Sunday was a good day for the Boston Red Sox. The team came back from 4-1 down in the 8th inning against the Cincinnati Reds meanwhile the New York Yankees lost to the Toronto Blue Jays once again. Sunday’s outcome swelled Boston’s AL East lead to 5.0 games with seven left to play. Boston’s magic number to clinch the division is 3. While the Yankees have been hot of late, Boston has been even hotter, and it looks certain that Boston will go into the AL division series as the third seed. The question is: who will they play? At this point, with Cleveland being so hot, it looks like their first round opponent will be the Houston Astros. How do they match up?
As far as the first two starters for each team go, it looks like a deadlock in game one with Dallas Keuchel against Chris Sale. The game two starters would be Justin Verlander against Drew Pomeranz. This matchup is closer than most would think since Pomeranz has been great for Boston this season, but Pomeranz’s lack of innings per start would mean he would not last too long while Verlander could potentially give the bullpen a rest for Houston.
In game three, things start to get a little dicey for Boston. For Houston, their third starter will most likely be Lance McCullers Jr., a good third option, but for Boston, the team does not even know who its third and fourth starters are right now. Given their options right now hough, I would predict that Eduardo Rodriguez would be named the team’s third starter; his September has been great so far, and he has the highest ceiling of the remaining starters.
In game four, it will either be Doug Fister or Rick Porcello. Neither has been good in September which does not bode well for a potential game 4. Doug Fister does have more and better postseason experience here though, so he is somewhat of a wildcard at this point. The Astros will probably counter with Brad Peacock who has been great for them this year.
The conclusion? Houston has a slight edge. Boston has a great 1-2 that matches up with Houston, but their back-end is slightly questionable.
In this respect, the Boston Red Sox hold an advantage. In the closer department, Ken Giles has even good for Houston, but Craig Kimbrel has been downright filthy. This is no knock on Giles, but Kimbrel has been that good this year. Beyond Giles, the Astros have Chris Devenski. He has been great too, but that is about it for Houston. Boston has Addison Reed, Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, and now David Price who are all solid options out of the ‘pen. The advantage goes to Boston for sure in extra inning or close games in the late innings. Their 14-3 extra inning record reflects that fact pretty well.
In this regard, Houston has an advantage. Boston has a decent lineup, but it has oftentimes been shut down. Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez have not been nearly as good as last year, and Jackie Bradley Jr. has not been as good either, and Dustin Pedroia has struggled to remain healthy.
Houston is led by MVP candidate José Altuve, as well as George Springer. Josh Reddick has also been good with the bat this year. Brian McCann provides decent offense from catcher and Alex Bergman as well as Martin Gonzalez have contributed this year. In other words, there are no true weakspots in Houston’s lineup. There is a reason after all why Houston has the highest scoring offense in the league. This lineup is no walk in the park for Boston.
While the advantage is in Houston’s favor, he gap is not as big as one would think. Mookie Betts has been performing better of late for Bostin, and ever since Rafael Devers was called up, he has been a huge part of the team’s success, providing the much needed left-handed power after David Ortiz’s departure. Boston has had its offensive struggles this year, but the offense has been adequate given its stellar pitching all season.
Both teams are great and have the potential to give us a great ALDS. While Boston has the slight edge in pitching, Houston has the advantage in offense. Given the nature of October games, pitching becomes a little more important. Boston has a make-up similar to the Kansas City Royals’ of 2015, only I think that their rotation is better than the 2015 champions’. Boston has proven that despite the lack of homers, the team can still score runs with speed and timely hitting. Houston scores a lot of runs by the home run, which tends to become rarer in October, so their offensive advantage might take a hit.
Boston’s starting rotation falls off fast after their no. 3, so he pitching advantage they would had going into this year is diminished also. Overall, I think his is definitely a team that Boston can beat, but it will not be easy. Regardless, dodging Cleveland in the first round is a must at this point. The final four game series of the season against Houston will tell us a lot about how these two teams match up.