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Forecaster Frank's 2018 ALCS Preview

Astros in 6

Never more than before has the League Championship Series had the feeling of a World Series like this heavyweight matchup between the defending World Champion Houston Astros who were 103-59 in the regular season and the Boston Red Sox who were 108-54. The combined 211 wins are one of the best ever for a postseason matchup. The winner will host the World Series, and be an overwhelming favorite of the NLCS, which almost feels like the undercard in a huge prizefight. Both teams were impressive in their Division Series wins, as the Astros swept away the Indians, while the Red Sox outclassed the rival Yankees in four games.

This is the second straight season that the Astros and Red Sox are meeting in October, as the Astros beat Boston in four games in last year’s division series. During the regular season, the Astros won four of seven meetings, splitting a four-game series at Minute Maid Park at the beginning of June, and winning two of three in Fenway Park in September. In last year’s ALDS, the Astros got monster series from Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, keeping them in check is on the series checklist of musts if the Red Sox are to win.

Both teams feature deep and versatile lineups that can score runs in a number of ways as well as break a game open with a home run. As the ALCS begins, the Astros top hitter is Alex Bregman, who after a strong postseason last year had a breakout 2018, with a team-high 31 home runs. Against the Indians Bregman had a superhuman 2.048 OPS, batting .556 with a pair of home runs. Marwin Gonzalez also had a monster series, batting .538 with five RBI. Boston meanwhile got several big hits from J.D. Martinez, who hit .357 with six RBI in the Division Series, while Brock Holt delivered the first postseason cycle in MLB history in Boston’s Bronx beatdown in Game 3, while Andrew Benintendi was an important sparkplug, which was extra important as likely AL MVP Mookie Betts struggled.

The Astros and Red Sox are not on the bullpen bandwagon. As both teams bullpens during the regular season was their weakest link. In the Division Series against Cleveland, the Astros bullpen was flawless, while the Red Sox survived a shaky Craig Kimbrel. The Red Sox got solid middle relief, meanwhile with journeyman Heath Hembree retiring all nine batters he faced.

The Red Sox main concern has to be the starting pitching, while they got a great start by Nathan Eovaldi in Game 3, the continued postseason struggles of David Price has to be a concern. Chris Sale, pitched well in the Division Series but did not pitch deep, as he got the win and had a perfect inning of relief in Game 4. Sale must be the pitcher that was a Cy Young favorite, if the Red Sox are to win this series, as he likely will be matched up against Justin Verlander who has been one of the most reliable pitchers in the postseason, with a career record of 12-6 with an ERA of 3.08, winning the ALCS MVP in 2017. This is even more vital with Gerrit Cole who had a dominant effort in the ALDS getting the start in Game 2. Nathan Eovaldi who gave Boston a great start in the Division Series, may not be able to provide the same type of performance against the Astros, as he was able to take advantage of the Yankees over aggressiveness. Against Houston a team that is among the hardest to strikeout, he could be a vulnerability.

The Red Sox got all the headlines all season, as they had the best season in franchise history winning 108 games, as they battled the 100-win Yankees. The defending champion Astros meanwhile enjoyed the time in the shadows, as they quietly won 103 games, finishing the season strong. The Astros are the absolute worst team for Boston matchup wise. They are patient, have good starting pitching and can match the Red Sox potent lineup. Add in stronger frontline starters and it is clear that Astros are the better overall team and will win the series.

ALCS MVP:

Gerrit Cole