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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The Rockets are collecting a lot of young talent. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Good parents are protective of their kids. Some helicopter parents are a little too protective and take it too far. Kenyon Martin Sr came out and wanted his son traded to a contender where he can flourish in a winning environment. He felt as if Jr wouldn’t be able to flourish as much as he thinks his son can in Houston. With the arrival of the number three overall pick, most likely being a frontcourt guy, they must’ve thought his playing time would decrease. Less time means less development means less money you can ask for on the next contract. I get it. I’m a parent. I understand. But there’s a point in which you have to be realistic.

Things like this are actually a good problem to have. It speaks to the Rockets having an abundance of talent, young talent at that. Whenever a team has a bevy of young talent in the NBA, they’ve been losing a lot and have stockpiled high draft picks. That, or they’ve developed a bunch of young guys that are now getting playing time and are on the verge of perhaps breaking out. Teams love it because crafting and shaping their future is easier when there’s a ton of options. They can choose to play and develop the guys they want to keep and trade the ones they don’t…provided they have any value.

Sr may think Jr is a future All NBA guy, and maybe he is, but he hasn’t been able to beat out Jae’Sean Tate for playing time in that tweener 3-4 combo position. One of the main things people point out is his ball handling. If he can’t handle the ball and make plays, he can’t play effectively enough in this system at that position. While he’s been able to give them valuable minutes, he’ll have to continue to improve and fight for those minutes. With the possibility of yet another player at that position with lofty draft status and expectations coming in (not to mention a unique skillset), the writing was on the wall.

When Sr came out recently and stated Jr is committed to staying here and getting better and Jr reiterated that at media availability this week, it helped quiet down the rumors. Would I be surprised if he’s traded? Not at all. He’s a good young athletic player who’s improved his shot. He could be a valuable rotation player for any team that has him. Do I want him to stay? Of course! I’d love nothing more than this team to grow together and stay together.

That’s in a perfect world and that’s somewhere we don’t live. Acquiring this much talent has paid off in the recent past. I wrote last week that this team can do what the Warriors and Celtics did if they continue to draft well, develop their talent, and surround their core with the right kind of role players. If playing time and meeting their potential for too many players becomes a problem (cap-wise, playing time, or any other reasons), they can always make deals and turn that talent into more draft picks. OKC did it with James Harden and flipped assets into about 3 million draft picks over the years. Blueprints are out there for the team to follow. Let’s keep hoping Rafael Stone can push the right buttons at the right times and continue to build this team back into a contender.

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