No one is giving Paul Goldschmidt anything to hit

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Amid the Diamondbacks’ horrible season first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is having another excellent year, batting .300 with 15 homers and a league-leading 28 doubles for a .921 OPS that nearly matches last year’s career-high of .952.

However, because the rest of the Diamondbacks’ lineup is so bad and their cleanup hitters in particular (mostly Miguel Montero and Martin Prado) have managed a measly .394 slugging percentage Goldschmidt is being pitched around more and more often.

Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic dug into the numbers after manager Kirk Gibson was pretty vocal suggesting Goldschmidt is seeing fewer crush-able pitches and sure enough pitchers have tossed him something in the strike zone just 32 percent of the time in the past two weeks, compared to 40 percent of the time previously.

Whenever a slugger gets pitched around much is made of the batter directly behind him in the lineup offering “protection.” And that can be true, but it’s generally less of a factor than conventional wisdom would suggest and perhaps the easiest way to ensure Goldschmidt will get more pitches to hit is to get more runners on base for his plate appearances. And so far this season Diamondbacks leadoff and No. 2 hitters have combined for a .314 on-base percentage.

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk‘s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $30,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Wednesday night’s MLB games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $5,000. Starts at 7:05pm ET on WednesdayHere’s the FanDuel link.

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.