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Here's what the ALCS has taught us about home-field advantage
Panic? Not yet. Concern? Well, yeah. The Astros are down 2-1 in the American League Championship Series, which isn't a math problem as much as the way the Red Sox are hitting grand slam homers like they're playing drunk Wiffle Ball in a neighbor's backyard.
The Astros pitching is hurting. The season-long reliable starting rotation has been decimated and left asunder (awesome word). Ace Lance McCullers is on the injury shelf, and starters Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia and Jose Urquidy have barely made cameo appearances. Valdez has been the workhorse, lasting 2-2/3 innings, while Garcia survived one inning and Urquidy managed to get only four Sox batters out. The Astros have fallen behind 8-0 and 9-0 in their two losses. They need to stop doing that.
Zack Greinke, who the Astros said wouldn't start in the ALCS, will start crucial Game 4 tonight. Greinke has thrown only 12-1/3 innings in the last month while still surrendering five runs. He needs to stop doing that, too.
More troubling, if that's even possible, Astros pitching coach Brent Stromm is suggesting that Astros hurlers are tipping their pitches. Imagine how much an advantage a Red Sox batter would have if he knew what pitch was coming. Oprah's Book Club would see this as literary irony. You remember 2017, right? The Red Sox certainly do.
Astros fans didn't see lopsided scores coming, and here's another development they may not have expected.
Red Sox fans in Fenway Park have been respectful, even kind and friendly toward Astros supporters who traveled up to Boston.
Famed restaurateur Matthew George, like a hurricane chaser, has spent the 2021 season following the Astros into danger: Yankee Stadium, Dodger Stadium and Fenway Park. In biblical times, George would have cheered for Daniel in the lion's den.
"The fans in Boston have been terrific toward us. They engage with us, ask about the Astros players, what kind of season we've had. I haven't seen any trouble or heard any threats or anything over the line before, during or after the games," George said.
That surprised George. This surprised me. George said he bought his World Series ticket from the team's official website. The games in Boston were not sold out in advance by season ticket holders.
"I got online the minute tickets went on sale to the public. I bought my field box seat for Game 3, seven rows behind the Astros on deck circle for $320," he said.
George's first impression of Fenway: "it's small. The stadium shakes, you can feel your seat vibrating, when the Red Sox hit a home run. When Kyle Schwarber hit his grand slam Monday night, you really felt Fenway rock."
George said that some Astros fans hung out after the game to watch Astros players board their bus. A small group of Red Sox fans started yelling at the Astros fans but police chased the rowdies away.
George said it was a different story when he attended games at Dodger Stadium and Yankee Stadium. Fans there were rude and unruly. Of course it might have helped if George weren't wearing an Astros jersey behind enemy lines. George was the target of invective and middle finger salutes at Yankee Stadium and hot dog shrapnel at Dodger Stadium. Household hint: to remove mustard stains, pre-soak the garment with detergent and hot water, wash, let dry in sunlight.
"There's no mistaking who the fans at Fenway are rooting for, but you can tell these are true baseball fans who really know and appreciate the game. They're not there just to be seen. They clearly want the Red Sox to win, but it's cool if you're an Astros fan. I've always heard about the amazing Fenway experience and it's lived up to everything."