A look at the best-of-seven American League Championship Series between the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox:
Schedule: (All times EDT) Game 1, Saturday, at Boston, 8:09 p.m.; Game 2, Sunday, at Boston, 7:09 p.m.; Game 3, Tuesday, Oct. 16, at Houston, 5:09 p.m.; Game 4, Wednesday, Oct. 17, at Houston, 8:39 p.m.; x-Game 5, Thursday, Oct. 18, at Houston, 8:09 p.m.; x-Game 6, Saturday, Oct. 20, at Boston, 5:09 p.m.; x-Game 7, Sunday, Oct. 21, at Boston, 7:39 p.m. (All games on TBS).
Season Series: Astros won 4-3.
Astros: CF George Springer (.265, 22 HRs, 71 RBIs), 2B Jose Altuve (.315, 13, 61), 3B Alex Bregman (.286, 31, 103, AL-best 51 doubles, 84 walks, 82 Ks), 1B Yuli Gurriel (.291, 13, 85), LF Marwin Gonzalez (.247, 16, 68), RF Josh Reddick (.242, 17, 47), SS Carlos Correa (.239, 15, 65), DH Tyler White (.276, 12, 42, .888 OPS in 66 games) or Tony Kemp (.263, 6, 30 in 97 games) or Evan Gattis (.226, 25, 78), C Martin Maldonado (.225, 9, 44 for Angels and Astros) or Brian McCann (.212, 7, 23 in 63 games).
Red Sox: RF Mookie Betts (.346, 32, 80, 129 runs, 30 steals), LF Andrew Benintendi (.290, 16, 87), DH J.D. Martinez (.330, 43, 130), SS Xander Bogaerts (.288, 23, 103), 1B Mitch Moreland (.245, 15, 68) or Steve Pearce (.284, 11, 42, .890 OPS in 76 games with Toronto and Boston), 2B Ian Kinsler (.240, 14, 48 with Angels and Red Sox) or Brock Holt (.277, 7, 46 in 109 games), 3B Rafael Devers (.240, 21, 66) or Eduardo Nunez (.265, 10, 44), CF Jackie Bradley Jr. (.234, 13, 59), C Sandy Leon (.177, 5, 22 in 89 games) or Christian Vazquez (.207, 3, 16 in 80 games).
Astros: RH Justin Verlander (16-9, 2.52 ERA, AL-high 290 Ks and only 37 walks in 214 IP), RH Gerrit Cole (15-5, 2.88, 2nd in AL with 276 Ks in 200 1/3 IP), LH Dallas Keuchel (12-11, 3.74), RH Charlie Morton (15-3, 3.13).
Red Sox: LH Chris Sale (12-4, 2.11, 237 Ks in 158 IP), LH David Price (16-7, 3.58, 177 Ks in 176 IP), RH Nathan Eovaldi (6-7, 3.81 with Red Sox and Rays), RH Rick Porcello (17-7, 4.28, 190 Ks in 191 1/3 IP).
Astros: RH Roberto Osuna (2-2, 2.37, 21/22 saves for Blue Jays and Astros), RH Ryan Pressly (2-1, 2.54, 2 saves for Twins and Astros), RH Lance McCullers Jr. (10-6, 3.86 in 25 games, 22 starts), RH Hector Rondon (2-5, 3.20, 15 saves), LH Tony Sipp (3-1, 1.86, 54 appearances), RH Collin McHugh (6-2, 1.99, 58 appearances), RH Will Harris (5-3, 3.49, 61 appearances), RH Josh James (2-0, 2.35), RH Brad Peacock (3-5, 3.46, 61 appearances), RH Joe Smith (5-1, 3.74, 56 appearances).
Red Sox: RH Craig Kimbrel (5-1, 2.74, 42/47 saves), RH Matt Barnes (6-4, 3.65), RH Ryan Brasier (2-1, 1.60), RH Brandon Workman (6-1, 3.27), RH Joe Kelly (4-2, 4.39), LH Eduardo Rodriguez (13-5, 3.82, 146 Ks, 129 2/3 IP in 27 games, 23 starts), RH Heath Hembree (4-1, 4.20, 76 Ks, 27 BBs, 60 IP in 67 games).
