Not Over Yet? Five Reasons Red Sox ALCS Comeback Is Still Possible

We've certainly been here before

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The Red Sox are in an unenviable position in the American League Championship Series at the moment.

After two gut-punch losses at Fenway Park, Boston heads back to Houston trailing the Astros 3-2 in the ALCS. Alex Cora’s team will play for its life beginning Friday night, hoping to set up a winner-take-all Game 7 that is simply “if necessary” for now. That both games will be played in enemy territory only makes life more difficult for Boston, and Houston is a considerable -450 favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook to win the AL pennant.

All of that being said, there’s not an organization in the last 20 years of baseball that knows better than the Red Sox how possible it is to make a comeback in a playoff series. For the Sox to add the 2021 ALCS to their list of postseason conquests, though, a lot needs to go right over the next few days.

Here are five reasons for at least some optimism that Boston can find its way back to the World Series.

Nate Eovaldi is pitching Game 6: Sure, this would feel a lot better if the Red Sox were trying to eliminate Houston on Friday night, especially if Eovaldi in the ninth inning for Game 4 actually worked. But it didn’t, so now he’ll be two days removed from pitching in a game, and he got worked over pretty good in that one, too. But if Cora were to handpick the pitcher he’d want to start a do-or-die game, Eovaldi seemingly would be his top choice. The right-hander shut down the Astros in Houston earlier in the series. We’re also only two and a half weeks removed from Eovaldi tossing a gem against the Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game.

Luis Garcia is also pitching Game 6: The first question is just how healthy Garcia is after leaving Game 2 with a knee strain. The second question is whether he can figure out a Boston lineup that was not fooled at all by him, as the Red Sox worked three walks and J.D. Martinez hit a first-inning grand slam before Garcia eventually was removed with the knee issue after one batter in the second inning. When the Sox have played from ahead in this series, things typically have gone well.

The bullpens: The silver lining for the Red Sox when it comes to getting their heads kicked in in Game 5 was they were able to stay away from their top relievers. Now, with the series on the line the rest of the way, all hands are very much on deck. That means Tanner Houck should be ready to go at a moment’s notice, as should Garrett Whitlock. Even Nick Pivetta should be ready to go. There are options for Cora. For the sake of this exercise, we’ll conveniently ignore how good Houston’s bullpen was in Game 4.

The offense is due … right?: Partially lost in the hoopla of Games 4 and 5 surrounding what the Houston batters did to the Boston pitchers is that the Red Sox offense has gone cold. After averaging more than eight runs per game in the first three contests, the Sox have scored three runs total in their most recent losses. They went 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position the last two games after going 6-for-17 in their two wins. It’s conceivable Houston can hold them down for one or even two more games, but the Red Sox scored nine runs in the last game played at Minute Maid Park. There might not be anyone more due than Hunter Renfroe, who is 1-for-14 in the series. Or even Kyle Scwharber, who is 0-for-10 since his Game 3 grand slam. It’s hard to believe anyone or any team is actually “due” in a series where matchups and tendencies are studied over and over and over by teams, but the Red Sox do have the extra day here to try and find something in Houston’s pitching they can expose again.

They’ve done this before — sort of: It’s hard to compare teams and rosters from different years. But again, things are bleak, and if it’s optimism you crave, you sometimes have to get creative. So, very much for what it’s worth, the Red Sox have proved they can win consecutive playoff games, even on the road. They have won consecutive games in each of their championship series wins dating back to 2004, when, you know, they won four straight to erase a 3-0 deficit. They erased a 3-1 ALCS deficit in 2007. Yes, the players are different, but it’s a sign it can happen. If you’re looking for a more recent example, though, look no further than the 2018 ALCS against the Astros when Boston lost Game 1 at home but rebounded to win the next four — including three straight in Houston.

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