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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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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