District On Deck: ALCS Preview
The 2017 World Series champs square off against 2018 World series champs in a rematch of the 2018 ALCS. Who will represent the AL in the Fall Classic?
Boston upset the 100 win Rays in a battle for AL East supremacy. Houston made quick work of the White Sox to reach the ALCS for the fifth straight year.
Boston Vs. Houston
How They Got Here:
Boston: Defeated the Yankees 1-0. Defeated the Rays 3-1.
Houston: Defeated Chicago 3-1.
At the start of the season, no one expected Boston to come anywhere close to sniffing a playoff spot, let alone reaching the ALCS. But here they are. In the Wild Card game, they jumped out to a quick start against the Yankees and never looked back. After being shut out in Game 1 of the ALDS against Tampa, Boston’s bats came alive for the rest of the series, scoring 26 runs across their last three games.
Kiké Hernández has morphed into the hottest hitter on the planet and was instrumental in Boston’s upset. Hitless in Game 1, Hernadez finished the series 9-16, with two homers, and six RBIs, including the walk-off sac fly in Game 4. Joining Hernández in Boston’s stacked lineup is Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, Alex Verdugo, Xander Bogaerts, Kyle Schwarber, and Hunter Renfroe. Boston and Houston boast two of the top offenses in the AL and the two are more than likely to exchange blows.
Entering this series, Tanner Houck is the x-factors for Boston. Houck has pitched out of the bullpen during the team’s playoff run and has been phenomenal. He pitched an inning of relief in the Wild Card game, striking out two in a perfect inning, but it was the ALDS where he stole the show. Ace Chris Sale only lasted one inning in Game 2 before being knocked out, allowing five runs. Houck entered and immediately stopped the bleeding, throwing five innings and only allowing one run, while striking out five.
Against a lethal Houston lineup, the rookie may find himself entering the game earlier than expected and will be leaned on to carry the game to the late innings.
Shortly after defeating the White Sox, Houston received some upsetting news. Star pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. is unlikely to pitch in the ALCS due to an arm injury. Despite his absence, the Astros still have Zack Greinke, Luis García, and Framber Valdez to lead the rotation.
Houston’s relief trio of Ryan Pressly, Ryne Stanek, and Kendall Graveman was lights out, only allowing only one combined run across 8 1/3 innings, with nine strikeouts. Yimi Garcia had one rough outing (four earned runs in Game 3), but had scoreless outings in Games 2 and 4.
With McCullers out, it will be up to the Astros offense to help pick up some of the slack. Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Kyle Tucker, Alex Bregman, Yuli Gurriel, and Yordan Álverez abused the White Sox’s pitching staff and will look to do the same again Boston. Correa and Tucker in particular were especially dangerous.
Correa hit. 385, with four RBIs, and a 1.068 OPS. In Game 4, he came through with a clutch two-run double to put the Astros ahead. In the midst of a breakout year, Tucker carried his regular-season success into the playoffs, hitting .294, with two homers, seven RBIs, and an OPS of 1.000. Boston’s offense is just as deep as Houston and Tucker and Correa will need to stay hot if they want to avenge their 2018 ALCS loss.
Prediction: With McCullers out, Houston’s pitching depth will be tested. Boston’s offense is clicking at the perfect time and will be too much to handle. Boston in 7.