The inevitability of the Astros in the playoffs has reached monumental levels. It’s not easy to fall behind 2-0 in a series and then head on the road to score 18 runs in two games to even that series, yet it’s another example of the Astros' level of play this time of year. Headed into game five, both teams will now resort back to their ace, and I’ll go over why I think that has a major effect on the scoring early.
Justin Verlander has not been outshined often in his career, but he was in game one of this series by Jordan Montgomery. Following his 6.1 shutout inning performance, the big lefty will be back on the mound opposite Verlander tonight. In his 24 postseason innings, Montgomery is now pitching to a 1.88 ERA, and so far on this playoff run, he is boasting a 2.85 FIP.
Maybe the most important tidbit from Montgomery’s game-one gem is that he was the first pitcher this postseason to keep Yordan Alvarez out of the hit column. Houston’s offensive success has relied heavily on Alvarez, so by keeping him without a hit, Montgomery kept the Astros without a run.
Since game one, Alvarez has gone 6-11 at the dish with seven RBIs, and the combination of him and Jose Altuve has helped this Astros team even the series. Between games three and four, Altuve is 5-9 and has scored five of the team’s 18 runs in those games. However, after going 0-3 in game one, Altuve is now a career .188 hitter off Montgomery with an xwOBA on statcast of .204.
Despite taking the loss in game one, Justin Verlander allowed just four hard-hit balls on 101 pitches. Evan Carter and Leody Tavares picked up the lone extra-base hits for Texas in that game, with Tavares driving out the solo shot that made the game 2-0. With all the momentum back on the Astros' side, Texas will need to be consistent at the plate for nine innings, unlike last night, where they found success off the Astros' starter and then failed to produce any runs after the third inning off the Houston bullpen.
The total for the first five innings is set at 4.5, and I’ll be taking the under at (-115) for my play. Jordan Montgomery has shown no moment has been too big for him this postseason, and after racking up ten swings and misses in game one, he gets to be back on his home mound tonight. I think Montgomery’s ability to attack Alvarez and the fact that he allowed just one hard-hit flyball in game one bodes well for repeat success tonight.
At the same time, the fact that Verlander held the Rangers to just four hard-hit balls in game one gives me confidence he can keep them off balance again tonight. The veteran has also been phenomenal on the road since getting traded back to the Astros, as he’s pitched to a 1.95 ERA with just two home runs allowed in 37 road innings for the team.
Every game in this series except game one has seen at least one starter struggle mightily, and after poor starts from both teams yesterday, I think Verlander and Montgomery can restore order tonight. With the teams using a combined nine relievers yesterday, both starters know they need to lend some length to their team, which should give us a game similar to game one.
F5 Under 4.5 (-115)