The Boston Red Sox (93-69) and Houston Astros (101-61) will square off in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday, with Chris Sale taking the hill against Justin Verlander. Boston needs to win Game 1, especially given the depth of Houston’s starting rotation and the fact that the Astros, well, mash.
“The Astros are a much better offensive team than the Red Sox,” Boston Globe Red Sox writer Pete Abraham said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “When you look at the last three guys typically in their batting order, those guys have better OPSs than anybody on the Red Sox. That kind of speaks to how good they are. Guys like Brian McCann are hitting in the bottom third of their order, and a guy like that would be the cleanup hitter for the Red Sox. It’s sort of a role reversal. The Red Sox are the team that’s going to try to do it with small-ball, and the Astros are the team that’s going to try to do it with home runs.
“So it’s going to be a bullpen series for the Red Sox,” Abraham continued. “They’re going to need a lot out of their bullpen guys. They’re going to need somebody other than Chris Sale – whether it’s Drew Pomeranz or Rick Porcello or whoever it may be – to give them a good start. They can’t get three wins out of Sale. The most they’re going to be able to get is two. So it’s going to come down to pitching. It’s going to come down to defense. I don’t think the Red Sox can out-slug this team – not with the lineup they have.”
In a perfect Red Sox world, Boston will get a lead by the sixth inning and let its bullpen take it from there. Closer Craig Kimbrel went 5-0 with 35 saves, a 1.43 ERA, a 0.68 WHIP, and had 126 strikeouts in 69.0 innings this season.
The Red Sox will be happy to take their chances with their bullpen. In fact, that might be their only chance.
“They can play from ahead; they can’t play from behind,” Abraham said. “If they can get up, they’ve got a good bullpen, especially with (David) Price there. They can hold the lead if they get a lead. I think with this Houston team, the issue is going to be trying to get that lead because they’re so explosive. They just finished the season taking three out of four at Fenway Park. It’s kind of strange that now they’re going to play each other again three days later, but this is a dangerous team. (Jose) Altuve is an MVP candidate, George Springer, Carlos Correa – they got all these All-Stars. The Red Sox are not that kind of offensive team, so they’re going to have to figure out a way to slow them down and try to win 3-2 kind of games.”
Game 1 is at 4:08 p.m. ET.