MLB Postseason Preview: Boston Red Sox vs. Houston Astrosby Andersen Pickard October 15, 2021 0 comments
The Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros face off this week in a rematch of the 2018 ALCS. Boston took that last postseason meeting, but Houston enters this one with a better 2021 record. Both teams, however, come into this series after commanding finishes to their respect ALDS clashes. For Boston, two walk-offs helped mount a comeback over the Tampa Bay Rays after initially being down 0-1. Meanwhile, the Astros won the final game of their series against the Chicago White Sox thanks to a 10-1 offensive explosion.
The ALCS kicks off on Friday, Oct. 15 at 8:07 p.m. ET. The series begins with two games in Houston and three in Boston before returning to Houston for the final two. The teams will get two days off—one for each travel day. All games will be available on either FOX or FS1.
Three keys to victory for Red Sox
Stability in the rotation
The Red Sox drastically benefitted from the strong Game 3 and 4 performances of Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez, respectively. However, the ALCS is obviously a step up from the ALDS and Boston will need to get more from its starters. Translation: the pitiful Game 1 and 2 outbursts from Rodriguez and Chris Sale cannot happen again. The red-hot state of the Houston offense only adds truth to this statement.
Continue the offensive parade
The Red Sox’s hitting against the Rays was solid and, perhaps most important of all, clutch. While the offensive output definitely wasn’t steady, Boston could rely on almost anyone in its lineup to provide a key swing of the bat. This team cannot afford to let its bats go silent, which was an all-too-familiar occurrence during the regular season. After all, a slump at the plate would most likely bring Boston’s postseason run to an end.
Have an aggressive approach in the bullpen
Handling pitching in the regular season is easy; it follows a cookie-cutter approach. However, the postseason presents a different story. Do you use your high-velocity starters in the bullpen? How far can you stretch your top relievers? How much can you stay away from using some of your less reliable arms? For Boston, being aggressive is key. Just look at Nick Pivetta, Garrett Whitlock, and Tanner Houck, who have combined for just six runs through 20 innings out of the bullpen this postseason. Using someone like Rodriguez, who will likely spend Game 1 in the bullpen, as a reliever could add to the pitching staff’s sucess.
Three keys to victory for Astros
Rely on the rotation to step up
Lance McCullers Jr. is dealing with a strained forearm. As doubt clouds his availability for the ALCS, the rest of the Astros’ starting rotation will be relied on even more. This is a concerning statement for a Houston team that saw its starters amass a 23.14 ERA during games in which McCullers did not pitch. For the Astros to have any shot at silencing Boston’s bats, they will require clutch outings from Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia, and others.
Be aggressive on the basepaths
The Red Sox’s outfield boasts strong arms in Kiké Hernández and Hunter Renfroe. However, that is the extent of the team’s defensive success. The Astros need to be smart, but they can give themselves a huge advantage by being aggressive on the basepaths during this series. That includes advancing on non-force plays in the infield, stealing bases, tagging up on many fly balls, and running out every ground ball. These lessons are easier said than done, but they could go a long way towards shifting the balance in the Astros’ favor.
Get improvement from the catchers
The Astros have arguably the best lineup in all of Major League Baseball, boasting professional hitters left and right. The biggest gap is clearly at catcher, where Martin Maldonado hit .172 during the regular season while backup Jason Castro went .235 but posted a 30.2 percent strikeout rate. Furthermore, during the ALDS, the Astros’ catcher position went just 1-for-16. It’s hard to get much worse than that. Any sort of improvement could allow Houston to turn over the lineup with greater ease, leading to expanded offensive success.
The loss of McCullers cannot be understated. He pitched in two of the Astros’ four ALDS games, and he was going to pitch at least two (and possibly three) games in the ALCS. Instead, it looks like Houston will need to find starting pitching help elsewhere. This could work out fine, but McCullers was a much safer option than whoever replaces him. On the other hand, Alex Cora has ignited a fire in this Red Sox team, and it seems like it could be tricky to slow them down. The skipper also plans to be aggressive in his management of the bullpen, which should bode well against Houston’s strong lineup. There will be ups and downs for both teams, but in the end, Boston gets the edge in an epic six-game set.
Prediction: Red Sox 4, Astros 2
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