HOUSTON VS. BOSTON

Jumping on the Astros bandwagon? Here is the ALCS guide for dummies

George Springer seems to show up every October. Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images

This article is a continuation of one written for the American League Division Series, which can be found here.

Well. Round one went by quick. Hopefully you didn’t spend too much time practicing your talking points in the mirror from the last article, because you can go ahead and forget everything about the Cleveland Indians until next April. What that means for you, however, is that class is back in session.

The Matchup

The Astros will be playing the Boston Red Sox in a best of seven series. Between the two, Boston had the better regular season record overall and therefore owns home field advantage throughout the series. The first two games will be played in Boston, the next three will be in Houston, and - if needed - the final two will be played back in Boston.

How Houston Made It

The Astros stared at three great Cleveland pitchers in the first round - in three different games - and punched them all in the mouth. Cleveland tried to swing back, but Houston’s pitching staff leaned out of the way, ruffled their hair, and probably called them “Sport,” or “Tiger.” Seriously. In three games, the Indians were outscored 21-6. Better luck next time, sport.

How Boston Made It

The Boston Red Sox faced off against bitter rival New York in a series that was exclusively slotted for primetime, because Yankees. The Red Sox used an overpowering offense to send the Yankees home early, which included a game where Boston choke slammed the bombers 16-1.

Astros Players to Know

If you read the first article of this playoff series, you’ll see that I went to the trouble to introduce you to the biggest names you should know. Take a minute and go read that. I’ll wait.

Now that you’re caught up, let’s get acquainted with some of the other guys.

George Springer: Centerfielder. 2017 World Series MVP. Clubbed two home runs in the last game against Cleveland to close them out. His bat magically warms up in October, so look out for more. Also prone to insane circus catches in center field, so watch for those.

Lance McCullers: Relief Pitcher. Wants to strike everyone out. Sometimes he does just that, and sometimes he gives up four runs in the first inning. If you see him on Twitter he's usually either talking smack to everyone or advocating animal rescue. Seriously, I think he has like 18 dogs.

Sound smart: “So McCullers started throughout the season, but he came off injury a little late in the season so they're going to use him out of the bullpen.”

Marwin Gonzalez: Left fielder. And Second Baseman. And Shortstop. And First Baseman. Third Base? Yeah, he does that too. He played pretty much everywhere there was a tired player that needed a break this season. Just plug him in and watch the Astros’ human swiss army knife go to work. Let’s avoid numbers and just say that he hit the ball more than half of the time he went up to bat in the last round against Cleveland. I’ve never seen him smile.

Yuli Gurriel: First Baseman. In contention for greatest hair on the team, but he won it last year so I gave it to someone else this year. Nicknamed “La Pina,” which is really fun to yell when he gets a hit. Struggled a little at the plate last round, but throughout the regular season was one of the most clutch players in the league with runners on base. So when you see him up to bat with a man on second base, fire this one off:

“It’s La Pina, man. Easy Money.”

Josh Reddick: Right fielder. Country boy. Helped make the “Woo!” chant a thing, which was cool. Last year. Notoriously abysmal at the plate in the postseason last year. OK season this year at the plate, but known for his defense. Likes to mime shooting Spiderman webs after a good catch, so watch for that, point at the screen and go “Yeah, he does that all the time, man.”

Charlie Morton: Pitcher. Threw the final out if the World Series. Dealing with a shoulder issue, but when healthy he pitches hard  and has a filthy curve. Most likely player to mass text the team a reminder of practice times and also to have a wonderful day. His recent dominance has earned him a nickname he probably finds a bit crass: Charlie F(roli)cking Morton. Subtitute the parenthesis for an appropriate vowel.

Red Sox Players to Know

Mookie Betts: Rightfielder. Potential A.L. MVP. Great hitter and base stealer. Second best baseball name in the league (Scooter Gennet obviously being the first). Good bowler. One of the top two Red Sox most likely to frustrate you because he is very, very good.

J.D. Martinez: Designated Hitter. Perpetual five o'clock shadow. Potential A.L. MVP as well, but more than likely the runner up to Betts. This guy is Dangerous with a capital D at the plate. Very capable of crushing a few home runs this series. If he does well some baseball guy is going to inevitably lean over and go “You know he used to be an Astros, right?” Shut him down.

“Yeah, but he was bad. Now he's good. That's how player development works.”

