It's playoff time

Previewing the Astros-Red Sox American League Divisional Series

Will the Astros make the plays they need to in order to beat the Red Sox. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Tomorrow afternoon the Astros start their quest for the 11 playoff wins they need to get the first World Series in franchise history. First up, the Boston Red Sox whom the Astros won 4 out of 7 games against in the regular season. Big disclaimer on that, though, they never faced Chris Sale. On the flip side, the Red Sox never went up against Keuchel this season either. So, how the series will ultimately go is hard to predict, but I’m going to give it a shot:

Game 1 – 3:08 PM Thursday, October 5th @ Houston
Starting Pitchers: Sale v. Verlander

Although the Astros didn’t face Sale this year, they did play him a couple of times last year. Altuve went 3 for 7 against him including a homer, while Springer and Correa combined to go 3 for 15 with five strikeouts. However, I’d argue that Altuve is the same great hitter, and Correa and Springer are improved, meaning there’s a good chance they do even better than those numbers suggest. Verlander and Sale have gone head to head twice this year when Verlander was with the Tigers. In the first meeting on April 10th the Tigers won 2-1 as Verlander edged out Sale by giving up just one run in seven innings while Sale gave up two in seven and two-thirds. In the second head-to-head matchup, Verlander did much worse, giving up three runs in just five innings while Sale gave up three in seven innings of work as the Red Sox went on to win that one 11-3. I think Verlander pitches a great game and benefits from the strong Astros offense behind him that do enough against Sale to get the series started with a win at home. Prediction: Astros win 4-2.

Game 2 – 1:05 PM Friday, October 6th @ Houston
Starting Pitchers: Pomeranz v. Keuchel

Pomeranz has done really well against the Astros this year in two starts, going at least six innings in both starts and giving up just one run in each game allowing the Red Sox to win both, one in Houston and one in Boston. However, Keuchel at home is almost always a lock to be lights out, and I expect nothing less in a playoff game. I think with the crowd behind them, the offense pulls this one out behind a strong showing from Keuchel. Prediction: Astros win 5-1.

Game 3 – 1:30 PM Sunday, October 8th @ Boston
Starting Pitchers: TBD

We don’t know who the pitchers will be just yet, but I expect it’ll be Peacock going for the Astros on Sunday. I think the Red Sox offense will be fired up to be at home, enough to allow them to edge out their one win against the Astros on Sunday. That being said, it would not surprise me by any means if the Astros get the three-game sweep. Prediction: Red Sox win 5-4

Game 4 (If Necessary)- Time TBD Monday, October 9th @ Boston
Starting Pitchers: TBD

Game 4 is another game that’s hard to give exact numbers and reasoning on since so many things could change depending on decisions the Red Sox could make if they are down 2-1 or vice versa for the Astros. The Red Sox could be desperate enough to put Sale back out on extremely short rest or start Porcello or Rodriguez. I think the Astros will be up 2-1 and trust Morton to get the job done and he does just that. Prediction: Astros win 7-3

Game 5 (If Necessary) – Time TBD Wednesday, October 11th @ Houston
Starting Pitchers: TBD

I don’t see this series going 5 games. If it does, however, there are a few things to consider. The ghosts of 2015 could sneak up on the Astros where they blew a 2-1 lead and lost the series to the Royals, allowing the Red Sox to sneak one over. I think this team is too mature for that, though, and with home field advantage, I don’t see them falling to the same fate in 2017. Prediction: Game Not Necessary, But If I’m Wrong, Astros win 6-2

Ultimately, I think this Astros offense will be too much for the Red Sox to handle, especially if they play like they did the last week of the season. I expect Verlander and Keuchel to be dominant, and for the Astros to get a great effort out of Peacock and Morton, whom I expect to be the third and fourth starters. That means you potentially have Mchugh and McCullers in the bullpen, which if brought in to pitch only pitch one or two innings could do some real damage. Kimbrel may be a monster, but Giles has been pretty dominant as well, and guys like Musgrove and Devenski have been great too. All of this isn’t to say the Red Sox aren’t dangerous or talented, I just think the Astros get it done with home-field advantage.

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Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

UPDATE: With the Angels loss on Friday night, the Astros have secured their playoff berth. They will be part of the MLB postseason for their fourth-straight season.

After the big offensive showing to take the opener on Thursday, the Astros entered Friday's game at Globe Life Field against the Rangers just one win or Angels loss away from securing their spot in the playoffs. Here is how the game unfolded:

Final Score (10 innings): Rangers 5, Astros 4.

Record: 29-29, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Brett Martin (1-1, 1.98 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Enoli Paredes (3-3, 3.05 ERA).

Urquidy goes seven while allowing two

The Rangers would strike first in Friday's game, getting a two-out solo home run against Jose Urquidy in the bottom of the second to grab the early 1-0 lead. Urquidy did relatively well on the night, though he would allow another solo homer in the bottom of the fifth. Those were the only two runs he allowed, working in and out of some trouble throughout the game on his way to finishing seven innings. His final line: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 2 HR, 98 P.

Houston grabs their first lead late

Unlike their hot night at the plate the night prior, it took the Astros until the fifth inning to get on the board. It came after Carlos Correa hit a leadoff single, then came all the way around to score on an RBI-triple by George Springer, making it a 1-1 tie at the time.

After the Rangers went back in front 2-1 in the bottom of the inning on their second solo homer of the night, Alex Bregman would tie it up again with a solo home run of his own, making it 2-2. Houston would get their first lead of the night in the top of the eighth, with Altuve working a leadoff walk before scoring later in the inning on an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel.

Rangers get the walk-off to keep Houston waiting for playoff bid

After Urquidy, Blake Taylor would take over on the mound in the bottom of the eighth, retiring the Rangers in order for a scoreless inning to hold the one-run lead. Still 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Houston turned to their closer, Ryan Pressly. After two quick outs, he would allow a game-tying solo home run, making it 3-3 to postpone Houston's celebration at least another inning as the game headed to extras.

In the top of the tenth, Jose Altuve was placed on second as the free runner. He advanced to third on a groundout to start the inning, then scored on a sac fly by Alex Bregman, making it a 4-3 lead for Houston. Enoli Paredes would load the bases before Texas would tie the game on a sac fly in the bottom of the inning, keeping runners on second and third. Houston made the change to Brooks Raley to try and extend the game another inning, but instead, the Rangers would get the walk-off win, spoiling Houston's chance to clinch their playoff spot themselves with a win.

Up Next: The third game of this four-game set will get underway at 6:05 PM Central on Saturday. On the mound for Texas will be Kyle Gibson (2-6, 5.87 ERA), and, as of now, the Astros still have Lance McCullers Jr. (3-3, 4.24 ERA) listed as their starter.

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