The Boston Red Sox are loaded with left-handed pitching, and if regular-season numbers mean anything in the postseason, that could cause problems for the Houston Astros in the American League Division Series.
Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz are clearly the Red Sox best starting pitchers, and both are left-handers. Eduardo Rodriguez has a chance to be manager John Farrell's No. 3 starter, and he is also a lefty. Farrell's other choices for the team's third starter include 2016 Cy Young winner Rick Porcello and veteran Doug Fister.
The Astros finished the season with the second-best record in the American League at 101-61, but they had problems winning games when southpaws took the mound against them. The Astros were 21-23 against left-handed pitchers.
However, the won-loss record does not tell the whole story in the matchup. While the Astros struggled when it came to winning games against lefties, they hit the ball quite well against them. Houston hit .278 with a .348 on-base percentage and .466 slugging percentage against when facing southpaws.
The series will get underway Thursday in Houston. Here's the full schedule for the best-of-5 series:
Game 1: Thursday, Oct. 5, at Houston, 4:08 p.m. ET, FS1/MLB
Game 2: Friday, Oct. 6, at Houston, 2:05 p.m. ET, FS1/MLB
Game 3: Sunday, Oct. 8, at Boston, TBA, FS1/MLB
Game 4: Monday, Oct. 9, at Boston, TBA, FS1/MLB*
Game 5: Wednesday, Oct. 11, at Houston, TBA, FS1/MLB*
Farrell and his staff have been debating about whether left-handers have the edge on the American League West champions.
"That's been part of the conversation," Farrell said, per Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. "But we haven't settled on that. How we build out the bullpen [could play a factor]. There's a number of different scenarios that have valid points for each. But we're not there to announce that quite yet."
Farrell and his staff may come to the conclusion that Houston's regular-season record against lefties is more a matter of circumstance than any weakness. Jose Altuve hit .353 against lefties, while George Springer hit nine home runs against them. Carlos Correa followed suit with an eye-opening .391 average in that category.
MLB.com's Daren Willman tweeted about Springer:
Veterans Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann have had some struggles against lefties, but that may not matter much if Altuve, Springer and Correa are dominating throughout the series.
The Astros have been an offensive powerhouse throughout the season. They have hit .282 as a team with 238 home runs and 896 runs scored.
The Red Sox hit .258 with 168 home runs and 785 runs scored, ranking eighth, last and sixth, respectively, among the 15 AL teams.
Mookie Betts led the team with 24 home runs and 102 RBI, but his batting average was somewhat disappointing at .264. He seemed to find his stroke in the last few weeks of the season, but he was not as consistent as he was in 2016, when he finished second in MVP voting to Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels.
Hanley Ramirez (23 homers), Mitch Moreland (22) and Andrew Benintendi (20) are Boston's other leading sluggers, while Eduardo Nunez, Dustin Pedroia and Christian Vasquez also have the ability to come up with key hits. Nunez and Pedroia have been battling knee injuries.
Boston's other key left-handed pitcher is David Price, who has been working out of the bullpen since returning from his second arm injury of the year in September. Price has been razor-sharp in his return and could work two or three innings at a time.
He was on the mound in a crucial situation in Saturday's victory over the Astros that allowed the Red Sox to clinch the American League East over the New York Yankees.
Price could turn out to be the pitcher Farrell calls on in the most critical inning against Houston's top hitters.