Head to head playoffs: Astros vs. Red Sox


The Astros finally get to play in prime time, now that THE CURRENT WORLD CHAMPIONS have moved past the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS, and that brings to mind in a demented way a famous line from a movie. It is the end of Billy Wilder’s brilliant send-up of Hollywood, “Sunset Boulevard” and Gloria Swanson (who once was a great silent star and the mistress of Joseph Kennedy – JFK’s father – but I digress) playing Norma Desmond, a long time ago great silent star and recent murderer, comes sweeping down the stairs and says “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”

This Astros’ team is way ready for their close-up and if Alex Bregman‘s musings on the subject, have a bit of a chip on their shoulders after having given the baseball world one of the great World Series performances ever and being thanked by being given a seat at the kid’s table at Thanksgiving.

The Astros’ dismantling sweep of the Tribe was so complete that Cleveland immediately announced they are removing Chief Wahoo from their uniforms and replacing it with a Block C. Well, that announcement might not have been connected, but you get the idea.

Now the Ready for Prime Time Players head to Boston for the first two games of an ALCS series they hope leads to a second consecutive appearance in the World Series. So what type of opponent are the Red Sox? Well, they won 108 wins as compared to the Astros 103 wins. In the Pythagorean world that looks at run differential, the Astros should have won 109 games and the Red Sox should have won 103 games, for whatever that is worth.

The Bosox’s 2018 offense looked an awful lot like the Astros’ 2017 offense. They led the majors in runs scored (876), BA (.268), OBP (.339), SLG (.453) and OPS (.792), while being 5th best at avoiding strikeouts. Their starting staff had a good, not great 3.77 ERA (8th best in the majors, 4th best in the AL) at more than a half run behind the Astros’ major league’s best 3.16 ERA. Eerily similar, their bullpen had a good, not great 3.72 ERA (tied for 8th best in the majors, 4th best in the AL) and almost 3/4 of a run behind the major league-leading Astros (3.03 ERA). So, will the Red Sox offensive strength break through the Astros’ pitching strength? Can the Astros’ inconsistent offensive find some holes in the good, not great Red Sox pitching staff?

So, on a position basis how do these two teams matchup heading into their playoff matchup?

Starting Pitching
The Red Sox ace Chris Sale (12-4, 2.11 ERA, 13.5 K/9 IP) is as good or better than anyone the Astros can throw against him or in this case Justin Verlander (16-9, 2.52 ERA). After that…the Astros should have a marked advantage at each spot and they did have success against Sale last October. David Price is in the 2nd spot. He is solid (16-7, 3.58 ERA) and has had a good history against the Astros, but he is not as good as Gerrit Cole (15-5, 2.88 ERA). Rick Porcello again has had a season where his won-loss does not match his ERA (17-7, 4.28 ERA). Dallas Keuchel (12-11, 3.74 ERA) is better than Porcello. Nathan Eovaldi is good (3-3, 3.33 ERA) or at least good with producing the number 3, but Charlie Morton (15-3, 3.13 ERA) is better.

The Red Sox have a good starting staff, but the Astros just beat a better staff with Cleveland.

SP’s – Astros Advantage

Relief Pitching 

Craig Kimbrel (5-1, 42 saves, 2,74 ERA) is one of the top closers in the game, but as everyone saw Tuesday night, looked a whole lot like Ken Giles in trying to close out the Yankees. After him their bullpen consists of very good Ryan Brasier (2-0, 1.60 ERA), good Brandon Workman (6-1, 3.27 ERA) and Matt Barnes (6-4, 3.65 ERA, 14 K/9 IP) and very average Heath Hembree (4-1, 4.20 ERA) and Joe Kelly (4-2, 4.39 ERA) and starter Eduardo Rodriguez (13-5, 3.82 ERA) who may or may not take the 4th starting spot away from Eovaldi.  The Astros have the deepest bullpen they have ever had with closer Roberto Osuna (2-2, 1.99 ERA, 12 saves), set-up man Ryan Pressly (1-0, 0.77 ERA, 0.600 WHIP), Collin McHugh (6-2, 1.99 ERA, 0.912 WHIP), Tony Sipp (3-1, 1.86 ERA), former starter Lance McCullers Jr. (10-6, 3.86 ERA) and likely Will Harris and Josh JamesNote – we are guessing at the end of the bullpen for both clubs at this point. 

The Astros are better man for man than the Red Sox bullpen…..on paper. And they looked better in the ALDS.

