Throughout the regular season these were the two best teams in baseball, one winning the most games, the other posting the best run differential. While the Indians and Yankees were intriguing underdogs in their respective division series, the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox are the two big boys. Now the lone question remaining is: can the Red Sox overcome questions on the mound to beat the team that sent them home last year or will the Astros be the metaphorical grim reaper in back-to-back seasons for Boston.
Houston Astros vs. Boston Red Sox
Date and Time: Saturday, October 13, 2018 at 8:09 p.m. ET through Sunday, October 21, 2018, as needed.
Location: Fenway Park and Minute Maid Park
MLB Odds: Check Back Later
Astros vs. Red Sox 2018 ALCS TV Coverage: TBS
The American League was a league of super teams and super bad teams. On one end, you had the Red Sox, Astros and Yankees all winning over 100 games with the A’s also in the upper-90s. On the other end, there were the Orioles and Royals—along with several others—losing at epic rates. The AL was a league of extremes in 2018, but the Red Sox and Astros both ranked amongst the best of the best. They were the winningest teams in baseball and now they face-off head-to-head.
Both team can mash and both are ranked amongst the best on the mound, too. These are super teams for a reason, neither have many glaring weaknesses.
These two teams met seven times, head-to-head, with the Astros winning the one extra game and scoring a few extra total runs in the season series in the process. Perhaps more importantly, however, Houston is the team that knocked the Sox out of the playoffs last year, rolling through their ace and take care of business with relative ease. These are different teams with slightly different rosters, but if nothing else, Houston at least has the psychological edge having beaten Boston in October just a year ago.
In the end, this really should be a fun series. These are great teams with great players. The Sox have two of the top AL MVP candidates and the Astros boast a couple Cy Young contenders. Boston has the league’s best offense while Houston outpitched the world. It’s elite pitching versus elite hitting and in that matchup, the pitchers usually come out victorious. Of course, it’s never that easy.
The Astros rotation received a ton of early season publicity before the unit regressed a bit from the lofty numbers it was putting up in April and early May. When the dust settled on the season, the Astros’ starters didn’t produce record-breaking numbers, but the group still topped baseball in ERA at 3.16.
Houston has a top-of-the-rotation hurler one through five in the rotation though in the postseason, it’s one through four with Lance McCullers in the pen.
From Justin Verlander to Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton, the Astros have a chance to win every game. All four of these starters have at least a dozen wins and Keuchel’s 3.74 is the highest of the group. Morton would be next at 3.13.
All four Houston starters have positive numbers in the postseason, but none as positive as Verlander. The 35-year old has 23 postseason appearances with a 12-6 record and 3.08 ERA. He allowed two runs in 5.1 innings against Cleveland in the ALDS. He was the 2017 ALCS MVP.
The postseason resumes definitely favor the Astros. Chris Sale is Boston’s ace and will battle with Verlander in Game 1.
Sale’s a perennial Cy Young contender and will be in the mix again this year though injuries may cost him. He’s 12-4 with a 2.11 ERA in 158 innings. Aside from quantity, his numbers are better than Verlander’s in 2018, but his postseason career isn’t the same. He did well against the Yankees in the ALDS—albeit in limited innings—but he was hammered by the Astros in last year’s ALDS to the tune of nine runs and 13 hits, including four homers.
Beyond Sale, David Price starts Game 2 and has his own postseason demons. He’s hoping to do better than he did against the Yankees. He’s struggled against them through his career so seeing an opponent without the pinstripes should help, but it’s not just the Yankees that’ve gotten to him in October. It’s been a well-documented issue for the southpaw.
Rick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi round out the Boston rotation. Those two are solid back-of-the-rotation options, but don’t quite add up to what Houston can rot out there.
The numbers are the numbers and Houston’s pitching numbers are better than Boston’s.
Going hand-in-hand with the rotation is the bullpen, making up the entire pitching staff. While having good starters is nice, if they don’t pitch nine innings, it still comes down to the pen to close the door.
Boston has a good closer to do just that, but the bridge from the starters to him leave a bit to be desired. Of the five AL playoff teams, only the Indians had a worse bullpen ERA on the year than Boston. Craig Kimbrel is nails—save for is hiccup in the ALDS—but that’s not nearly enough.
We saw the lack of trust in the pen against the Yankees where Alex Cora twice went to starters to pitch in relief, using both Sale and Porcello in that capacity. The Sox have a few good arms, but Kimbrel is out on a bit of an island in terms of dependable late-inning options. That’s something the Astros can sympathize with as they overcame those issues last year, but didn’t even have the closer. This year, they have the closer and the set-up options with plenty to spare.
Houston’s bullpen pitched to a 3.03 ERA in the regular season, best in baseball, and continued the success into October, allowing only a single run in the ALDS.
Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly and Hector Rondon are all new names added since last year while one-time starters Collin McHugh, Brad Peacock and Lance McCullers Jr. earned their stripes in the postseason last year. McHugh and Peacock have done a fantastic job in that role all year while McCullers was the rotational odd man out. His stuff plays huge in relief.
It’s hard to put either of these teams too far ahead of the other offensively when comparing lineups. Both the Red Sox and Astros are stacked with talent and both have some of the best players in the game.
Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez are each having phenomenal seasons, both deserving of MVP honors while the Astros’ Alex Bregman would be in the conversation if not for Betts and Martinez.
Of course, Jose Altuve won the award in the AL last year while Carlos Correa and George Springer, when fully healthy, are both All-Star caliber players. With the emergence of Tyler White and Tony Kemp, the Astros—arguably—have a bit more depth than the Sox top to bottom in the order, but Boston has its own phenomenal role players from the tandem of Steve Pearce and Mitch Moreland at first to the Brock Holts of the world, quietly getting the job done, no matter what that job may be.
Statistically, the Sox get the slight edge at the plate. After all they outscored the rest of baseball in the regular season and lead the all eight teams who played in a division series with 27 runs. Granted, playing the extra game helped.
Houston also had a phenomenal ALDS at the plate. They showed their power with eight homers in three games. This isn’t a team that’s homer or bust, but they aren’t short on power either.
Houston didn’t score as many regular season runs as the Sox, but this is still a very potent offense. They have postseason experience, going all the way last year and they have gotten all healthy at just the right time to make some noise here in October.
Astros vs. Red Sox Picks
Both of these teams can rake and both can do multiple things on offense to score runs, hitting the ball out of the yard or manufacturing runs. The offenses are amazing, but as we’ve seen time and time again, good pitching beats good hitting in the playoffs. The Astros have the better pitching.
Look for Houston’s arms to lead the way with Verlander, Cole and company in the rotation offering more innings game-to-game, putting less pressure on a bullpen that is already deeper and better than the one the Red Sox have to offer.
Kimbrel already cracked against the Yankees which is a bad sign. He’s the dependable option. The pen leading up to him was supposed to be the issue, but if Kimbrel isn’t reliable either, that leaves Alex Cora to try and do what A.J. Hinch was able to last year and massage his pitching staff through games, using starters in relief and mixing and matching any way he can to get through it one game at a time. Houston made it work last year, but that’s really hard to accomplish, particularly against a team that can hit nearly as well as you and has far more elite options in the pen.
In the end, the pitching wins this series for the Astros. The Red Sox will score some runs, but the Astros will be right there matching them while Boston is unable to get the big, late-game, shutdown inning that Houston will use to advance to the Fall Classic.
Astros vs. Red Sox ALCS Pick: Astros at BookMaker.eu
Astros vs. Red Sox ALCS Prediction: Astros in 6