It’s been rare to see the Houston Astros be down in a playoff series, especially after playing at home, but that is the situation they find themselves in heading into game three of the ALCS. As the Rangers gear up to play in front of their home crowd for just the second time this postseason, we’ll preview the game before going over why I think Houston comes out throwing haymakers early as they try to claw their way back.
Riding two hot pitchers is a strategy that has gotten a lot of teams over the years to the Fall Classic, and it’s been doing the trick so far this year for the Rangers. Following Nathan Eovaldi’s six-inning and nine-strikeout performance, the Rangers have started him or Montgomery for six of their seven games this postseason and have yet to lose one of them.
Tonight will be just the second time on this World Series run that Texas will have a different starter on the mound, and that man will be Max Scherzer. With plenty of postseason experience under his belt, Scherzer will pitch for the first time since September 12th. In the eight starts the veteran made in a Rangers uniform, he pitched to a 3.20 ERA with 53 punchouts in 45 innings of work.
Scherzer certainly is not being eased back into things tonight against an Astros lineup that will be highly motivated to get a notch in the win column. Houston made game two much more interesting by putting runs on the board, but they failed to put up any big innings. Aside from Alex Bregman’s solo home run that he desperately needed, the Astros only got one more hit in the game from someone not named Yordan Alvarez or Michael Brantley.
Toeing the slab for Houston in game three will be Christian Javier, who already has an impressive amount of playoff experience in his young career. In 37.2 postseason innings, Javier is sporting a 1.91 ERA with 57 strikeouts. The big right-hander did not look like himself during the regular season, but he flipped his postseason switch in his first start of the playoffs against the Twins, where we worked five shutout innings with one hit and nine strikeouts.
Houston comes into game three as underdogs, and for my play, I’ll be backing their F5 moneyline priced at (+110). Much like the Rangers used a consistent postseason performer to guide them in game two, I think Houston is doing the same with Christian Javier tonight. We’ve seen with Eovaldi that how the regular season ended does not have much effect on postseason performance, and I’ll be applying that notion tonight with Javier.
At the same time, Max Scherzer is walking into a challenging situation. He might be a veteran who is used to this, but getting thrust into a pivotal game three for your first start back in a month cannot be easy. On top of that, according to statcast, the Astros have an expected batting average of .258 against the veteran right-hander, and in the last start he made against them, he allowed seven earned runs on six hits in three innings.
Scherzer was also hit around in his last postseason start, allowing seven earned runs in 4.2 innings against the Padres back with the Mets last season. None of these numbers bode well for him against an Astros lineup that is not only motivated but ended the last month of the season with the best wRC+, wOBA, and OPS in the league when on the road.
Houston Astros F5 (+110) on DraftKings