SP’s – Astros Advantage

Infield and Catcher 

SS Xander Bogaerts (.288 BA, .883 OPS, 23 HR and 103 RBIs) has been one of the best shortstops in the league, but basically the Sox normal infield configuration of Bogaerts, 1B Mitch Moreland (.245 BA, .758 OPS, 15 HR, 68 RBIs), 2B Ian Kinsler (17 games – .242 BA, .604 OPS, 1 HR, 16 RBIs) and 3B Rafael Devers (.240 BA, .731 OPS, 21 HRs, 66 RBIs) is a step below the Astros. Throw in poor hitting C Sandy Leon (.177 BA, .511 OPS, 5 HR, 22 RBIs) or Christian Vazquez (.207 BA, .540 OPS, 3 HR, 16 RBIs) and the step is even bigger.

The Astros, on the other hand, have Jose Altuve (.316 BA, 13 HR, 61 RBI), Carlos Correa (.239 BA, 15 HR and 65 RBI), Yuli Gurriel (.291 BA, 33 doubles, 85 RBIs) and Alex Bregman (105 runs, 51 doubles, 31 HRs, 103 RBIs) on the infield with Martin Maldonado (.225 BA, .627 OPS, 9 HR and 44 RBIs), behind the plate.

Infield/Catcher – Advantage Astros

Outfield and DH

This is the category where the Red Sox are running the Astros out of the park. MVP candidate OF Mookie Betts (.346 BA, 1.078 OPS, 129 runs, 32 HRs, 30 SBs), Andrew Benitendi (.290 BA, .830 OPS, 16 HRs, 87 RBIs, 21 SBs), Jackie Bradley Jr. (.234 BA, .717 OPS, 13 HRs, 59 RBIs) and super DH J.D. Martinez (.330 BA, 1.031 OPS, 111 runs, 43 HRs, 130 RBIs) are a force to be reckoned with.

For the Astros, the plus side is that with a recent resurgence, the OFs and DHs are outperforming their numbers for the season.  Marwin Gonzalez (.247 BA/.733 OPS/ 16 HRs/68 RBIs), George Springer (.265 BA/.780 OPS/ 102 runs/22 HRs/ 71 RBIs), Josh Reddick (.247 BA/.718 OPS/17 HRs/47 RBIs) and Tyler White (.276 BA/ .888 OPS/ 12 HRs/ 42 RBIs) are a good group, but….. not up to the Red Sox.
OF and DH – Advantage Red Sox

Bench
The Red Sox give their bench players a lot of chances to play. They are a solid group, led by Steve Pearce (50 Games – .279 BA, .901 OPS, 7 HRs, 26 RBIs), Eduardo Nunez (.265 BA, .677 OPS, 10 HR, 44 RBIs), Brock Holt (.277 BA, .774 OPS, 7 HRs, 46 RBIs), and Blake Swihart (.229 BA, .613 OPS, 3 HRs, 18 RBIs) along with whichever catcher is sitting.

The Astros counter with Brian McCann (.212 BA/ .640 OPS/ 7 HR/ 23 RBIs), Evan Gattis (.226 BA/ .736 OPS/ 25 HR/ 78 RBIs), Jake Marisnick (.211 BA/ .674 OPS/ 10 HRs/ 28 RBIs), Tony Kemp (.263 BA/ .743 OPS/ 6 HRs/ 30 RBIs/ 9 SB) and Myles Straw (In 9 games – .333 BA/ 1.067 OPS/ 4 runs/ 1 HR/ 1 RBI/ 2 SBs).
This one is really close.
Bench – Slight Advantage Red Sox

Summing it up… To win the Red Sox need to derail the Verlander – Cole – Keuchel – Morton – Osuna – Pressly – McHugh – McCullers express while hoping the Astros’ bats go silent against a lesser pitching staff than the Indians had. Are you betting on that? Me neither.

Astros in 6 games

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133 comments on “Head to head playoffs: Astros vs. Red Sox

