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Series Preview #46: Houston Astros @ Boston Red Sox

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The Astros (87-53, 1st in AL West) test their might against the MLB-best Red Sox (97-44, 1st in AL East) in a possible October preview

Divisional Round - Houston Astros v Boston Red Sox - Game Four Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

I’d like to take a moment and reflect on what we’re about to witness.

These next few games will feature the top two teams in baseball going head-to-head in a series that has a very real chance to be a preview for the 2018 ALCS. There will be generational talents in the same lineup as up-and-coming superstars for both teams. Cy Young Award caliber pitchers will be on the mound for multiple nights, backed up by teams with legitimate defensive stars.

This series is the best that September baseball has to offer. We may not see it’s like again for a while and, as a fan of both the Astros and baseball, I feel lucky to watch these two teams at the pinnacle of their sport play each other. Win or lose, I’m truly looking forward to watching the Astros face this challenge with the same determination and grit they’ve had all year.

Go ‘Stros.

Recency Bias

Astros

Houston has roared back to life since only scoring two runs in the opening games of the Angels series, having won 5 straight and logging a 7-3 home stand. Thanks to Oakland’s surge in the standings the Astros have been under pressure to keep getting wins and have managed to gain on the A’s in the past week, but only by a single game. Even so, it is encouraging to see the offense find its spark at home.

A big part of that has been Alex Bregman, who has taken the team on his shoulders in the past week and is playing some of the best baseball we’ve seen out of anyone all season. In the past 7 games he’s slashed .400/.483/1.040 with 4 HR, 4 2B, 4 BB, 10 RBI, and only 3 K’s in 25 AB. I seriously considered just putting “Alex Bregman” under recency bias for the Astros and leaving it. Unfortunately, Alex is really only joined by Springer for Astros hitters who have had an above-average week with a .915 OPS and 3 extra base hits with a homer himself.

Gurriel would manage to at least have a hot series against Minnesota, belting homers in back-to-back games and getting on base in all three. Gattis would also come out of hibernation to club a two-run shot against the Twins, but hasn’t been sighted very often these days thanks to White’s production.

Altuve would also show signs of life after a prolonged slump, while Correa has been getting on base at a steady clip even though he hasn’t been hitting the ball well. White would cool somewhat at the end of the home stand, while Kemp and Reddick have both been quiet at the plate this week, though not muted.

Injury Update: Rondón would leave the first game against Minnesota after a line drive struck his pitching hand. X-rays during the game would show nothing broken, and it was reported he would throw on Wednesday, but there have been no updates on his status since then. Marwin’s health is also up in the air as he would also leave Monday’s game but with right oblique discomfort, and is currently being monitored.

As for the pen, it’s been a pretty stellar week with only 4 ER surrendered across a collective 23.2 IP. McHugh would give up a couple of those runs, as well as allow an inherited run to score, against the Angels but would bounce back with 2 stellar innings, including 5 K’s, against the Twins. Sipp would also give up a run against LA but bounce back in his next outing, though he has looked a little less dominant lately than earlier in the year.

Devo was the only other reliever to have a run on their ledger as his struggles have continued in recent outings. However, both Harris and Smith would allow inherited runners to score, with Harris giving up three and Smith allowing one on a bases-loaded HBP. It should be noted that Smith has been stellar otherwise, and has really settled into a righty specialist role.

Beyond that the bullpen has been up to the task. Osuna continues to settle into the closer role, nabbing another save against the Twins. Peacock would convert the other save opportunity against Minnesota while continuing to add to his fantastic strikeout numbers this week. Dean Deetz would make his MLB debut, retiring a couple of batters in order to close out the Twins.

Houston will have to push a little harder as they try to separate themselves from the A’s, who continue to linger within smelling distance of 1st in the division.

Red Sox

Boston comes into this series with an identical 7-3 record in their last ten games, though a majority of those were on the road for the Sox. They would split four games with the White Sox, including an 8-0 shutout, before sweeping the Braves in their home park. The final game in that series would feature some late inning theatrics as Boston would come all the way back from being down 7-1 in the eighth to win 9-8 in the ninth.

While the Red Sox have not had an explosive player this week, they have been steady for the most part. Their standout player has been Ian Kinsler, who has been money in the bank for Boston since coming over from the Angels. Kinsler has been locked in for the past two series with a .967 OPS and 6 RBI. Andrew Benintendi has also being doing work this week, slashing .318/.375/.500 with a home run to bring his 2018 total to 16.

J.D. Martinez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Mookie Betts were all solid contributors, as well as Christian Vázquez in 4 of the 7 games, with all four ranging between .748 and .787 OPS. Only Vázquez would fail to knock a homer, but did notch a .385 OBP. Of all of Boston’s regular hitters this week, five would have an OBP of .357 or higher in at least 24 PA.

Though there hasn’t been much thump out of the rest of the lineup this week, there is the story of veteran Brandon Phillips, 37, who sat out most of the first half, signing a minor league deal with Boston. He would get called up just this past Tuesday and didn’t debut until Wednesday, when he would score the eventual game winning run on a 2 run homer in the top of the 9th. He would also make history as Boston’s first player to ever wear a 0 for their jersey number.

