2018 MLB ALCS Series Picks: Houston Astros vs Boston Red Sox
It's only fitting that the two teams with the best records in the American League meet in the American League Championship Series for the right to compete in the World Series. For Boston, this was expected. They steamrolled through the regular season, winning 108 games, and handled the Yankees with relative ease in the ALDS. Now they must go up against an Astros - a team that won 103 games and expected to be in this position as well. Oh, and did I mention they defending World Series Champs?
This series has the makings of becoming an instant classic, and it wouldn't shock me one bit to see this series go the distance with each team trading punches throughout the series. In one dugout you have the league leaders in almost-all batting categories, and in the other dugout you have a team who ranks among the Top 3 in every defensive category. Something has to give.
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As of writing this, the Astros are favorites to win the pennant at -120 . This isn't all that surprising considering they are the defending champions. In order to be the best, you got to beat the best. The Red Sox check in at EVEN money, and there is value there, but you will likely have to act fast.
In terms of past playoff encounters, the Astros and Red Sox have met only once before, and that was last season when the Astros beat the Sox' 3-1 in the ALDS en route to winning their franchises' first World Series.
The Red Sox pitching rotation is a unit that has been lights out all year long, and we saw that come to light in the ALDS vs the Yankees. Chris Sale got the job started in Game 1, tossing 5.1 innings and striking out 8 batters. Nathan Eovaldi and Rick Porcello also handled their business well in Games 3 and 4, respectively, which just goes to show you how deep this starting rotation is. If David Price can be "regular-season" David Price instead of "playoff" Price, then the Red Sox will have four legitimate starters it can throw at Houston. Instead, if Price continues to struggle in the postseason, the Astros hitters will have their way. One guy the Red Sox didn't have to use much is Eduardo Rodriguez. E-Rod turned in a record of 13-5, 3.82 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP. If he can pitch like his record indicates he can, then he can be an x-factor in this series.
The Astros pitching staff has been one of the best rotations in the league throughout the year. They are led by a trio of pitchers who each pitched in 200+ innings, and that includes Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel and Gerrit Cole. Verlander, Keuchel and Cole combined for a 43-25 record this season. Each of those three pitchers were lights out against the Indians. Verlander gave up just two hits while striking out seven in Game 1. Cole struck out 12 over seven innings of work while giving up just three hits, and Keuchel gave up just two runs in Game 3 before the offense came to the rescue. The rotation and bullpen will have their hands full limiting Boston this series, so it'll be interesting to see if they are up for the challenge.
The Red Sox lineup is one of the most potent and consistent lineups in the American League. They rank first in runs (5.4), hits (93.) average (.268), OBP (.339), SLG (.453) and OPS (.792). and they sure as hell put it on display throughout the series. The Red Sox averaged seven runs per game over the course of the four games. And even if you take away the 16-run outburst in Game 3, they still averaged almost four runs per game. A few key decisions were made in regards to the lineup by first-year manager Alex Cora. First, Cora decided to give Brock Holt a run in Game 3, and he delivered in a big way. Holt went 4-for-6 with a home run and became the first player in MLB history to hit for the cycle in the postseason. Second, Cora decided to go with Christian Vasquez at catcher after Sandy Leon started the first two games and was 0-for-5 at the plate. Vazquez went 3-for-9 and hit a home run in the two games he started. Wise move. And lastly, Cora decided to get Rafael Devers some playing time in Game 3, and the young third basemen delivered, going 2-for-6 with an RBI. Not to mention, J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts and the rest of the lineup contributed as well. The Red Sox showed why they are the league leaders in run producing.
On the other hand, the Astros lineup is about as consistent as you can get, led by Alex Bregman, who posted 103 RBIs, 105 runs scored and 31 home runs to lead the team in all three categories. However, it as George Springer who led the way this series, posting a pair of home runs in the series-clinching game to set a new franchise record with 10 postseason home runs. Not far behind him was the combination of Bregman and Altuve, who combined to go 9-for-23 with six RBIs and four walks. Keeping those two guys off the base pads is going to be a tough ask for the Red Sox pitching staff. If the Astros can continue getting contributions from their big-time players and have guys like Josh Reddick and Carlos Correa pitch in with timely ABs, the Astros could be on their way to back-to-back World Series appearances.
Who Has the Edge
This series is the ultimate contrast in styles. The Red Sox would prefer beating you by scoring 10 runs, while the Astros rely on their pitching staff and would enjoy winning games 3-0. In a serious as close as this one, it could come down to which manager makes the best decisions and adjustments. And based on what we saw through the opening round of the playoffs, Cora may just have the advantage here. At the end of the day, if I had to pick, I would go with the Red Sox based on value - but I think the best bet is for the series to go the distance.
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