Posted on October 14, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Houston Astros took the upper hand in the ALCS Saturday night in Boston, winning Game 1 7-2. In a battle of aces, Justin Verlander outlasted Chris Sale in a game that also saw Red Sox manager Alex Cora ejected for arguing balls and strikes. To be fair, it was only a 3-2 game until the Astros tacked on four runs in the 9th inning. Nevertheless, the Red Sox face the pressure of needing to win Sunday’s Game 2 to avoid going down 2-0 before the series shifts back to Houston.
The Astros were quite efficient in Game 1, turning almost every potential rally into runs. Houston scored their seven runs on just five hits while going 3 for 10 with runners in scoring position. In their four postseason games, the Astros are showing signs of being the offensive powerhouse they were last October. Their patience was also paramount in Game 1, drawing 10 walks from Red Sox pitching. The Red Sox, meanwhile, managed just three hits all game, although that was enough to get them two runs. Obviously, they’ll have to do better in Game 2 to keep pace with the Astros.
After the Red Sox had trouble hitting Verlander in Game 1, they’ll face the challenge of Gerrit Cole in Game 2. Cole is coming off a season in which he went 15-5 with a 2.88 ERA. That includes a September outing at Fenway Park when he gave up two runs over six innings. That Astros would surely be happy with a similar outing. Of course, they wouldn’t mind if Cole repeated the success of his ALDS start against the Indians, allowing one run on three hits over seven innings. After striking out 12 in that start, it’s safe to say that Cole heads into Sunday’s start with a lot of confidence.
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Meanwhile, the Red Sox will go back to David Price in Game 2 after his brief outing against the Yankees during the ALDS. Price was 6-1 with a 2.25 ERA after the all-star break this season. However, he’s rarely been able to translate his success to the postseason. In 10 starts and eight relief appearances in the playoffs, Price is 2-9 with a 5.28 ERA. His start against the Yankees was just another step in the wrong direction. To be fair, Price tossed 6.2 scoreless innings against the Astros last October, but that was in two appearances coming out of the bullpen. This time around, the Red Sox need him to start a game and go deep to help protect their bullpen. Boston fans are no doubt holding their breath.
It may be odd to think of an MVP candidate as an X-factor, but that may be the case with Mookie Betts. In the team’s five postseason games, he’s just 4 for 20. However, he’s 5 for 8 in his career against Cole, making him one of the few Boston hitters who’s actually had success against Houston’s Game 2 starter. Needless to say, the Red Sox need him to get going and become the catalyst in Game 2.
For the Astros, one interesting X-factor to watch is Brian McCann. On the surface, it seems unlikely for McCann to start Game 2 against Price. However, Tyler White and Evan Gattis are a combined 1 for 12 with seven strikeouts against Price. Meanwhile, McCann is a surprising 11 for 32 (.344) with three home runs against the Red Sox lefty. A.J. Hinch could roll the dice and start McCann at DH in Game 2 to see if the veteran can help deliver the knockout punch against Price and the Red Sox.
It’s going to take a Herculean effort from both Price and the Red Sox lineup to win this game. Cole looked outstanding last week against the Indians whereas Price is one giant question mark. The Boston bullpen also had to work five innings on Saturday, so they’re not exactly fresh. Everything in this game points to the Astros winning Game 2 and taking a commanding lead in this series. Houston wins 4-2.
Note: This prediction is the opinion of the author and not necessarily the prediction of Jon Price or Sports Information Traders.