Meanwhile, Boston’s bullpen has not had the best week as the Red Sox try to patch together a group of arms they can take into the postseason. Ryan Brasier has emerged as Boston’s premiere setup man, posting just a 1.44 ERA since making his 2018 MLB debut on July 9th. He pairs well with the ever-intimidating closer Craig Kimbrel, who has logged 38 saves in 43 opportunities and makes for a very challenging back-end of the pen.

Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, and Heath Hembree are seeing the bulk of the innings throughout the season and have all had dominant stretches in 2018. However, they have all also struggled on occasion during the course of the year. The past week would see more good times than bad for the trio, with Kelly the only one surrendering a run, but during 4 innings of work.

Hector Velázquez and converted starter Drew Pomeranz are currently filling the roles of longmen out of the pen. Velázquez has begun to struggle as of late while Pomeranz has been a disappointment most of the year for Boston. Of the remaining regular relievers, Brandon Workman is probably their biggest threat out of the pen but Boston is also trotting out knuckleballer Steven Wright as they ramp him up after returning from the DL with right knee issues.

Boston will look to keep on rolling as they creep closer to the AL East crown while also testing their postseason chops on the Astros, who should pose more of a challenge than the previous division leader they faced.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Gerrit Cole, RHP (13-5, 2.86 ERA) vs. David Price, LHP (14-6, 3.60 ERA)

Cole comes into this game after a pretty good start against the Angels that was only marred in the 6th when he would grind through the the inning before leaving with 2 outs. Even with grinding through the occasional start, Cole has continued to dazzle this season as one of the team’s more consistent starters, and has yet to give up more than 4 runs in a game as an Astro. This will be Gerrit’s first start against the Red Sox in 2018, and just his second ever.

Boston counters with David Price, who has been having a resurgent year as a starter after being placed in the bullpen in 2017. He would miss one start after taking a line drive off the hand on August 29th against Miami. While that game did go a little south in three innings for him, it was immediately following an 8 IP, 3 H shutout against Cleveland and a string of solid starts in general. He would have a gutsy game against the Astros when they last faced him in early June, going 6 innings with 3 runs and taking the win after Morton would falter in that one.

Cole’s been the better starter on the year, but Price is no joke and I expect the match up to be fairly even here.

Game 2: Charlie Morton, RHP (13-3, 3.14 ERA) vs. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP (12-3, 3.34 ERA)

Morton will take the mound after exiting hist last game in 4.2 innings against Oakland and being placed on the DL with shoulder issues. Charlie had previously given up 6 runs in a match against Seattle, but had been on a roll before that with a run of good starts from late July through mid-August. His one start against Boston in 2018 would prove to be similar to his game against Seattle, mostly cruising before a loss of command would chase him in the 6th while giving up 6 ER.

Rodriguez will make this start after coming off of a month and a half DL stint to flummox the White Sox with 5.2 innings of 1-run ball. He would also impress with 12 K’s in those frames and only a single walk. Rodriguez can be dominant when healthy, but does have issues with a balky knee that has kept him on the shelf at times and necessitated surgery in the offseason. This will be the Astros first look at Rodriguez in 2018.

As with most of the year, if Morton can hit his spots through a good portion of his start then he has a good chance of keeping opposing batters in checl, but Rodriguez is no slouch himself so this one is a bit of a push.

Game 3: Dallas Keuchel, LHP (11-10, 3.46 ERA) vs. Rick Porcello, RHP (16-7, 4.20 ERA)

Dallas has been on a steady ramp up to being one of the Astros’ better starters after a rough start to the year. He would stumble in mid-August with 5 runs given up to Oakland in 7 innings, but would go ultimately culminate two months of solid starts with 6 innings of 1-run ball, with that one run unearned, against the Twins this past week. This will be Keuchel’s first start against Boston since 2016.

Rick Porcello toes the rubber after a 5 inning performance against the Braves where he looked almost like he had at the beginning of the season. This did come after a mini-slump where he would not look good against the Indians, Rays, and White Sox, giving up 12 runs in 17 innings during those 3 games. He would not have those problems in his start against Houston this year, getting into the 7th innings and only giving up 3 runs, 2 earned.

Porcello isn’t as dominant this season as we’ve seen in the past, but there are flashes of that from time to time. However, Dallas has been consistently better in the 2nd half and should have an edge here.

Fun Fact

After this last home stand the Astros are now 40-32 at MMP and one game ahead of their 2017 win-loss record after 140 games.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Friday, September 7th @ 6:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM / Red Sox - WEEI 93.7, WCCM 1490 AM/103.7 FM
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Red Sox - NESN / MLB Network (out-of-market only) / MLB.TV

Game 2: Saturday, September 8th @ 3:05 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM / Red Sox - WEEI 93.7, WCCM 1490 AM/103.7 FM
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Red Sox - NESN / FS1

Game 3: Sunday, September 9th @ 7:05 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM / Red Sox - WEEI 93.7, WCCM 1490 AM/103.7 FM
Watch: ESPN

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (30 votes)
  • 56%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (155 votes)
  • 27%
    Red Sox Win 2-1
    (75 votes)
  • 5%
    Red Sox Sweep 3-0
    (15 votes)
275 votes total Vote Now