Only two questions remain unanswered regarding the American League playoff picture.
The first is whether or not the Red Sox will lay claim on the Eastern Division. Boston had stretched its lead to five with seven to play after, more or less, maintaining a three-game lead over the Yankees for the second half. But losses on Monday and Tuesday, along with a pair of New York wins, brought the lead back down to three. Both New York and Boston won on Wednesday so Boston’s lead is three with four to play.
The second question is what team the Eastern Division Champion will face in the ALDS. The Indians won on Wednesday to maintain their one-game lead over the Astros for the AL’s top seed. That lead is really two games when you consider the Indians have the tie-break by virtue of their 5–1 head-to-head record against the ‘Stros this season.
The chalk says New York will host Minnesota for the right to go to Cleveland, with Houston hosting the Red Sox but the Astros are in Boston for four to finish the season, where things could go awry.
The likely scenario makes for a funny four-game series in Boston over the weekend. Houston wants to give itself a chance to get that top seed back after running way out in front at the start only to fade down the stretch.
The Astros aren’t in bad shape, though. Things got rough in July and August when a whole host of important guys were hurt and Dallas Keuchel wasn’t pitching well. Justin Verlander hadn’t arrived yet, either. Now, the Astros are healthy again and they are off of a dominant three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers.
Boston will be the hungrier side in the first two games of this series and that’s because no one wants the Sox to have to throw Drew Pomeranz and Chris Sale over the weekend, which, apparently, John Farrell is prepared to do. At the moment, Pom is scheduled to start on Saturday and Sale on Sunday, which won’t happen if the division is on lock.
That was my initial thought, at least. Game One of the LDS in Houston won’t be until Thursday. Neither Pom nor Sale threw well this week against Toronto so they might want to get some work over the weekend to get straight before the important games.
The problem is that it would have to be against Houston. And therein lies the problem for this entire series: how much will the pitchers be willing to show?
Brad Peacock and Eduardo Rodriguez will give us a start of the answer on Thursday night. Both guys are primarily fastball pitchers and I expect they will rely even more on the straight one on Thursday.
That benefits both offenses, if you ask me. Houston has a few guys it’s still trying to get in a groove, including Correa and Beltran but mainly Evan Gattis, who just came back last week. The Red Sox have to work Mookie Betts back into the lineup, though it may not happen by Thursday. Even so, they will run the bases like a team that has to win and Xander Bogaerts is hot at the right time. His season has taken a one-eighty since his dreadful August.
With neither pitching staff willing to show too much and both offenses trying to assert themselves, this feels like an over series. That’s where we’ll start on Thursday.
Free Pick: Over 9.0 (-120)