The Divisional Round begins in Houston with two starting pitchers who I know will fare better than any of the four guys who started a Wild Card game this week.
The combination of Luis Severino, Ervin Santana, Zack Greinke and Jon Gray got 22 outs on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Wild Card games were a little crazy and I think a lot of that had to do with a lot of guys tasting the playoffs for the first time. Two of the four starting pitchers were playoff veterans but there was, generally, a lot of outward emotion in both games.
The Yankees, Twins, Diamondbacks and Rockies are newbies when it comes to October baseball. Teams like the Cubs and Dodgers and Red Sox and Indians will be more level-headed and will likely play better baseball because of it, not to suggest the Wild Card gave us bad games. They just weren’t necessarily polished.
I like the underdog in this game and it’s primarily because of the pitching. Boston has its problems in the back end of the starting rotation, but not the front.
Chris Sale can strike guys out with ease when he puts his mind to it. For most of this season, he did and he struck out 308 guys. He will surely be in a strikeout mindset this afternoon in Houston.
That’s not to say things will come easy. No team scored more runs than the Astros this season and no team struck out fewer times. But dominant pitching gets the best of great offense in the postseason and that’s what I suspect may happen in this one. If Sale hands the ball straight to Craig Kimbrel, Houston will be hard-pressed to win this game; any team would be.
Then there’s Boston’s running game against Justin Verlander and Evan Gattis. The runway between first and second base is clear for takeoff. And a year after being swept, the Sox won’t wait around for a three-run homer. If Boston gets any sort of initiative, it better take it. If the Sox steal the momentum early, they have a chance to make this a good series.
Free Pick: Boston +125