October playoff baseball has taken its hold and the ALDS is about to begin with two games Thursday. Giving you a reason to get out of work early, the Red Sox will be facing the Astros at 4:08 p.m. to start a series that should have plenty of hits and outfield work. Later that night, you can relax and see how well the Cleveland Indians are able to set the series tempo against the Yankees.
Boston Red Sox (93-69) vs. Houston Astros (101-61)
(Thursday, October 5th, 4:08 p.m.)
The Red Sox will have to find their rhythm on offense and nickel and dime runs throughout the series to have a chance of winning the series. Both teams have great pitching that will put the other to the test, especially as far as rotations and their bullpen goes. Not only are both teams putting out some of the best pitchers in the league tonight with Chris Sale and Justin Verlander, but also solid pitchers behind them in the rotation. Drew Pomeranz is having the best season of his career on the Sox, and even as the second pitcher for Houston, Dallas Keuchel is top 15 in baseball.
However, Pomeranz has been slowing down with his pitch speed since August, while Keuchel is a Cy Young winner who has won the AL Golden Glove the past three years and has more years to win both awards. This edge up could prove to be fatal over the course of the series for the Sox and limit the amount of scores they bring in.
Sale putting in a big game in the first game is crucial to determine if Boston hangs around in the series, but even if he does the pressure will be on the shoulders of the offense. If they end up behind going into the later innings they will have to take on Ken Giles who posted a 2.30 ERA with 34 saves and was one of the best closers the second half of the season. Having a deep starting lineup and bench will matter in this series because both teams have some of the lowest strikeout rates in the MLB.
The best way for the Red Sox to win this game and series will be to focus on stealing bases and pushing forward with the hits they manage to get early on. While I don’t think they will get many big hits off Verlander, the Red Sox are sixth in the MLB with a .65 average stolen bases per game. Utilizing speedsters like Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, and Xander Bogaerts to get runners into better positions and in to score could be a useful tactic that gets them ahead quickly. Steals are one of the biggest advantages for the Sox; the Astros allowed the fifth most steals of any team while the Red Sox gave up the third least.
Once they are in the lead, they can feel comfortable leaving the game to Craig Kembrel, David Price, or Addison Reed. Getting the lead is easier said than done, especially against the Astros who led the entire league with 896 runs compared to the Red Sox’ 785. The Astros have four players hitting over .300 this season compared to the Red Sox’ big 0, and also led the league in batting average (.282), and finished second in home runs (238).
The Astros have won over 100 games compared to Boston’s 93, and won four out of seven games between the two teams this year, outscoring them by 13 runs. The Sox can no doubt put up a fight if the moral flairs up and Sale can pitch two big games for them, but the chances look good for Houston. I expect Red Sox to win tonight but lose games 2 and 3; if their offense can pick up the pace by the fourth game then they just might have a shot at the upset.
New York Yankees (91-71) vs. Cleveland Indians (102-60)
(Thursday, October 5th, 7:38 p.m.)
On the surface, this matchup looks like it could be evenly keeled. During the season the Indians won their two series against the Yankees five games to seven, but only outscored New York by four runs. I think that Indians’ manager Terry Francona fully expects to defeat the Yankees, especially considering his decision to start Bauer instead of Corey Kluber Game 1.
It does seem risky given that Bauer does not compare to Kluber, but can be possibly explained by the fact the Yankees bullpen is shallow after a huge outing in their wild card game. Severino was taken out after a single innings leading to Chad Green throwing 41 pitches in two innings, David Robertson throwing a career-high 52 pitches in 3 1/3 innings, and the Indians also having to play Tommy Kahn before Aroldis Chapman finished the game.
Francona probably thinks that giving Kluber a regular rest between games 2 and 5 is the best option for a slow and steady first series that can keep their rotation healthy going into the next round. Although this decision could backfire if Bauer isn’t able to handle Judge and the Yankees offense in the game tonight, but I think the Indians have enough momentum and talent to be finish on top of this series. To be honest, I don’t think the Yankees will be able to take game 1 but even if they do I think they will be rested and well prepared to win big games a few games from now to get to the conference series.