If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.
That's where the Boston Red Sox are now.
Although the Red Sox had won 108 games in the regular season, they had doubts about their match in the American League Division Series against rivals New York Yankees.
Boston temporarily silenced his doubters by pushing the Yankees aside in a relatively demanding manner to secure a title fight with defending champion Houston Astros.
The Astros, who eliminated Boston in last year's ALDS, wiped out the Cleveland Indians in three games.
Before the Red Sox and Astros start their best-of-seven series, let's take a look at how the two teams meet.
The start-up rotation of the Red Sox ran admirably in the ALDS against the Yankees, with three of the four starters going at least five innings while allowing two earned runs or less.
All questions about As Chris Sale, who will get a nod in Game 1
Manager Alex Cora announced Wednesday that David Price, despite his catastrophic start in Game 2 against the Yankees, will get the ball in Game 2 against the Astros. The left-hander dropped to 0-9 in his postseason career as a starter after the Yankees received him for three rounds in 1 2/3 innings in Boston's Game 2 ALDS loss. The prize has good results this season against the Astros, who went in two starts with a 3.65 ERA 1: 0. In these two starts, Price combines 17 strikeouts, with 10 on September 7 at Fenway Park.
With the price in Game 2, this probably means that Cora will go with right-hander Nathan Eovaldi in Game 3 at Minute Maid Park. Eovaldi was much better at home this season (4-1, 2.06 ERA) than on the road (2-6, 5.14 ERA), but Cora explained that he feels comfortable with price pitching at Fenway Park rather than MMP. After Eovaldi shut down the Yankees at Yankee Stadium in Game 3 of the ALDS, the Red Sox Manager has every reason to rely on the right.
When Eovaldi goes in Game 3, Rick Porcello will start Game 4. The winner of the AL Cy Young Award 2016 was great in the ALDS when he saved the Sox Bullpen in Game 1 and scored five strong innings in Game 4 at Yankee Stadium, allowing only one run on five hits.
The start-up rotation of the Astros and the staff in general dominated the whole season.
Houston led the league in run prevention and allowed around 3.3 runs per game. The Los Angeles Dodgers took second place at 3.76. The Astros also led the MLB in starter ERA and FIP.
Justin Verlander will get the ball in the first game for Houston. The experienced right-hander faced the Red Sox only once this season, allowing three runs in six innings while earning a non-appearance. Verlander allowed three runs in 8 2/3 innings in the Houston ALDS Series win over Boston last season. He took a career-high 290 strikeouts this season and was a postseason horse over his career, going 12-6 with a 3.08 ERA in 23 appearances, 22 of which started.
It will not be easier for Boston in Game 2, as Gerrit Cole, the right-hander, will make the start. Cole was dominant in his ALDS Game 2 start against the Indians, allowing a run on three hits and scoring 12 in seven innings. Cole allowed five earned runs, beating 15 in 13 innings against Boston this season.
Dallas Keuchel is expected to launch Game 3 in Houston. The winner of the AL Cy Young Award 2015 was hit hard in his only start against Sox this season, posting five runs on nine hits in six innings. Keuchel was useful in his game 3 start against the Indians, allowing two runs in five innings.
The much-criticized Red Sox pen did the job in the ALDS against the Yankees. After a shaky Game 1, in which Porcello made an emergency entry to calm things down, Boston's Bullpen did enough to keep New York's vaunted offensive in check for the remainder of the series. All in all, the Sox pin allowed seven runs in 17 innings during the ALDS. Craig Kimbrel has to be better if Boston wants to get ahead. The Red Sox approached the Yankees shakily and gave up three runs during his two appearances. Brandon Workman and Eduardo Rodriguez were the only other helpers who allowed a run in the series.
Similar to the starting spin, Houston's Bullpen is loaded. The pin of the Astros led the majors in ERA and FIP, as well as their rotation. Manager A.J. Hinch has a number of weapons available, as evidenced by the number of Quality Assistants (Brad Peacock, Hector Rondon, Joe Smith and Chris Devenski) who have been excluded from the ALDS list. When Houston's starters bring the ball to Ryan Pressly, Lance McCullers Jr. and Roberto Osuna with the lead, it's usually the game over.
Although the above categories are in favor of Houston, the Red Sox offensive should be relatively in line with the Astros' right-handed weapons. The Red Sox beat right-handed this season, leading the AL with a 817 OPS to right-hander this season. It's bad news, of course, that Boston will probably have to play twice against Verlander and Cole if the Sox want to win the series, but Boston has the bats to bring the Astros to their knees. The Red Sox led the MLB in runs, strike average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. J. D. Martinez may be the key to this series as Houston employees silenced him this season (.192 / .258 / .423 vs. Houston).
Just as the Red Sox shattered the right-handed, the Astros Hammer left. Houston led the AL with a .803 OPS against left-handers while earning the ninth-best OPS against right-handers. These figures seem to pose a problem for both the sale and the price that the Astros might face four times in the seven-game series. Jose Altuve (8 for 24) and George Springer (5 for 14) have made good career gains against Sale, while Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel were also successful against the Sox ace last year.
Houston in 6
The Red Sox proved many of their doubters wrong when they rolled over the Yankees in the ALDS, but Houston is a very different animal. The formation of the Astros has few holes and should be able to reach the Red Sox bullpen as the Yankees could not. If you see Verlander and Cole four times in a seven-game series, it's hard to see Boston sending the defending champions into the pits.
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