Left-on-left move backfires on Hinch, Astros

Southpaw Liriano allows game-changing homer to lefty-swinging Devers

Left-on-left move backfires on Hinch, Astros

BOSTON -- The Astros were forced to go to their bullpen in the third inning of Sunday's Game 3 of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan when right-hander Brad Peacock lasted just 2 2/3 innings. Astros manager A.J. Hinch gave the ball to Francisco Liriano, and the game quickly turned.

The left-handed Liriano gave up a two-run homer to Boston third baseman Rafael Devers, a left-handed hitter, that allowed the Red Sox to take the lead and eventually pull away for a 10-3 win at Fenway Park. The Astros still lead the best-of-five series, 2-1, heading into Game 4 on Monday in Boston.

Game Date Results Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 5 HOU 8, BOS 2 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 6 HOU 8, BOS 2 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 8 BOS 10, HOU 3 Watch
Gm 4 Oct. 9 HOU 5, BOS 4 Watch

Hinch said he liked the matchup, though Devers had a .400 batting average, a .474 on-base percentage and .600 slugging percentage in 57 plate appearances against lefties in the regular season.

"That pocket down there at the bottom [of the order], we felt pretty good about Liriano, the way his power should work against the bottom of the order," Hinch said. "He hung a slider. It just didn't work. But in these games, with the small margin, Brad having to fight through the second inning obviously led to some trouble in the third as well."

Liriano, acquired from the Blue Jays at the non-waiver Trade Deadline and converted to a reliever, hadn't allowed a hit or a run in seven consecutive outings, including an appearance in Game 1 in which he got lefty Mitch Moreland to ground out to second, stranding a pair.

"I was trying to execute pitches and I hung a slider right down the middle and he got a pretty good swing on it," Liriano said. "I didn't execute pitches right there."

And in case you think Devers' success against lefties is a fluke of small sample size, note that according to expected wOBA (xwOBA) -- a Statcast-generated metric that accounts for quality of contact -- Devers' .337 mark against lefties was the 14th highest of 85 left-handed batters against left-handed pitchers this year (minimum 50 plate appearances). And, of course, Devers showed he can hit qualify left-handed pitching when he walloped a 102.8-mph fastball from Aroldis Chapman over the center-field wall at Yankee Stadium for a game-tying home run against the Yankees on Aug.13.

"He got a good pitch to hit and he delivered," Hinch said. "I think it's tough to do. It's a young kid in a big moment that gets a hanging breaking ball and hits the ball out of the ballpark. He didn't have a ton of home runs. I think he only had a couple against left-handed pitching this year, but he won the big moment.

Statcast: Devers' go-ahead homer

"I think that maturity that you're probably going to see over the next few years for him is a lot of what you've seen out of our young guys. But he had a big part in today's game."

Liriano faced three hitters -- all lefties. After the Devers homer, switch-hitter Sandy Leon singled and Liriano got Jackie Bradley Jr. to line out to first base.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.