The one thing Sox fans were worried about was their pen heading into this. They took that out of the equation against the Yankees. They won’t be able to here.
While the Yankees had the most vaunted bullpen in some time, the Red Sox rendered that close to useless by paddling the sensitive parts of the Yankees’ starters by the time Aaron Boone could arise from whatever coma he was in that night to summon a reliever.
It’s unlikely that they’ll be able to do the same consistently to the Astros’ starters, and it’s also unlikely their starters are going to keep the Houston lineup as quiet. So while Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, Ryan Brasier, and any other goofus-du-jour came out of right field to throw a smattering of lower-leverage innings in the Division series, that’s not going to be the case here.
Another boon for the Sox, and they’ll need them, is that not having a true LOOGY probably won’t cost them here. Almost all the Astro Thunder comes from the right side. But still, they were itchy about every reliever aside from Craig Kimbrell and Matt Barnes before this, and that hasn’t changed. And they can’t summon Sale every game.
Meanwhile, in orange, Ryan Pressly, Roberto Osuna Lance McCullers Jr., and Colin McHugh were unscathed in the division series, and they’ve all done this before. They couldn’t even find a place for Hector Rondon on the postseason roster.
You might see both managers wheel starters back out on throw days as well, with the Sox almost certainly keeping Sale and Price ready when they can, especially if the series goes long. Eovaldi, given he’s still fresh off surgery and his numbers with longer rest, isn’t much of candidate. Porcello, merely by being right-handed, probably is too. But Alex Cora is going to have to get awfully creative.
And there’s the small matter of Kimbrel being an utter mess the last time we saw him. The Astros won’t be as forgiving as Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres were when the chips were down.