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2017 ALDS Game 1 Preview: Houston Astros vs. Boston Red Sox

Arguably, the best pitching matchup in the MLB Playoffs happens in game one of the ALDS.

MLB: ALDS-Houston Astros Workouts Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

2017 American League Division Series

Houston Astros (0-0) vs. Boston Red Sox (0-0), Oct. 5, 2017, 3:08 p.m. CDT

Location: Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas

TV: MLB Network, 790 KBME AM, ESPN Deportes 1230

Radio: stream on MLB At Bat app, 790

Online: MLB.TV, Watch MLB Network

Red Sox SBNation Blog: Over the Monster


Pitching Matchup

RHP Justin Verlander (7-5, 3.39 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, ) vs. LHP Chris Sale (17-8, 2.90 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, .301 BABIP, 2.65 xFIP)


Preview

The time has come. Houston has turned orange. The memories of the 2015 playoffs are firmly entrenched in the Astros players minds. The “Houston Strong” patch is over their hearts. The Houston Astros are back in the playoffs for the 11th in franchise history.

The Astros face the Boston Red Sox for the first in the playoffs.

Playoffs resumes

Houston Astros (24-38, .387 playoff winning percentage)

The Houston Astros playoff history could be headlined “What could have been.” There were the 1980s with Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott, and J.R. Richard. The Astros reached the NL Championship Series twice but couldn’t close the deal against the Phillies and Mets — both teams would go on to win the World Series those respective years.

The Astros didn’t make it back to the playoffs again until 1997 and made it three years in a row from 1997-to-1999. Even with the Killer B’s (THE OG KILLER B’s...I’m looking at you, Red Sox) and Randy Johnson for one season, the Astros couldn't find the magic to make it out of the first round.

Moving on from a random appearance in 2001, the Astros had their best run the playoffs in 2004 and 2005 behind Roger Clemens and Lance Berkman — making it to the World Series in 2005. We won’t talk about what happened.

The current squad of Astros made the playoffs in 2015, even taking a series lead over the eventual champion Kansas City Royals. But couldn’t secure the much needed fourth win.

Boston Red Sox (90-80, .529 playoff winning percentage)

Before 2004, the curse of the Bambino was alive and well with the Boston Red Sox. The Sox won the World Series four times during the 1910’s, but only made the playoffs four times over the next 70-years including four World Series losses.

The Sox made the playoffs six times from 1986 to 2003. The Theo Epstein turned the team around, the Red Sox won 2004, 2007, and 2013 World Series.

After not making the playoffs in 2014 and 2015, Boston was swept by Indians in the ALDS in 2016.

Pitching matchup

Ace vs. Ace. Verlander vs. Sale. What more can you ask for?

Justin Verlander comes in pitching as well as he has in years during his time with the Astros. He is 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in five starts with the Astros with a 0.65 WHIP and an 8.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Verlander has plenty of success in the playoffs and against the Red Sox in his career. Verlander is 7-5 with a 3.39 ERA in 16 career starts in the playoffs. Verlander is 5-5 with a 2.88 ERA in 17 career starts against the Red Sox. He is 0-0 with a 2.25 ERA in two starts against the Red Sox in 2017.

Chris Sale was the clear AL Cy-Young award winner after the first half of the season. He was 11-4 with a 2.75 ERA in 18 starts, in the second have he tailed off a bit. If you can call a 3.12 ERA tailing off. He was 6-4 with a 3.12 ERA in 14 starts at the end of the season.

Sale is making his first career start in the playoffs after seven seasons with the White Sox. Sale is 5-1 with a 1.31 ERA in six career starts against the Astros, he did not face Houston in 2017. He is 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA in two starts in 2016.

Hitting trends

No current Red Sox have a home run off Justin Verlander. But there is a clear reason that former Ranger Mitch Moreland has gotten the start in the heart of the Boston lineup. He is 10-for-29 with six doubles off Verlander. Eduardo Nunez has been injected back into the lineup even with knee issues, because of his success against Verlander. He is 5-fo-15 with doubles off the Astros righty.

