Keys to Astros-Red Sox ALCS Game 1

By Randy McIlvoy - Sports Director

BOSTON - The time has come for baseball's two best teams to collide in the postseason. The Astros are baseball's best road team while the Red Sox are the best at-home team.

Seven months after spring training opened, the Astros and Red Sox are the last two teams standing, with a trip to the World Series on the line. Together, they combined for 211 wins, which tied for second most all-time wins in a postseason series.

Boston is here after downing the Yankees and winning that series 3-1 while the Astros swept Cleveland to get here.

Plenty of storylines are tied to this series. Both managers, Alex Cora and A.J. Hinch, are good friends, with Cora serving as Hinch's bench coach last season. And when it comes to the rosters, let's just say neither team is lacking any top-tier talent.

Let's get this showdown underway!

The Astros will face Boston ace Chris Sale in Game 1. Sale was solid in the team's ALDS starting and also had a relief appearance. He will face a Houston lineup that pummelled him in the 2017 ALDS.

For the Astros, it all starts with the top of the order, led by leadoff man George Springer along with Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel. Where Carlos Correa lands in the order is up in the air. His likely spot will be sixth.

Justin Verlander won 16 games in the regular season. With his win over the Indians in the ALDS, he now has 12 career playoff wins. He struck out seven in five innings against Cleveland.

He will face a Red Sox lineup led by MVP favorite Mookie Betts, who leads off along with J.D. Martinez and shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who will hit cleanup. Former Rice Owl star Brock Holt will play first base and hit fifth or sixth for Cora.

Keys to Game 1

  1. Verlander attacks: Verlander is the guy you want out there for Game 1 in a hostile territory such as Fenway Park. Betts is dangerous in the leadoff spot but struggled in the ALDS. The top four in Boston's order need to be kept off the bases. Make no mistakes to J.D. Martinez.
  2. Defense: Enough said here. Play clean baseball and you give yourself a chance every day.
  3. Correa bounce back: It's clear he is not himself at the plate but felt better in the ALDS despite going 1-10. He worked counts and feels he is about to break through. The Astros need a big series at the plate from Correa.
  4. Hinch vs. Cora: Managers are tested with decisions more than ever in the postseason and this will not be any different. Lineups, pitching moves and typical in-game moves will be crucial.
  5. Win bullpen battle: The two closers -- Isuna for Houston and Kimbrel for Boston -- are outstanding. The Astros are solid as well with McCullers, McHugh and Pressley.

So the buildup is complete and now it is time to play baseball. Two heavyweights are ready to collide, and most believe the winnerwill also be the World Series champion.

The series begins Saturday at 7:09 p.m., with Game 2 Sunday at 6:09 p.m.

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