ALDS preview of series between Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros
AL West and AL East Champions set for best-of-five ALDS.
The Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros would be a great matchup for a World Series but unfortunately these two talented teams open the best-of-five AL Division series in Houston today.
The Astros (101-61) have baseball’s most potent lineup, led by MVP candidate and AL batting champ (.346 BA) Jose Altuve.
In the other dugout, the Sox (93-69), who repeated as AL East champs, have Cy Young candidate Chris Sale (17-8, 308 K’s), closer Craig Kimbrel and an air-tight defense looking to shut down the Astros offensive arsenal.
Justin Verlander (15-8), acquired in a trade from the Tigers on Aug. 31, will open on the mound for the Astros, going against Sale in Game 1.
Here’s what to look for in this exciting matchup between the second and third-seeded teams in the ALCS.
The Astros took the regular season series with the Sox (4-3) but you can throw that out the window when it comes to the postseason.
The big question will be is the Sox pitching and defense the recipe for playoff success?
The Astros struggled against left-handed pitching this year and the Sox have two of the best in the game in Sale (5-1 lifetime vs. Houston) and Game 2 starter Drew Pomeranz (17-6). Another lefty, Eduardo Rodriguez (6-7, 4.19 ERA), is a possible Game 3 starter but has been inconsistent down the stretch and Sox manager John Farrell may have to turn to a pair of righties.
Last year’s Cy Young winner Rick Porcello (11-17, 4.65) or veteran Doug Fister (5-9, 4.88). Porcello has had an awful 2017 season and does not have a good playoff record (0-3), while Fister has delivered in the postseason (4-2).
Other questions remain on the Sox side with injuries to Dustin Pedroia and Eduardo Nunez. Also, centerfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. is in the throes of a miserable batting slump. Right-fielder Mookie Betts is coming off a season where he knocked in 102 runs and scored 101 runs. Hanley Ramierez has provided some power in the Sox lineup but they miss the big bat and leadership of David Ortiz.
For the Astros, they have what many consider baseball’s most complete roster with deep starting pitching, a powerful offense (238 homers), speed and a solid defense.
Justin Verlander and Game 2 starter Dallas Keuchel are as good a one-two punch as the Sox Sale and Pomeranz.
Beyond Verlander and Keuchel, Houston manager AJ Hinch, like the Sox Farrell, has some decisions to make after game two, going with either lefty Lance McCullers or Brad Peacock.
The Astros have a decent bullpen led by Ken Giles but it doesn’t quite compare to the Sox Kimbrel and a rejuvenated David Price.
The Astros offense has been led by the multi-talented Altuve but the lineup is a lot more than the diminutive second baseman. Carlos Correia, Alex Bregman, Yuli Gurriel, Josh Reddick, Marwin Gonzalez and George Springer pose a threat each time they enter the batters box.
Springer hit 34 homers from his leadoff spot in the lineup.
A final word
The Sox have last year’s sweep at the hands of Terry Francona’s Cleveland Indians as a bit of extra motivation going into the series with the Astros.
There will be a lot of outstanding talent on display and I expect the series to go the five games.
It will be interesting to see if the Sox can shorten each game so they can resort to their bullpen of Kimbrel and the recently rejuvenated Price.
Will Altuve, baseball’s most exciting player, add to his growing legacy and lead the Astros to the World Series?
Prediction: The Astros have baseball’s most complete roster and the home field advantage. It will be the Astros moving on in five games to face the Indians.
Follow Bob on Twitter for all the latest in the 2017 ALCS happenings, game highlights, features and more: @WhitneyBob
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