Red Sox career stats vs. Justin Verlander

BATTER AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS
BATTER AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS
Mitch Moreland 29 10 6 0 0 6 3 10 0.345 0.406 0.552 0.958
Eduardo Nunez 15 5 2 0 0 2 1 2 0.333 0.353 0.467 0.82
Xander Bogaerts 15 4 2 0 0 0 0 4 0.267 0.267 0.4 0.667
Brock Holt 10 3 0 0 0 2 2 0 0.3 0.417 0.3 0.717
Dustin Pedroia 27 3 0 0 0 2 2 3 0.111 0.161 0.111 0.272
Hanley Ramirez 13 3 0 0 0 0 1 1 0.231 0.286 0.231 0.516
Josh Rutledge 7 3 1 0 0 1 1 2 0.429 0.5 0.571 1.071
Rajai Davis 13 2 0 0 0 0 1 4 0.154 0.267 0.154 0.421
Sandy Leon 9 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 0.222 0.222 0.222 0.444
Andrew Benintendi 7 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0.143 0.125 0.429 0.554
Jackie Bradley Jr. 7 1 0 0 0 1 2 0 0.143 0.333 0.143 0.476
Chris Young 10 1 0 0 0 0 0 4 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.2
Mookie Betts 13 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 0 0.133 0 0.133
Marco Hernandez 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Blake Swihart 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

A handful of Astros have a large sample against Sale. The one player with the most is Jose Altuve, is batting .381 (8x21) with a home run and three RBIs. George Springer is 3-for-12 with a double. Marwin Gonzalez is 1-for-9 with a strikeout.

Astros career stats vs. Chris Sale

BATTER AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS
BATTER AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS
Jose Altuve 21 8 1 0 1 3 0 5 0.381 0.409 0.571 0.981
Josh Reddick 14 3 1 0 0 1 0 4 0.214 0.214 0.286 0.500
George Springer 12 3 1 0 0 0 0 3 0.250 0.250 0.333 0.583
Carlos Beltran 9 2 0 0 1 3 1 1 0.222 0.300 0.556 0.856
Carlos Correa 10 2 0 0 0 2 0 2 0.200 0.200 0.200 0.400
Evan Gattis 9 2 0 0 1 1 0 2 0.222 0.222 0.556 0.778
Cameron Maybin 14 2 0 0 0 1 0 3 0.143 0.143 0.143 0.286
Marwin Gonzalez 9 1 0 0 0 1 0 2 0.111 0.111 0.111 0.222
Jake Marisnick 9 1 0 0 0 0 0 4 0.111 0.111 0.111 0.222
Juan Centeno 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
Tony Kemp 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
Tyler White 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000

Keys to success

Josh Reddick vs. LHP pitching

It is a bit of surprise to see Josh Reddick in the lineup in game one, especially against arguably the best LHP in Major League Baseball. Reddick has been dealing with a back issue and historically has struggled against left-handed pitching.

From 2014-16, he batted .202 with a .269 slugging percentage and .265 on-base percentage against left-handed pitching. But Reddick has made adjustments in 2017 and is batting .315 (29x92) with five extra-base hits against left-handed pitching.

If Reddick can add to the hit party in the rest of the Astros lineup, this game might not be close.

Bullpen

If the Wild Card Games are any indication of what will happen in Thursday’s game. Both teams might need their bullpens early and often. The Red Sox and Astros match up well with their closers, Ken Giles and Craig Kimbrel. But the Astros may have the advantage with long arms like Joe Musgrove, Lance McCullers Jr., and/or Charlie Morton as options for long relief.

But the Red Sox do have David Prince to help out there too.

Jose Altuve/Carlos Correa vs. Chris Sale

The Astros have one of, if not the best double-play partners in baseball. The Astros’ Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve are just as successful with the bat as they are with the glove. Correa .384 (48x125) against LHP starter with eight home runs in 2017. But he has struggled against Sale with a 2-for-10 mark.

We’ve already mentioned it, but Altuve has the strongest track record of any Astro against Chris Sale, batting .381 (8x21) with a home run and three RBIs

The pair is batting third and fourth in the Astros lineup. Houston offense will rise or fall with Correa and Altuve.