Red Sox manager Alex Cora on Wednesday had no answer when asked who Boston would start on the hill for the first two games of the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros. But with one day to go, Cora made the announcement in his media availability Thursday, and it probably is exactly what you expected.
Chris Sale will start Game 1, which is scheduled for Friday at 8:07 p.m. ET, and Nathan Eovaldi will get the ball for Game 2 on Saturday (4:20 p.m.)
While it hardly is a surprise, Cora made some mysterious comments regarding Sale on Wednesday, when he dodged questions about whether he would be a starter or come out of the bullpen. The ace, who has struggled through his most recent starts, was warming up in the bullpen during Game 4 of the AL Division Series. Cora said Wednesday that he would have come out to close the game if the Red Sox had the lead heading into the ninth inning.
Realistically, there weren’t many other options for the Red Sox heading into Friday. Sale last pitched in Game 2 of the ALDS, which was Friday, so he’ll have had a full week of rest. Eovaldi threw Game 3 on Sunday. Eduardo Rodriguez certainly wasn’t an option, considering he pitched twice in five days when he got the ball for Game 4.
Rodriguez was an emergency starter of sorts since the scheduled pitcher, Nick Pivetta, had to throw multiple innings of relief in the 13-inning marathon that was Game 3.
Sale will look to improve upon his two previous starts. After a brief outing in the final game of the regular season, he lasted just one inning against the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 1 of the ALDS, allowing five runs on four hits.
Cora defended the decision and said he has no doubts about his ability to perform in Game 1.
“It’s Chris Sale,” he said, via Alex Speier of the Boston Globe. “At one point, he has to pitch in this series. We’re very comfortable with him going tomorrow.”
Eovaldi, on the other hand, has been steady this postseason. He went 5 1/3 innings in the Wild Card Game against the New York Yankees, scattering four hits with one earned run, before holding the Rays to two runs on three hits over five innings.
We’ll see how this all works out Friday.