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ALCS Cheat Sheet
2018 Head-to-Head Matchups (Astros 4-3, Over 5-2)

Red Sox vs. Astros (Minute Maid Park)
May 31 – Astros 4, Red Sox 2 (Under 8 ½)
June 1 – Astros 7, Red Sox 3 (Over 7)
June 2 – Red Sox 5, Astros 4 (Over 7 ½)
June 3 – Red Sox 9, Astros 3 (Over 7 ½)

Astros vs. Red Sox (Fenway Park)
September 7 – Astros 6, Red Sox 3 (Over 8 ½)
September 8 – Astros 5, Red Sox 3 (Under 9)
September 9 – Red Sox 6, Astros 5 (Over 8 ½)

HOW THEY GOT HERE

The Red Sox (108-54) won the most games in franchise history this season as they reached the ALCS for the first time since 2013 after knocking out the Yankees in four games of the ALDS. Boston split the first two games against New York at Fenway Park, but rebounded for a pair of victories in the Bronx, capped off by Tuesday’s Game 4 clincher, 4-3.

Boston won 93 games each of the last two seasons on its way to the AL East title, but in Alex Cora’s first season as manager, the Red Sox jumped to 108 victories, its most since winning 104 games in 1946. The difference this season is the Red Sox were able to escape the ALDS unscathed after losing to Cleveland in 2016 and Houston in 2017.

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In those two series losses to the Indians and Astros, the Red Sox posted an 0-4 road record. Boston put together a 51-30 mark away from Fenway this season, which ranked second in the league behind Houston’s 57-24 road ledger. The Red Sox are on a 4-1 road underdog run since late September, which includes three wins over the Yankees and a victory at Cleveland.

The Astros (103-59) are back in the ALCS for the second consecutive season as Houston seeks back-to-back World Series titles. Houston closed the regular season on a 28-9 run to capture the AL West title, while finishing off Cleveland in a three-game sweep in the ALDS.

Houston’s pitching staff stifled the Cleveland bats by allowing six runs in the three games, while pulling away in the Game 3 clincher by scoring 10 runs in the final three innings of an 11-3 rout at Progressive Field. The Astros knocked out eight home runs in the series sweep, including a pair of jacks from outfielder George Springer in the Game 3 rout.

SEASON SERIES

The Astros grabbed four of seven meetings from the Red Sox, as Houston won the first two matchups in each series. In the first series at Minute Maid Park in June, Houston captured the opener, 4-2 thanks to a pair of fourth inning runs to break a 2-2 tie. The two teams combined for five homers in the second game with aces Gerrit Cole and Chris Sale on the mound, but the Astros pulled away for a 7-3 victory.

The Red Sox rebounded in the next two games to grab a split as Andrew Benintendi and Christian Vasquez each went deep in the seventh inning of a 5-4 win in Game 3. Boston destroyed Houston in the series finale, 9-3 as the Red Sox handed Charlie Morton his first loss of the season by tagging the Astros’ right-hander for six runs in 5.1 innings of work.

In the following series at Fenway Park in September, the Astros rallied from a 2-0 deficit to score six late runs in a 6-3 victory in the opener. Morton rebounded in his second opportunity against the Red Sox by allowing two runs in five innings of a 5-3 victory in Game 2, while Alex Bregman drilled his 30th homer of the season. The Red Sox avoided the sweep with a 6-5 walk-off victory in the series finale on Mitch Moreland’s RBI single, while J.D. Martinez drove in four runs for Boston.

PLAYOFF HISTORY

Houston and Boston are meeting in the playoffs for the second straight season as the Astros eliminated the Red Sox in four games of the ALDS in 2017. The Astros wacked the Red Sox in back-to-back 8-2 blowouts at Minute Maid Park to jump out to a commanding 2-0 lead, highlighted by racking Sale in the series opener for seven runs in five innings.

The Red Sox avoided elimination in Game 3 by erasing an early 3-0 deficit to score 10 unanswered runs in a 10-3 rout at Fenway Park. Game 4 was certainly quirky as both teams turned to their aces out of the bullpen as Justin Verlander tossed 2.2 innings and Sale lasted 4.2 innings in relief. However, Houston knocked out Boston by scoring three late runs in a 5-4 win as short road favorites.

PITCHERS TO WATCH

There is no shortage of aces to go around for these two teams. Verlander (16-9, 2.52 ERA) is unbeaten in his last six starts, while shutting down the Indians in Game 1 of the ALDS by scattering two hits in 5.1 innings of work. Verlander faced the Red Sox once this season as the Astros lost as -200 favorites, 5-4 on June 2. The former MVP and Cy Young winner did his part by allowing three hits and two earned runs in six innings, but the Red Sox scored three runs in the seventh inning for the win. The Astros have won five of Verlander’s six playoff starts since he was acquired last season, but the only loss came on the road to the Dodgers in the World Series.

Cole (15-5, 2.88 ERA) hasn’t lost a decision since August 10 against Seattle, while the Astros are 7-0 in his past seven outings. The former Pirates’ standout struck out 12 in a Game 2 victory over Cleveland in the ALDS, while picking up his first postseason win since 2013 against the Cardinals. Cole will start Game 2 at Fenway Park as the Astros posted a 7-3 record and 2.77 ERA away from Minute Maid Park this season. The Astros won each of Cole’s starts against the Red Sox in 2018, as the right-hander allowed five earned runs in 13 innings of work.

The Red Sox send out Sale (12-4, 2.11 ERA) in the series opener as the Cy Young candidate hasn’t pitched past the sixth inning since July 27. Sale spent a month on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, but returned in September to four no-decisions (3-1 team record). The southpaw picked up a Game 1 ALDS win against the Yankees by tossing 5.1 innings of five-hit ball and striking out eight in a 5-4 victory. The Red Sox won nine of Sale’s 13 home starts this season, although the four losses came as a favorite of -230 or higher.

David Price (16-7, 3.58 ERA) has been postseason poison in his career as his teams are 0-7 in his past seven playoff starts dating back to 2013. Price didn’t escape the second inning in the Game 2 ALDS loss to the Yankees, as the southpaw is set to start Game 2 against the Astros. However, Price was dominant against this Houston lineup in two starts this season by giving up five runs and seven hits, while striking out 17 in 12.1 innings of work.

SERIES SCHEDULE (All games on TBS)

Game 1 – Saturday, October 13 – at Boston
Game 2 – Sunday, October 14 – at Boston
Game 3 – Tuesday, October 16 – at Houston
Game 4 – Wednesday, October 17 – at Houston
*Game 5 – Thursday, October 18 – at Houston
*Game 6 – Saturday, October 20 – at Boston
*Game 7 – Sunday, October 21 – at Boston

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at rogers@vegasinsider.com

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.

  
HEADLINES
· Bookmaker: Wkd Series - LCS Best Bets
· Rogers: ALCS Cheat Sheet
· Rogers: NLCS Cheat Sheet
· News: 2018 MLB Playoff Results
· News: World Series Props
· Red Sox ace Sale out of hospital
· Cubs hire Rangers' Iapoce as hitting coach
· Snitker gets extension after Braves' run
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