Astros vs. Red Sox Division Series Preview
A look at how the Astros and Red Sox match up in this best-of-five AL Division Series
At long last, the Astros have reached the postseason. They seemingly punched their ticket months ago, and now the real test begins.
Here’s a look at how they match up against the AL East Champion Boston Red Sox.
Justin Verlander against Chris Sale in Game One is about as good as it gets. Two true aces at the top of their game will make for a fantastic matchup. Game Two will feature Dallas Keuchel against 17-game winner Drew Pomeranz, so the rotations are basically even thus far. How the rest of the series shakes out may tip the scales one way or another.
Brad Peacock seems a likely candidate to start Game Three, with Charlie Morton possibly getting the ball in Game Four. Verlander could also pitch on short rest in Game Four if need be. The Red Sox have lefty Eduardo Rodriguez and reigning Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello to choose from in those games. Peacock and Morton have had better seasons.
The Astros have a solid group, led by closer Ken Giles, who’s had a strong season. Setup man Will Harris, converted starter Joe Musgrove and reliever extraordinaire Chris Devenski will be heavily relied on by manager A.J. Hinch. Beyond that, however, things get murky. Veterans Luke Gregerson and Tyler Clippard have had disappointing seasons, as have lefties Francisco Liriano and Tony Sipp.
The Red Sox feature the league’s best closer in Craig Kimbrel, who’s been nothing short of spectacular this year. They also feature a collection of high-powered arms in Addison Reed, Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree. Plus, the team has former ace David Price as an Andrew Miller-like weapon this postseason.
Edge: Red Sox
Boston’s offense has had much-publicized difficulty hitting the long ball this year, finishing 27th in the game in homers. Despite that, they finished 10th in runs scored, so this team can definitely hit the ball. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi provide a strong power/speed combo, while veteran Dustin Pedroia still leads the way and is one of the most difficult to strike out.
The Astros’ offense has been the best in the game, leading the majors in runs scored. Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa are the stars, but Josh Reddick, Alex Bregman and Marwin Gonzalez have had strong seasons as well. The lineup is deep and powerful, and Hinch can mix and match depending on the pitching matchup.
The Astros finished 21st in the majors in fielding percentage, while the Red Sox finished 26th. The Astros finished 12th in double plays turned, while the Red Sox finished 28th. Only 61 percent of stolen base attempts were successful against Boston (second in the majors), while 88 percent of attempts were successful against the Astros (last in the majors).
Boston has Gold Glove winners at first base, second base and right field, and a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder in Jackie Bradley. They also have a catcher in Christian Vazquez who throws out baserunners as well as anyone. The Astros have Gold Glove winners in Altuve and Reddick, as well as a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder in Springer.
Edge: Red Sox
Hinch has had the luxury of a talented and versatile bench, allowing him to mix and match daily. Evan Gattis, Cameron Maybin and Carlos Beltran are the primary players who find themselves moved around and/or playing irregularly. Maybin is a strong base-stealing threat, while Beltran may still have some magic in that legendary swing.
Boston has utilityman Brock Holt, but he has not hit well since returning from injury. Infielder Eduardo Nunez has a potent bat and can spell youngster Rafael Devers or DH Hanley Ramirez. Veteran Rajai Davis is still a speed threat and is no stranger to the big stage.
Hinch has done a fine job leading his team to 101 wins despite multiple injuries, and he’s pushed all the right buttons. John Farrell may be on the hot seat if the Red Sox get bounced out of this first round series. Still, Farrell has already led Boston to a championship, whereas Hinch has yet to win a playoff series as manager.
Edge: Red Sox
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Prediction: Astros in five
This is a pretty evenly-matched series, so you have to look at the big picture. The Astros are hot at the right time, whereas the Red Sox went just 5-5 in their final 10 games. While both teams have strong pitching, it’s going to be tougher to shut down the Astros’ offense thanks to its potency and depth. This may be a series we wish could be seven games, but the Astros will prevail with help from their home field advantage.
**Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and MLB.com**