Chris Sale: Pitcher. Top 5 pitcher when healthy. Currently recovering from injury. Game 1 starter. Filthy strikeout stuff. Very tall gangle-creature. Before the Red Sox acquired him, he was offered to Houston in exchange for Alex Bregman.

...nah.

David Price: Pitcher. Game 2 starter. Solid starter. Loves the video game Fortnite. Like a lot. Like, “the Red Sox asked him to stop playing so much and focus on baseball,” a lot.

Craig Kimbrel: Closer. If you see this guy in the game, you're probably already in a bad mood because the Red Sox won't send him out unless they're winning. Seeing his..unique..pitching stance probably won't help your mood. It looks like Dracula hunched over, spreading his cape. Look it up. Kimbrel is typically one of the most dominant closing pitchers but looked vulnerable closing out the Yankees last round.

What to Expect

One hell of a series. These teams own the best two regular season records and a ton of firepower in their bats. I look at this as the de facto World Series because by every metric they're essentially the two best teams. The Astros won the regular season series between the two, but both teams were dealing with separate injuries so take that for what it's worth.

Offensively, it looks like a push with Boston receiving a slight nudge ahead if I had to pick. The deciding factor in this series will once again come down to pitching, and that is where the Astros are simply in a different class. Boston has good starters, but after that the foundation cracks while trying to pass the baton to Kimbrel. Houston's pitching is nails for nine innings.

I call Houston in six. I also call a great series that I'm going to lose years of my life over.







 

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Jae'Sean Tate had himself a night. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

No Christian Wood. No Kevin Porter Jr. No Jalen Green. No problem. Jae’ Sean Tate became a complete superhero for the Houston Rockets versus the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night.

He recorded 32 points, 10 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 5.0 blocks, and 2.0 steals and shot 73 percent from the field. With that stat line, he joined former Rocket Hakeem Olajuwon and other historic big men from the past, which Tim MacMahon reported.

Tate is known for his leadership and the ability to be humble. When a reporter asked Tate about the stat line, he said, “How many turnovers? Nah, 25 assists, that’s what sup! Can’t be mad at that.” An expression like that shows the importance of putting his teammates first before taking all the shine. Tate is providing more passion with communication and being the rock that the "Baby Rockets" can lean on.

Coach Silas' confidence in Tate is something built from last year and it shows. Those two have constant dialogue throughout the game, and it’s seen before the huddle or when Silas is standing on the sideline before he calls a play. Silas has run consistent sets for Tate, as he did that within the 15-game losing streak. He dialed up an out of bounds action with 33.4 seconds left, so Tate could make a clutch layup towards the rim.

“Long, long, long ago in his rookie year…we definitely have a bond and with those two guys out, we needed some scoring,” Silas said. “He was the guy who was playing the hardest from start to finish and down the stretch we ran that elbow iso for him. And he just went through his defender and finished. And he made some huge plays in the 4th quarter, which is what you need. Yeah, I trust him as much as anybody else, and he has earned that, and he deserves it.”

“That just shows the confidence Coach Silas, and my teammates have in me,” said Tate. “We lost some of our primary guys tonight. And not only me, but everybody also stepped up.”

His usage rating is slowly going up, which is posted at 18.9 percent per NBA stats. In isolation, Tate is averaging 1.00 points per possession, which puts him in the 75th percentile(!) per NBA stats. Tate is seeing more action out of the corner, so it can allow him to get to his left hand on offense. The elbow iso action is a play that Tate has run since high school, college, overseas, and in the NBA now. He mentioned that the set allows him to get comfortable when his number is called.

“That’s not my primary role and I think everyone knows that,” Tate said. “I am very confident [in] what I bring to the table offensively. Not only scoring wise but seeing the floor and being able to make [a] decision in space. And that kind of helps me when they overlook the scouting report.”

“[I've] been running that play since I was [in] high school. At Ohio St. I ran that. Even when I was overseas, Will Weaver, that was a play he put in. To have that called tonight, it felt familiar and it’s one of my strengths. And playing in the mid-post area and getting to my left hand.”

Tate was excellent for the Rockets on both sides of the ball, as he had a 116.9 offensive and 108.5 defensive rating with an 82.5 percent in true shooting versus the Thunder. Hopefully, Tate can be the leading catalyst again, as the Rockets face the Orlando Magic and New Orleans Pelicans, which are winnable games. It should become a six-game winning streak, as John Wall might play if his condition is right.

Up next: The Rockets face the Orlando Magic on Friday night.

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