Only previous postseason meeting was last year, when Astros beat Boston 3-1 in best-of-five ALDS on way to first World Series championship. The 5-foot-6 Altuve hit three homers in the opener, two off Sale, and batted .533 (8 for 15) with 1.765 OPS in the series. Houston jumped out to 2-0 lead at home behind 8-2 wins from Verlander and Keuchel, then finished off Red Sox with 5-4 victory in Game 4 at Fenway Park. Verlander beat Sale when both started Game 1 and again when both aces entered Game 4 in relief. Correa had two homers and six RBIs in series. Bregman also went deep twice. Gurriel batted .529 (9 for 17), Springer .412 and Reddick .375. Gattis was 4 for 10 with two doubles, and McCann was 2 for 16 (.125). … Red Sox rookie manager Alex Cora was Houston’s bench coach under AJ Hinch last season and the two remain friends. … Astros led majors with 3.11 ERA this year. Boston ranked first with 876 runs, 355 doubles and 594 extra-base hits. … Astros outscored Red Sox 34-31 during season series. Teams split four games in Houston from May 31 to June 3. Cole beat Sale 7-3 before Price and Porcello earned wins for Boston. Astros took two of three in rematch Sept. 7-9 at Fenway Park. Morton won middle game, and Osuna had two saves. … Betts was 7 for 11 (.636) with three doubles against Houston this year. Bogaerts batted .444 (12 for 27) with two homers, three doubles and six RBIs. Nunez hit .421 and Benintendi batted .333 (10 for 30) with two homers. Moreland and Martinez also went deep twice. Martinez was 5 for 26 (.192) with nine RBIs. Devers went 1 for 17 with eight strikeouts, and Bradley was 3 for 20 with eight Ks. Price struck out 17 in 12 1/3 innings. … Gurriel batted .391 (9 for 23) with five RBIs vs. Red Sox. Springer hit .370 (10 for 27) with two homers, Kemp was 5 for 14 (.357) plus two walks, and White was 4 for 10 with four RBIs, three extra-base hits and five Ks. Cole had 15 strikeouts and a 3.46 ERA in 13 innings. Morton allowed eight earned runs and 16 hits in 10 1/3 innings for a 6.97 ERA. … Verlander, the MVP of last year’s ALCS against Yankees, is 12-6 with 3.08 ERA in postseason career. … Moreland, a 2016 Gold Glove winner, injured his right hamstring during Division Series vs. Yankees and missed final two games. If he remains sidelined, Pearce could be in lineup against right-handers. … Reddick played for Boston from 2009-11. … Springer and Barnes were college teammates at Connecticut.
Astros: AL West champions for second consecutive year. Houston (103-59) set franchise record for wins and reached postseason for third time in four years under Hinch. Astros are in playoffs for 12th time overall and trying to become first team to repeat as World Series champions since Yankees won three straight from 1998-2000. … Houston romped to 3-0 sweep of AL Central champion Cleveland in Division Series, outscoring Indians 21-6. Bregman batted .556 with two homers, four RBIs, five runs and four walks for .714 on-base percentage. Gonzalez was 7 for 13 (.538) with five RBIs. Springer, last year’s World Series MVP, picked up where he left off in postseason by hitting .429 (6 for 14) with three homers. … Houston went 64-35 in first half but cooled off in second half (39-24). … Verlander, Keuchel and Cole all finished in top 5 in AL in innings pitched. Astros became sixth team to do that and first since 1970 Orioles, who won World Series. … Team acquired Osuna and Pressly before July 31 trade deadline to bolster bullpen. … Hinch signed four-year extension in August to keep him under contract with club through 2022. … Astros had better record on road (57-24) than at home (46-35). … Altuve was on disabled list this season for first time in career, sitting out from July 26 to Aug. 21 with knee injury. … Verlander led AL with 0.90 WHIP and was third with .200 opponents’ batting average. His 2.52 ERA ranked third in AL and was his lowest since 2.40 mark in 2011 with Detroit when he won AL MVP and Cy Young Award. … Bregman led offense with Correa and Altuve not performing as well as they have in past. The 24-year-old Bregman set career highs for homers, RBIs and doubles.
