Boston Red Sox ALCS: Bring on Astroworld

BOSTON, MA - September 9: Brian Johnson #61 of the Boston Red Sox looks on as Tyler White #13 high fives Carlos Correa #1 of the Houston Astros as he returns to the dugout after scoring to tie the game in the sixth inning at Fenway Park on September 9, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - September 9: Brian Johnson #61 of the Boston Red Sox looks on as Tyler White #13 high fives Carlos Correa #1 of the Houston Astros as he returns to the dugout after scoring to tie the game in the sixth inning at Fenway Park on September 9, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

After finishing off the New York Yankees in four games, the Boston Red Sox must now get ready for a rematch against the Houston Astros in the ALCS.

Boston Red Sox fans can finally take a deep breath after a nerve-racking ninth inning in Game 4 of the American League Division Series against the New York Yankees. At least for now.

After a quick 4-0 start, the usually reliant Craig Kimbrel struggled mightily in the final frame, almost surrendering the winning run on one swing of the bat.

Thankfully, with the help of Giancarlo Stanton once again striking out in a big situation, the Sox held on, and now find themselves in the ALCS with the Houston Astros.

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A few weeks ago, I made the argument that Houston will be Boston’s toughest opponent if they were to meet in the postseason. As it stands now, that’s still very much the case.

The Astros went up against a pretty formidable opponent in the Cleveland Indians for the ALDS, and absolutely demolished them in a sweep. In fact, the relentless offensive attack featuring Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and George Springer put up 11 in the final contest, and did it against Trevor Bauer (who’s considered to be one of Cleveland’s best starters).

Luckily, the Sox boast their own group of top-notch hitters, and according to ESPN, they’ve consistently been the best offense in the MLB since the start of the regular season.

The stats show that even in the playoffs Boston has the best starting lineup (although that 16-1 game probably helped that a lot). Regardless, Houston finds themselves in the top ten of most offensive categories as well, including runs per game.

With two really great offenses detailing JD Martinez, Mookie Betts, Altuve, and Bregman, it’s the pitching that will most likely decide this series.

The starting rotation

As of right now, the Boston Red Sox pitching staff has a combined ERA of 3.50 compared to Houston’s 2.00. Justin Verlander looked on point in his one game pitched against Cleveland, where he had seven strikeouts in five innings.

Altogether, Verlander is 12-6 with a 3.08 ERA in his playoff career, while winning one title. Out of anyone on both teams, he’d be the one to trust in high stakes situations. Most likely, he’s getting the ball in Game 1.

On the flip side of things, Chris Sale has also looked surprisingly great in his two appearances so far as well (considering he’s been injured most of the second half of the season). His stellar performance in Game 1 set the tone for the rest of the series, and even lead to Alex Cora utilizing him in the eighth inning of Game 4.

The lefty’s motion looks a lot cleaner since the manager said he noticed a difference in it. His one start against the Astros saw Sale give up four runs in six innings. Hopefully he can mitigate the damage early and hope his offense can get on the board quickly.

As for the rest of the series, Cora may want to get more creative with his game plan, especially since Houston has a much deeper rotation with Gerrit Cole and Dallas Keuchel behind Verlander.

Comparatively, David Price has not been an ideal second option for the manager, especially after his horrid start against the Yankees in Game 2. Cole on the other hand looked like legitimate Cy Young winner in his start, pitching seven innings while acquiring 12 strikeouts. His confidence in that Game 2 was uncanny, as he took the life out of the Indians’ hitters.

Rick Porcello may be the better second start in the ALCS, especially considering the fact that he finally stepped up in a huge game at Yankee Stadium to close out the series. Going up against Cole will be no easy task though.

After that, it’s really hard to tell what will happen with Boston. Nathan Eovaldi proved himself to be a viable option in the ALDS, but that’s only because he’s got a good history against the Yankees. When it comes to Houston, the bar is raised just a little bit more. It will be interesting toes if Cora utilized more bullpen surprises like he did with Sale in Game 4.

The bullpen

I’ve already talked about the Sox bullpen to death, but I still feel the same about them too.

Despite winning the series in four, two of those wins felt a tad underwhelming. The bridge between Sale and Kimbrel almost coughed up the contest in Game 1, and then Kimbrel himself almost gave all of us a heart attack in Game 4. Somehow, they escaped both of those scenarios, but that was mainly because of New York’s inability to capitalize (specifically Stanton).

The Astros bullpen has not experienced the same high stakes situations that Boston’s has, which means I can’t really get a gauge on them overall in this postseason. However, they definitely showed a lot more consistency throughout the regular season, and also picked up Roberto Osuna as their closer (though the move is controversial due to his domestic violence accusations).

Overall, Boston needs to get on top early and often to help alleviate the stress on the young bullpen, much like what J.D. Martinez did in Game 1 in New York when he smashed a three-run home run over the Green Monster. Only then will the Sox have a chance, which is funny to say for a team that finished with 108 wins.

Alex Cora ‘all in’ and so is Red Sox Nation. dark. Next

Game 1 on Saturday will probably show us how this series will actually go. It’s hard to see where everyone’s at after only a few ALDS games. Astro fans should be pleased with their team’s output so far, as none of them have suffered from a world series hangover seemingly. As for Boston Red Sox fans, buckle up, because Astroworld is coming, and Fenway is their first destination.