Albert Pujols starting at first base tonight for the first time since August 22

1 Comment

After serving as the designated hitter for the past 16 games, Albert Pujols is back at first base for tonight’s game against the Royals. Pujols hasn’t started at first base since he injured his right calf while running the bases on August 22, but he’s feeling much better now.

While the Angels have played things safe with their $240 million investment over the past three weeks, the calf hasn’t had a huge impact on Pujols’ production. The 32-year-old is hitting .303/.343/.515 with two homers, eight doubles, 10 RBI and an .858 OPS in 70 plate appearances since returning to the lineup on August 26. He is batting .286/.344/.531 with 30 homers, 96 RBI and an .875 OPS on the year.

With Pujols back at first base tonight, the struggling Mark Trumbo will slide into the DH spot while Vernon Wells will start in left field. The Angels open play tonight at 78-66 on the year, 7 1/2 games behind the Rangers in the American League West and 3 1/2 games back in the Wild Card race.

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

Getty Images
6 Comments

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.