Is it possible that the Houston Astros are even better in 2018?
Start spreading the news. The Boston Red Sox defeated the New York Yankees in four games and are heading to the ALCS for the first time since they won it all in 2013. As a fan of the Red Sox, you never want to lose to the Yankees. Any playoff loss is hard to swallow, but the pain is doubled when it’s at the hands of your biggest rival.
I can only imagine how Yankees fans felt as the Red Sox kicked their doors in this week and then danced on their graves with a locker room rendition of Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York, rubbing it in the face of Aaron Judge and the ‘Bronx Bombers’ who failed to hit a single home run in rinky dink Yankee Stadium while the Red Sox dropped 20 runs on them….
…sorry I got lost in thought. The Houston Astros are a problem.
While the Red Sox were expected to defeat the Yankees, I feel very differently about this series with the Astros. To be honest, I feel very uneasy. Putting aside the fact that they’re the reigning World Series champions, they’re arguably better this year than they were in 2017 and that’s a terrifying proposition.
They’re better than the 103-win record too. Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa all suffered lengthy injuries this season and are healthy now. The result is a juggernaut of lineup that just unleashed hell on the Cleveland Indians in a seemingly effortless three-game sweep. The Astros outscored the Indians 21 to 6, as much a testament to their offense as it is to the strength of the rotation.
Justin Verlander is having a year. He has more strikeouts (290) and a lower WHIP (0.902) this season than any other in his 14 year career. He also had the second lowest ERA (2.52) of his career and lowest since he won the AL Cy Young and MVP in 2011.
Yet as good as Verlander has been this year, Gerrit Cole may be better. Leading the majors in strikeouts per nine innings with an absurd 12.4 average (276 total), Cole provides the Astros with the ultimate one-two punch that could swing back around and hit the Red Sox twice if this series goes long.
Going toe-to-toe with these monsters are Chris Sale and David Price. While Sale vs. Verlander promises to be an epic pitching duel, we still don’t really know what to expect out of Price. He had a terrible outing in his first post-season start against the Yankees, but he’s historically bad against the Yankees.
He’s got a postseason record of 2-9 with a 5.28 ERA, differing drastically from his 143-75 regular season record with a 3.25 career ERA. His 2018 stats echo this problem with a 16-7 record and 3.58 ERA on the year, followed by an atrocious 16.2 ERA in his ALDS loss to New York. Of course, the level of competition is higher in the postseason, but this is still an influential narrative heading into the ALCS.
Red Sox fans are reeling about the decision to start Price in game two, but it’s really a no-brainer. The leash will likely be short and the need for run support is paramount, but you simply have to put your best guys on the mound and David Price is one of the most talented pitchers in baseball. Like it or not.
That’s the biggest swing game of the series for me. The Red Sox could win with Sale and lose with Price, leaving them with a 1-1 split on their way to Houston. The next three games will be played at Minute Maid Park, meaning the ‘Stros could potentially close out the series before returning to Boston.
That scares me. This whole series scares me. The Red Sox have the most wins in franchise history and I honestly think the Houston Astros are the better team. That’s saying something.
But let’s not forget who the Red Sox are. Under the tutelage of Alex Cora, this team has a completely different vibe than last year. They seem to have more heart and fight than they have since the Francona days.
It doesn’t matter if I believe in the Red Sox because the Red Sox believe in the Red Sox. And the irony is that I’m a believer because of that. JD Martinez and Mookie Betts are two of the best hitters in baseball. Andrew Benintendi and Xander Bogaerts are criminally underrated. Chris Sale is a true ace and Rick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi were brilliant against the Yankees.
These are two of the best teams of all time and this series is going to be spectacular, whether you have a dog in the fight or not. Let’s go to war.