Red Sox VS Astros
The ability of third baseman Rafael Devers to deal with his upper arm injury was key to the Red Sox success against the Tampa Bay Rays in the National League Divisional Series. Devers hit 38 homers this year and right fielder Hunter Renfroe hit 31. They will continue to rely on shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who led the team in walks and was fourth in runs batted in. Kyle Schwarber batting leadoff is working even though Schwarbs doesn’t have the kind of speed we used to associate with the number-one spot in the lineup. Bobby Dalbec went oh-fer the ALDS. He’ll need to step up because it isn’t likely everyone who looked like Babe Ruth in that series will continue .
Will super utility guy Kiké Hernandez continue to hit .435 in the ALCS? Probably not. But he will continue to bring energy, do the little things that need to be done to win and, oh yeah, crush left-handed pitching. The return of J.D. Martinez wasn’t just one thing in the Rays series, it was the most important thing. The Sox outscored the Rays 26-15 with Martinez in the lineup.
Houston would seem to have the edge in pitching considering their ERA is half a run better than Boston’s and the batting-average-against is 30 points lower (30 points!). The problem with relying on these stats is the Rays were equally situated and they got smoked in Games 2, 3 and 4 in the ALDS. Part of that was the Red Sox smashing 11 home runs in four games. Compare that to the four home runs Houston hit in its series and that seems to be a serious advantage for Boston.
Also, Houston’s postseason performance (4.63 earned runs allowed per game) was half a game worse than Boston’s. Say for the sake of argument the season numbers hold and Framber Valdez (3.14), Lance McCullers (3.16), Jose Urquidy (3.62, 0.99 WHIP) have the arsenal to keep Boston at bay. That only happens though if they can follow the Logan Webb performances for the Giants against the Dodgers. If they can get ground ball outs to the pitcher, they have a chance.
But, if Boston’s Nathan Eovaldi (2.61 ERA), Tanner Houck (2.57) and Nick Pivetta (3.12) can eat up innings, it’s going to be a long series. The big question is Eduardo Rodriguez. He got hammered in both starts against the Rays and the Astros won’t be any easier…probably.
Prediction: Boston has too much firepower and enough pitching to hold off the ‘Stros and keep their manager, Dusty Baker, from getting a second crack at a ring. Boston in 6, but it won’t be easy.