HOUSTON -- Tuesday afternoon, the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros resume the American League Championship Series with Game 3 at Minute Maid Park. The two clubs split Games 1 and 2 at Fenway Park over the weekend. The ALCS is now effectively a best-of-five series with the Astros holding home-field advantage. Here's how you can watch Game 3.

At some point Tuesday ace left-hander Chris Sale will rejoin the Red Sox following an overnight stay at Massachusetts General Hospital with a stomach ailment. The team says the ailment was not a factor in Sale's underwhelming Game 1 performance. Sale was released from the hospital Monday and is traveling to Houston on Tuesday.

"When he gets here (he'll go) to the trainer's room, and we'll see how he feels," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora prior to Game 3. "If you guys see him throwing during the game, don't panic. He's throwing a bullpen, if he has to throw a bullpen today. Like I said yesterday, this is more about the individual than the Red Sox. And however he feels, we go from there. If he can't throw a bullpen today, he won't throw it. We have to take care of him first."

Without actually coming out and saying it, Cora indicated Sale may not be ready to start Game 5 on Thursday. His availability will depend on how Tuesday's bullpen session goes (if Sale throws it) and how he feels the next few days. If he's not feeling strong enough, the Red Sox could push him back to a potential Game 6 on Saturday, or limit him to a short relief appearance at some point.

If Sale is unable to go in Game 5 -- I think he's likely to start Game 5, but the Red Sox have to be prepared for the possibility he is not -- the Red Sox have three obvious pitching options for that game. Here are those three options in no particular order.

1. Price on short rest

David Price threw 4 2/3 innings and 80 pitches in ALCS Game 2 on Saturday and would be lined up to start Game 5 on three days rest. Only once in his career has Price started a game on three days rest, and that came way back in 2008, during his rookie year. Also, he started that game on short rest following a relief appearance, not following an actual start. The details:


IPHRERBBKHR

Sept. 18, 2008 vs. Twins

2/3

1

0

0

0

2

0

Sept. 22, 2008 at Orioles

5 1/3

4

2

1

3

3

0

For all intents and purposes, Price has never started a game on short rest in his career. It would be a new experience for him. That doesn't mean he shouldn't do it or couldn't succeed when doing it, it just means he's never done it before. It's all hands on deck in the postseason, remember. If Sale can't go, Price may be asked to pick up the slack and start Game 5 on short rest.

"I'll be ready for Tuesday," said Price following Game 2 on Saturday, referred to his potential availability as a reliever in Game 3. If nothing else, Price is ready to do whatever the club asks.

2. Rodriguez as a spot starter

Southpaw Eduardo Rodriguez moved from the regular season rotation into the postseason bullpen this month, and, so far, he's made two relief appearances and thrown 2 2/3 innings in October. He has not yet pitched in the ALCS and he hasn't pitched at all since last Monday. His two relief postseason relief appearances:


IPHRERBBKHR

Oct. 6 (ALDS Game 2 vs. Yankees)

1 2/3

2

3

3

1

1

1

Oct. 8 (ALDS Game 3 vs. Yankees)

1

0

0

0

1

1

0

The Red Sox had Rodriguez make four relief appearances at the end of the regular season to prepare him for his postseason role, so he hasn't made an actual start in nearly four weeks now. He hasn't thrown 100 pitches since September 20 or completed five innings since September 13.

Asking Rodriguez to move back into the rotation and give a quality start -- even five good innings would feel like a great outcome at this point -- seems like a big ask, but it is possible, and it might be Boston's best option should Sale be unable to start Game 5. Rodriguez certainly has starter's stuff, and the Astros haven't seen him yet in the ALCS, so they'd be going in blind to some degree. That is generally advantage pitcher.

3. Bullpen game

The new fad sweeping across baseball. The Milwaukee Brewers have bullpenned their way to a 2-1 series lead in the NLCS and the Oakland Athletics tried to bullpen their way through the AL Wild Card Game. Moreso than ever before, teams are relying on their bullpen to get outs in October. Relievers have thrown 181 1/3 of 377 2/3 total innings this postseason, or 48 percent.

A true bullpen game in Game 5 could include Price and Rodriguez and even Sale. Rather than ask one of them to turn in a full start, the Red Sox could use those guys for one or two (or three?) inning bursts before turning the game over their actual relievers, specifically guys like Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier. Bullpen games can be extremely effective. Boston hasn't done one at any point this year -- well, they did some bullpen games late in September with expanded rosters, which had more to do with getting the starters rest than trying to win the game -- but that doesn't mean it would be off the table in Game 5.


Even with Sale seemingly compromised before the stomach ailment -- his velocity was down and his command was not good in ALCS Game 1 -- he remains the best option for Game 5. A healthy Sale can dominant any lineup, even one as deep and as powerful as the Astros. If he's unable to go, however, the Red Sox will have to adjust their pitching plans on the fly, and it could lead to them using Price on short rest, starting Rodriguez for the first time in a month, or going with a true bullpen game.

"In the playoffs you try to win today," said Cora, "and then plan for tomorrow."