The Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros are no strangers in the MLB postseason. Over the last four postseasons, the Astros and Red Sox have met twice, with the winning team taking home World Series rings a few weeks later. Can history repeat itself? Only time will tell. But first, one team has to win this best of seven series.
The Astros and Red Sox starting pitchers are much more alike than you would think. Both sides have one starter who has been as advertised. For the Red Sox, that starter has been Nathan Eovaldi. In Game 3, Eovaldi went five innings against the Rays giving up two runs on three hits, as Austin Meadows took him deep in the first inning with a two-run shot.
After that rough first inning, Eovaldi shut the Rays down, only allowing one runner to reach second base in his remaining four innings of work. Eovaldi’s been the rock of this rotation, primarily since Chris Sale has not found his footing since returning from the IL later in the season. When the Red Sox needed an arm to face the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game, Eovaldi got the call. Should the Red Sox need a pitcher to pitch three games, it shouldn’t be a surprise if it’s Eovaldi.
Houston We Have A Problem
For Houston, Lance McCullers, Jr. has been lights out, only surrendering one run on nine hits in his two games against the Chicago White Sox. McCullers is coming off the best season of his career, and potentially one that finally puts his name into a Cy Young conversation. In 2021, no AL pitcher allower fewer home runs and hits per nine innings than Houston’s young ace. Unlucky for the Astros, manager Dusty Baker pulled him early from their 9-1 ALDS finale, and his status for the ALCS now has him out for the series.
For the rest of the starters on both teams, it’s a mess. For Boston, Chris Sale isn’t the same, Eduardo Rodriguez carries a mixed bag to the mound, and both Tanner Houck and Nick Pivetta have been solid out of the pen. Houston has similar issues, with Framber Valdez and Luis Garcia posting less than stellar starts in the ALDS, to put it mildly. Still, the Astros have options like Christian Javier and Zack Greinke, who could see action in this seven-game series.
All in all, Houston appears to have a more solid rotation heading into the ALCS. Could Boston prove that wrong? Sure, but the early odds have Boston pitching from behind.
Both the Red Sox and the Astros faced tough pitching in their first-round series. The Rays and White Sox boast Top-5 team stats in just about every category, so comparing performance at the plate between our two competitors is easy.
The Astros slashed a collective .288/.371/.432, with a team OPS of .803 against Chicago. Houston scored 30 runs on 40 hits, with only 3 of those hits being home runs. That’s an average of 10 hits and 7.5 runs per game.
The Red Sox match those numbers well, with one obvious exception. Against Tampa Bay in the ALDS, the Sox scored 26 runs on 56 hits, slashing .341/.366/.549, amassing a .915 OPS. In their four-game ALDS, the Red Sox went deep nine times, tripling the Astros total. Sure the majority of those home runs came in a blowout Game 3, but the Red Sox were able to light some fireworks late in games.
If the Red Sox can hold the Astros to a handful of home runs, they’ll punch their ticket to the World Series. But stopping Boston from going yard might be too much for Houston.
Sample size takes effect when looking at these two teams. The Astros keep their bullpen arms fresh, throwing an array of pitches without exhausting any options. The most innings thrown by any given Houston reliever were three. That’s it. Baker was able to spread the workload around, and it shows. Over 17.1 innings of work, the Astros bullpen gave up eight runs, compiling a 4.15 ERA.
The Red Sox did not have that same luxury. Multiple times in their ALDS matchup, the Red Sox leaned on their starters-turned-relievers for some serious action. Nick Pivetta’s late-inning heroics were something to tell your kids about, and the meltdown from Sale in Game 2 was mopped up with expert precision. The Red Sox bullpen posted a 3.08 ERA over 26.1 innings of work in the ALDS. So while they may not be as fresh as Houston, they’re still ready to ball out.
The NLDS between the Giants and Dodgers gave us two new school managers playing Grandmaster level Chess against the other. Gabe Kapler and Dave Roberts took America’s Pastime and made it a mental and physical battle that perfectly exploited each team’s weaknesses. It was a sight to behold.
This ALCS matchup pits New-Age Alex Cora against Old School Dusty Baker. Cora has been in these kinds of situations before and has even taken on this Astros team and won on his way to the World Series. Dusty Baker is still trying to win the season’s final game, capping off an often misunderstood career at the helm of multiple clubs.
What this series will come down to is experience. Yes, Alex Cora won a ring with the Astros in 2017 as Bench Coach and the Red Sox in 2018 as their Manager, but that’s short-term. Dusty Baker, in the other dugout, has a different kind of experience. What kind of experience? How about losing the NLCS with the Chicago Cubs in 2003, losing the 2012 NLDS with the Cincinnati Reds, losing the 2016 NLDS with the Washington Nationals, and losing the 2020 ALCS with the Houston Astros.
Dusty Baker is once again so close to winning his first career World Series ring as a manager. With a team as talented as this, and his near three decades of managerial experience, Baker might not miss this opportunity.
Both squads are evenly matched which makes for a fantastic ALCS. In all reality, this series might just come down to team chemistry. The Astros have managed to retain most of their lineup from their recent successful campaigns, whereas the Red Sox appeared to be in the midst of a rebuild. However, all we can really predict is that this series has a solid chance of going the distance, and that’s a win for all of us.
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