A year ago, Houston defeated Boston, 8–2, at its place, in each of the first two games of the ALDS. It could have been a sweep but Brad Peacock couldn’t hold an early lead in Game 3.
The Astros finished thingsthe next day at Fenway Park — the site of Saturday’s Game 1. The home-field advantage and JD Martinez have Red Sox fans thinking this year could be different.
Oddsmakers don’t think so. They’ve made Houston the favorite at Fenway.
These are the two winningest teams in baseball, 211 wins between them. Both won their division last season (Houston the World Series), made improvements in the offseason and then won even more games in 2018.
Peacock won’t be starting any games in this series, despite ending up pitching well out of the bullpen for the rest of last year’s postseason. He battled injuries and hand, foot and mouth disease this season and was left off the ALDS roster.
Of course, Houston added Gerrit Cole last winter and all he did was throw 200 innings, win fifteen games and post an ERA under 3.00. He dominated Cleveland in his only appearance, winning Game 2 with seven shutout innings of three-hit, twelve-strikeout ball. This will the first trip to an LCS in his career.
Whether he starts Game 1, 2 or 3 has yet to be determined, as I write on Wednesday. Houston swept the Indians and has every healthy pitcher available to it. Justin Verlander could start this series, just as he started Game 1 against Boston last year and Game 1 against Cleveland a week ago, or AJ Hinch could give Charlie Morton his turn in the rotation. If Hinch wants to start Dallas Keuchel on the road, Cole could wind up starting Game 3 and, potentially, Game 7.
Sale will start for Boston after yet another underwhelming postseason start in Game 1 against New York. He set the Yankees down 1-2-3 in the eighth inning of the clincher on Tuesday, though.
Last year, the Astros knocked Sale around in Game 1 and then as a reliever in Game 4. Carlos Correa, who led Houston with six RBIs in the series, was a big reason why.
Correa hasn’t been the same since going on the DL with a back problem late in the summer. He showed virtually no power once returning to the lineup in August and went just 1-for-10 against Cleveland, though that one hit was a home run in the final game of the series.
It certainly feels like Boston’s pitching is overmatched in this series, just like last year. Except this series is a best out of seven. The Sox’ best chance is if Correa continues to be an automatic out and Nathan Eovaldi and Rick Porcello handle Houston’s right-handed hitting lineup the way they handled New York’s.
It’s just hard to believe Sale is going to dominate like he has in the regular season for so long now. Not only is the postseason track record iffy to this point, the Astros have all that right-handed power and he hasn’t been healthy since around the all-star break. I’m taking the ‘Stros.
Play: Houston +100