Boston Red Sox vs Houston Astros
The ALCS is set. One team that has become a cornerstone of the event and a team that has come out of nowhere to shock the baseball world. The Red Sox will head to Houston for game one, for the third time in this postseason they will be the underdog. Boston is coming off a forgettable 2020 season, finishing 24-36, dead last in the AL East. The organization had to start the season without their ace Chris Sale and dealt with injuries to the pitching staff all season.They will face off with the Astros, making their fifth straight appearance in the ALCS
Both teams have explosive offenses, ranking 2nd (Houston) and 3rd (Boston) in slugging percentage and OPS. The Astros are 1st in the league in OBP, Red Sox are 4th. Both teams relied on their offense to carry them in their division series matchups.
Houston has the deepest lineup in the league. Kyle Tucker could arguably have been the best player in baseball in the second half of the season. He carried his hot streak into the NLDS, hitting two dingers and driving in seven runs. Tucker could be in the middle of any lineup in the league but he sits in the seven spot in the Houston lineup behind a litany of all-stars and this year’s American League batting champion Yuli Gurriel. Martin Maldonado would be the only spot in the order where you could conceivably have a “break” but manager Dusty Baker will not hesitate to pinch hit for him when necessary. This lineup is stacked.
The Red Sox have an offense that can match the Astros for depth. Featuring multiple power hitters up and down the lineup, they will need another solid performance from the top of the lineup to give the red hot Rafael Devers a chance to drive in runs. Enrique Hernandez and Kyle Schwarber have to continue to set the tone the way they have so far during the playoffs. JD Martinez looks like he is healthy enough to make an impact giving the Red Sox the full allotment of their talent.
Pitching has been a question for Boston most of the season. Can their staff match up with the vaunted Houston offense. Chris Sale is coming off a forgettable start against the Rays in game 2. Eduardo Rodriguez has been inconsistent to say the least. The Sox have been forced to rely on the resurgent Nathan Eovaldi and their bullpen to get them to this point. The secret weapon of the Boston staff is Tanner Houck. Houck pitched in three games during the NLDS, surrendering just three hits in his seven inning pitched. Houck along with newly appointed closer Garrett Whitlock give Boston two pieces that they will be able to go to at any time. The Red Sox were able to make it work in a smaller series but they may be stretched thin in a full seven game series.
The Astros were able to get two starts out of Lance McCullers in the division series. They will need his stability in this series against the power bats of the Red Sox. After McCullers, the Astros will have Framber Valdez who has the ability to handle the right-handed power bats of the Red Sox. The Astros still don’t know what they are going to get out of Zack Greinke, but they have their own weapon that could be used in the bullpen or as a starter in Cristian Javier. Javier could play a big role due to his ability to be versatile. Unlike the Red Sox the Astros know exactly what they want to do in their bullpen. If their starters can get them to the fifth or sixth, you line up Ryne Stanek, Kendall Graverman and Ryan Pressly to seal the deal.
The similarities between these two teams is pretty remarkable. They are offensive juggernauts that are still trying to piece together what they want to do with their pitching. The Sox are led by former Astros coach Alex Cora who has brought in a lot of the same concepts on the offensive side of the ball (not sign stealing). The Red Sox have the power to compete with the Astros, ultimately it will come down to the pitching depth Houston brings to the table and their home field advantage. The Red Sox are a great story, but Chris Sale doesn’t seem right and after Nathan Eovaldi Boston has too many questions in their rotation. Boston has enough to win a few games but the Astros are just better defensively and on the mound. Houston will get a scare by losing game one, but the Astros will regroup and take the series at home.
Pick: Astros in 5