Rafael Devers is ready for the Astros to bring the heat

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HOUSTON - Tim Hyers has seen a lot. But this was something different.

"I've never been part of something like that," the Red Sox hitting coach told WEEI.com during Thursday's workout at Minute Maid Park.

The moment took place on the exact field Hyers' club finds itself for the American League Championship Series, taking on the same team, the Astros, that stand in between the Red Sox and the World Series.

For four games against Houston, Rafael Devers saw 62 pitches. All but one of them were fastballs. The result? Seven strikeouts in 15 plate appearances.

"Yeah, I never missed fastballs like that," Devers said with a smile. "We don’t know what will happen. I don’t know. But I will be ready for fastballs. I make my adjustments every time they do that."

And make no mistake about it, Devers has made those adjustments. Take, for instance, his home run in Game 4 of the American League Division Series. That came off a 98 mph heater from Tampa Bay lefty Shane McClanahan.

After finishing May with a .167 batting average against fastballs, Devers immediately came out of that Astros series and showed big league baseball what was what. June (.369), July (.309) and September (.316) all saw great success against fastballs.

But it was hard not to walk into Minute Maid and not think about what transpired four months ago.

"I have definitely seen teams go to a one-pitch approach against a certain hitter before, but that was a little extreme," said Red Sox reliever Adam Ottavino. "Everybody knows how good Raffy, so to think throwing him that many fastballs seems a little crazy but I’m sure they had their reasons. At the time it did work for three-quarters of the series. It was unique. Definitely unique. I have seen some teams do stuff like that and it gets in a hitter’s head. It’s like, how many can they throw? It’s kind of weird."

"I just think it was a timing issue," added Hyers. "He synced up his lower half a little better after that. That’s series to series where you learn how teams attack you and you have to make the adjustment. That one is pretty dramatic. But from time to time, hitters will be exposed and they will have to clean it up.

"It tells you how pitching is these days. It is designing and game-planning. It’s different. They are not afraid to go back to one weakness for a long period of time. Obviously, they have good arms, too. It’s a really good pitching staff."

The good news for the Red Sox is that there are other memories regarding Devers and the Astros in October that aren't quite as uncomfortable.

In eight games against Houston during postseason play since 2017, Devers has gone 9-for-24 (.375) with three walks and three homers for a 1.198 OPS. It started with the rookie finally supplanting Deven Marrero in that ALDS four years ago, and was most recently punctuated by a Game 5 homer in the 2018 ALCS at Minute Maid Park.

Judging by what we have seen so far, the Astros might be throwing their fastballs to an entirely different version of Devers for the next few days.

"You try and gauge aptitude and fearlessness, but we have nothing to compare to this," said Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero, thinking back to a younger third baseman. "There was something about Raffy that he always wanted to be great. He always found a way to compete. So once the development cycle was sort of nearing getting him to the big leagues I don’t think there was any doubts he would do what was necessary to excel at the highest levels.

"I can’t say (the postseason success) was surprising or expected because it’s so difficult to do. But he does keep his tempo the same, not letting things speed up while keeping the ability to slow things down, which is key in these situations. I think the record speaks for itself."

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