Red Sox: Looking for fourth World Series title since 2004 after ending 86-year drought. … In winning their third straight AL East title and setting a franchise record for wins, Red Sox (108-54) improved by 15 victories over their 2017 record. … Eliminated the rival Yankees 3-1 in the AL Division Series after finishing eight games ahead of New York, their largest AL East victory margin. The previous high was seven games in 1995. Martinez batted .357 with one homer and six RBIs in the ALDS. Holt hit for the cycle in a 16-1 Game 3 victory but was out of the starting lineup for every other game in the series. Sale got the victory with 5 1/3 solid innings in Game 1, then pitched a perfect eighth inning in relief in Game 4. … Spent 141 of the season’s 186 days alone in first place and another seven in a tie for first, taking sole possession of the division lead for good on July 2. … Twelve teams in baseball history have won as many as 108 games. Seattle won 116 in 2001 but lost in ALCS to the Yankees. The previous four won the World Series. … Following a sensational regular season, Red Sox are looking to make a deep run in October. They were knocked out in Division Series each of last two years, by Houston last season and Cleveland in 2016, while going 1-6 overall. … Boston completed the season without losing four in a row. It was the only team in baseball to go all season without losing four straight. It also accomplished that in 1903 and 2013, winning the World Series in both years. … It’s the fifth time the Red Sox have had the best record in baseball by themselves (1903, 1912, 1915, 1946). … Cora had the second-most wins for a first-year manager. Ralph Houk’s 1961 Yankees won 109 games. … Boston’s 57-24 record at home was the best in baseball. … The last Red Sox player before Betts to win the AL batting title was Bill Mueller, with a .326 average in 2003. Wade Boggs was the previous Boston player to lead the majors, hitting .366 in 1988. … Ted Williams (four times) and Jimmie Foxx (1938) are the only other Red Sox players to hit .340 or higher with 80 or more extra-base hits. … Martinez led the majors with 130 RBIs and 358 total bases. His 43 homers were the most for a player in his first year with the Red Sox. … Ten grand slams is the second-highest total in franchise history; the 2005 team hit 11.
— Correa’s Back. The top overall pick in the 2012 draft told The Associated Press this week that his aching back has been a constant problem. Correa hit .268 with 13 homers and 49 RBIs in the first half this season but struggled with a back injury for most of the second half. He missed about six weeks and hit just .180 with two homers and 16 RBIs in 37 games after the All-Star break. He experiences the most pain when he swings and misses, and says he’s slowed down his swing at times because of it. He even has discomfort while walking on some days.
— Morton’s Shoulder. The right-hander spent time on the DL late in season with shoulder discomfort but made two appearances during the last week and appeared to have regained his velocity. He looked ready for the playoffs.
— Mookie’s Struggles. The likely AL MVP, Betts wasn’t much of a factor against the Yankees. He batted .188 in the ALDS and is batting .238 without a home run in 11 career postseason games. Boston’s deep lineup bailed out its leadoff hitter in the first round, but the Red Sox could use the regular-season version of Betts against Houston.
— Boston Bullpen. The Red Sox faced ceaseless questions about their relievers before the ALDS, but that crew was solid enough against New York. Barnes, Brasier and Kelly helped form a solid bridge, and Sale and Porcello picked up some relief innings, too. Kimbrel had perhaps the shakiest time, allowing a run in each of his two outings but still locking down saves in Games 1 and 4.
— Mixing and Matching. Cora showed a magic touch with the lineup in the ALDS, getting the most out of his platoon players. Holt only saw action in one game but made it count by hitting for the cycle, while Kinsler was also outstanding on the other side of that second-base timeshare, batting .308 with two doubles in 13 at-bats. Meanwhile, Nunez got more time at third base than Devers in part because he’s sharper defensively. That moved paid off when Nunez’s strong throw across the diamond retired Gleyber Torres for the final out of Game 4.
Source: The Associated Press