Rehab central: Peavy, Hudson and Boone

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In a story you can’t help but be impressed by — unless you’re a Red Sox fan — Aaron Boone played in his second minor league rehab game of the week on Wednesday, going 1-for-2 at the plate for the Corpus Christi Hooks, a Double-A affiliate of the Houston Astros.

Boone, 36, is trying to return to the majors after having heart surgery in late March because of a congenital defect in his aortic valve.

He hopes to return to the Astros sometime this season after rosters are expanded on Sept. 1.

Meanwhile in other injury news, two prominent pitchers — Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson — made rehab starts on Thursday. Both could make huge impacts on their teams’ playoff hopes if they manage to get healthy.

Peavy, acquired by the White Sox at the trade deadline, tossed three sparkling innings for the Triple-A Charlotte Knights in his first start since June 8. He struck out five and allowed one hit and one walk in three scoreless innings.

Peavy, who is recovering from a strained tendon in his ankle, pitched out of the stretch in the third inning in an attempt to get comfortable in that situation. Now it’s just a matter of building strength.

I don’t feel like I’m as strong as I’m going to be. I did three innings tonight. I’m a long way from going eight-nine innings.”

Peavy is scheduled to start for Charlotte again on Tuesday, and hopes to join the White Sox by late August or early September.

Hudson, the Braves right-hander recovering from Tommy John surgery, started slowly before putting in four solid innings for Triple-A Gwinnett. Hudson gave up two runs in the first inning as he attempted to shake off the rust. He allowed five hits and struck out three in four innings, throwing 42 of his 63 pitches for strikes.

All in all, Hudson was pleased. Via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

With Braves teammates Brian McCann and Adam LaRoche watching from the front row at Gwinnett Stadium, Hudson was hitting 92 mph on scouts’ radar guns. The stadium radar gun was low, but Hudson was told his fastball was 90-93 mph, his cut fastball 87-89 mph.

“I’m really happy with how my cutter is right now,” Hudson said. “And I’ve thrown some really good [split-finger fastballs], and that’s obviously tested my elbow really good.”

If everything continues smoothly, a return to the Braves could come after two or three more minor league starts.

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.