays will make an appearance over the first two games, before potentially getting tabbed for a start when the series shifts back to Boston. Tanner Houck could also see a bunch of innings out of the pen, much like the five innings of relief he tossed in Game 2 against Tampa.
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“We’ve done it before that way and that’s the way we’re going to do it,” said Cora. “Those two games in Houston, they’re very important. We know what we want to do. We will have our starters be part of the bullpen in Games 1 and 2, and then we’ll decide what we do [Games] 3 and 4.”
Such an approach may be tough once the series shifts to Boston next week, with Games 3, 4 and 5 played on consecutive days. So Cora and his pitchers will do their best to make the most of it while in Houston.
Cora would not say what his plans are for the struggling Chris Sale, who gave up five runs over just an inning’s work in his Game 2 start in Tampa. That followed Sale’s rough outing against the Nationals in the regular season finale, where the lefty lasted just 2.1 innings after giving up two runs off four hits and three walks.
Cora wouldn’t say if Sale would be a starter or reliever against the Astros, but he made it clear that Sale will be seeing some important innings one way or another.
“He’ll pitch,” Cora said confidently. “He’ll be part of this and he’ll be an important part of this.”
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Game 1 is set for Friday night in Houston, with first pitch scheduled for 8:07 pm.