Boston and Houston close out a four-game series at Minute Maid Park as this Sunday’s ESPN featured MLB event. First pitch is scheduled for 7:35 p.m. ET in southern Texas. The Sox send veteran right-hander Rick Porcello (7-2, 3.65 ERA) to the hill to oppose Astros righty Charlie Morton (7-0, 2.26). ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Preview and Free Pick: Red Sox at Astros.
The Astros (-160, 7.5) Morton comes off a six inning performance that saw him surrender three runs on eight hits while walking one against and 10 strikeouts. versus the Bronx Bombers. Morton remained perfect after his no decision against the Yankees and by all measures Morton’s dominating numbers thus far this season make him the favorite to win the American League Cy Young. The increase in his velocity over the last three seasons in combination with his ability to command his pitches has made him equal to a fine wine. Both just continue to get better with age.
Morton’s single Achilles that could well prevent him from being voted the best pitcher in the AL this season is his fly ball tendencies. His nine home runs allowed this season has dramatically increased from last year’s total of 14 in 146-plus innings.
Morton still resides in Major League Baseball’s lowest home run per nine innings pitched among qualified starting junior circuit pitchers. And the talk tonight on the ESPN airwaves will be all about Morton, his perfect 7-0 record and over-the-top good 2.26 ERA and 0.90 WHIP.
Former Cy Young winner Rick Porcello continues to register wins but is doing so with smoke and mirrors. The Boston veteran allowed three runs — two earned — in 6 2/3 innings Tuesday in a win over the Toronto Blue Jays.
Porcello improved to 7-2 with a 3.65 ERA with the victory versus the Jays. The Boston right-hander is 1-1 with a 5.49 ERA across three career regular-season starts versus the Astros. He faced Houston twice in the American League Division Series last season, allowing two runs on five hits and three walks with four strikeouts over four innings in Games 1 and 4, both Red Sox losses.
Two starts ago the regression that is due Porcello started to work its inevitable course. Porcello recorded his shortest outing of the season allowing eight hits and six runs in just 3 2/3 innings in a loss to the below average Tampa Bay Rays offense.
Porcello has been less than eye-candy in three of his last five starts. The result has seen his ERA climb from 2.14 to 3.65 in that span. In his 12 starts this season he has faced but two consistent offenses with both having explosive capabilities. At Yankees Stadium in early May he allowed five runs on eight hits striking out and walking three batters. His season opener he faced a Los Angeles Angels offense. Porcello allowed six hits in six innings of work with no runs, no walks while striking out six.
All things being equal Porcello has been the benefactor of opposing lineups that all rank in the bottom half of offensive efficiency (OPS) in MLB. He has faced Tampa Bay (.729) and Toronto (.713) twice, Baltimore (.682), Oakland (.723), and Texas (.695). All of the aforementioned teams reside below the average OPS, or the bottom half of the league.
Boston is without their best player tonight, Mookie Betts (side), who was placed on the 10-day disabled list dating to May 29. IN addition second baseman Dustin Pedroia (knee) won’t be available to Boston skipper Alex Cora. Pedroia is also on the 10-day DL. As well, third baseman Rafael Devers will not start tonight against Morton and the Astros. The young corner infielder is being give a day of rest.
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ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Preview and Free Pick: Red Sox at Astros