ALDS Game 1 preview: Boston Red Sox vs Houston Astros
After closing out 2017 with a four game series at Fenway, these two teams will square off once again in the ALDS.
These two division winners will build on their final regular season series against one another in Houston as the ALDS gets under way. Boston finished the season 93-69, just barely taking first place in the AL East over the New York Yankees. Meanwhile, Houston took the AL West handily, finishing 21 games above the second-place Los Angeles Angels with a 101-61 record. They were one of three teams to surpass the 100 win mark in 2017.
Houston took the season series four games to three. In those seven games, the Astros scored 35 runs while allowing 22, which was good for a near two-run difference per game. They also took the final regular season series from Boston at Fenway winning three out of four games.
Game 1 Starters – Chris Sale (LHP) vs Justin Verlander (RHP)
As the second-best pitcher in the American League this year, it’s only natural Sale gets the nod for Boston in Game 1. The lefty finished the season with a 2.90 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in 214.1 innings pitched. He also racked up an MLB leading 308 strikeouts over the course of the year which gave him a career-best 12.9 K/9. Sale did, however, show wear and tear toward the end of the year, posting a 3.72 ERA in September and 4.38 ERA in August. This will be his first appearance against Houston all year.
Verlander has been lights-out for the Astros since coming over in a trade from Detroit at the end of August. In five September starts for Houston, the right-hander posted a 1.06 ERA in 34 innings pitched, striking out 43 and walking five. He finished 2017 with a 3.36 ERA and 1.17 WHIP along with a 9.57 K/9, the third highest rate of his career. Verlander has made two starts against Boston this year, allowing three earned runs in 12 innings, striking out seven and walking six.
|Red Sox Lineup||Home Runs
|Xander Bogaerts, SS||10||.273||.343|
|Dustin Pedroia, 2B||7||.293||.369|
|Andrew Benintendi, LF||20||.271||.352|
|Mookie Betts, RF||24||.264||.344|
|Mitch Moreland, 1B||22||.246||.326|
|Hanley Ramirez, DH||23||.242||.320|
|Rafael Devers, 3B||10||.284||.338|
|Sandy Leon, C||7||.235||.322|
|Jackie Bradley Jr., CF||17||.245||.323|
|Astros Lineup||Home Runs
|George Springer, CF||34||.283||.367|
|Alex Bregman, 3B||19||.284||.352|
|Jose Altuve, 2B||24||.346||.410|
|Carlos Correa, SS||24||.315||.391|
|Evan Gattis, DH||12||.263||.311|
|Marwin Gonzalez, LF||23||.303||.377|
|Yuri Gurriel, 1B||18||.299||.332|
|Cameron Maybin, CF||4||.186||.226|
|Brian McCann, C||18||.241||.323|
Who’s Hot, and Who’s Not
The Red Sox lineup has been struggling from top to bottom as of late, which makes Mookie Betts’ September performance stand out all the more. The right fielder was the owner of a .944 OPS in 24 games during that span, with seven doubles, two triples, and six home runs. His 24 RBI on the month were nearly far and away the most among any of Boston’s hitters.
Sandy Leon had an abysmal close to the year, batting .167 with a .525 OPS in his final 12 games. During this span he had more than twice as many strikeouts as he had hits, with 16 and seven, respectively. Andrew Benintendi stumbled across the finish line as well, putting up a .238 average in September gathering as many strikeouts as he had hits with 25 apiece.
Marwin Gonzalez closed out the season with a 1.002 September OPS. During that span, he had nearly as many doubles as strikeouts with 11 and 14, respectively. Alex Bregman went 4 for 15 with two home runs and five RBIs in his final four games of the year. Carlos Correa finished out the season with 17 hits in his last 31 at-bats, including three home runs and five doubles, and 13 RBIs.
Evan Gattis gathered just one hit, a single, and zero walks in his final 13 plate appearances of the season. He hit .283 in September and put up a mere .383 slugging percentage. Cameron Maybin batted .186 in his final 21 games of the year, accruing more strikeouts (16) than hits (11) over 59 at-bats.
Prediction: Astros 4 – 2 Red Sox
While just about any team is at a disadvantage when facing off against Chris Sale, there are a few reasons I have to give this one to Houston. First off, this will be Sale’s first-ever postseason appearance in his career. We all saw him wear down toward the end of the season, so it’s not clear whether he will return to his ace status in October. Meanwhile, Verlander has pitched nearly 100 post-season innings, putting up a 3.38 ERA in playoff games since 2006. Finally, the Astros are rolling after having taken three out of four games against Boston at Fenway to close out the season, so they’ll be carrying that momentum with them coming into Thursday.
Where to Watch
Today’s game will start at 4:00 p.m. EST and will be broadcast on MLB Network.