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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Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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