  1. -Hidden deep in this win is the fact that Cora only has seven relievers and Kelly threw 33 pitches, Barnes threw 21, Brasier threw 12, Workman threw 26 and Hembree threw 10.
    -Verlander got 7 groundouts and only 3 flyouts.
    -I thought the home plate umpire gave Verlander quite a few strikes, but Verlander was consistently on the plate except in the fifth inning and the Red Sox pitchers were all over the place.
    -Boston’s first batter of the night got a hit and they only got 2 more the entire night.
    -How weird is it that McHugh and McCullers pitch a late inning of relief each?
    -All night long I told my wife that Yuli was due. It finally worked.
    -Reddick got a huge hit. So far in the playoffs, one of Reddick or Marwin have gotten huge hits in every game.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And with a couple of rare crucial at bats neither Reddick or Marwin had a good postseason last year. I especially like how Marwin is being more selective and going the other way from both sides of the plate.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. -I’m sorry, but whatever happened to an umpire doing everything he can to not interfere with a play? I watched the crew chief just stand there and get hit by a throw and do nothing to get out of the way. Blatant laziness and not even a blink of an apology. Hinch diplomatically summed it up when he said “I was not expecting him to get hit”. Of course, West had already had a call reversed at the bag. What’s new about Joe West having a bad night? And the announcers have already pointed out that MLB has lined up the crew chiefs to call home plate in game 3, because Joe Torre thinks game 3s are pivotal.
    -You could hear the announcer’s voice sink as Reddick’s HR disappeared into the night. Don’t believe me. Replay it.
    -ESPN had a hard time deciding who to blame for the loss, but they settled on Nunez at 3B and the home plate ump.
    -Justin Verlander is so good. After the bad 5th inning, he comes out for the sixth and mows them down.
    -Bregman was stunned, not angry, when he got hit by a 100mph fastball. He said it hurt.
    -Every time I see a home run curl around the right field foul pole at Fenway, it reminds me of all the old ballparks that most baseball fans today weren’t alive to remember. But we do, right, guys and gals?

    Liked by 3 people

    • I surely remember Crosley Field in Cincinnati which had a terrace like Tal’s Hill all the way around the outfield. That was the warning track and its slope was not consistent from left to right. The right field terrace was especially steep and short. I saw many really good right fielders struggle with that hill, Roberto Clemente being one I remember clearly.
      I don’t think Joe West was lazy, just fat and immobile. Plus he was pretty far out of the line of fire if the throw was anywhere near the bag. What puzzled me about that inning was why Marisnick and not Kemp to pinch run. Considering some of the otherworldly plays Jake has made in Boston I wanted him in CF the last two innings. All’s well that ends well I suppose.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The thing I noticed with the uber- athletic Joe West on that play was just how far out of position he was. How could he have ever made a call on a close play at second from where he was standing? He should have been moving into position to make the call as soon as the catcher popped to throw.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Haha. Yeah, Joe West is an incompetent relic who obviously has no real pride for his physical self. How can MLB have a diamond full of the best athletes on the planet, with the fat Cowboy anchored to the infield?

      When Reddick hit the homer, the announcer stated “that was a crushing blow”! Yeah, he was crushed. Minutes later, the same guy, I don’t know who he is, stated the two teams are very evenly matched. Tell that to the bullpens.

      The game plan should stay pretty much the same tonight. Get to Price early, or get his pitch count up. They’ll be forced to go to another starter, maybe Porcello. We can hit him too.

      One thing, I know we are trying to avoid double plays, but does our club really need to try and steal bases?

      Liked by 2 people

    • Watching MLB on television after the Astros’ game and all the talking heads were talking about were the Dodgers. After 45 minutes of that, I turned it off.

      Like

  3. That may have been the ugliest game I have ever seen. Walks, hit batters, hit umpires, sloppy defense, inconsistent strike zone, etc..

    But, I’ll take the win!

    Jose needs to start going the other way. They pitched him outside all night and he kept trying to pull the ball. I saw 4 very bad at bats from him. I hate to say this, but White looked way over matched at the plate last night and Marwin flailed away at balls in the dirt. Maldanado should have been pinch hit for with the bases juiced and facing a tough righty with high heat. Why carry 2 LH bats on the bench if your not going to use them in that (actually those) situations? JV looked uncomfortable out of the stretch. It looked like he was overthrowing and yanking his fastball. When he came back out in the 6th with clean bases again he looked very sharp and could have gone one more if needed.

    The encouraging thing is that the team won after playing a bad game. Altuve, White and Marwin will come around; and that is a scary thought if your a Red Sox fan.

    This bullpen is VERY good! You better get to the starter early if you want to find success. My only concern with this bullpen is getting 8 arms enough work to stay sharp. They will have to throw Osuna tonight regardless of the score just to get some work in. Not a bad problem to have.

    Liked by 1 person

    • vewill1, I think we’ve seen enough from Hinch to know he won’t pinch hit, even with a one run lead, if it might compromise his defense. He’s got confidence in the pen and he knows offense appears late from our guys. Maldonado will not get yanked for a bat unless we’re down.

      Plenty of bad at bats last night from our guys. Yuli looked bad all night until he showed up big in the 9th. Let’s see what those other guys do tonight.

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  4. We’ve all seen enough baseball to know that something new always happens. The Red Sox can’t be written off yet. They’ve got too much of a history. My stomach was still screwed up in the 9th when we went up 7-2. It was not enough.

    Today though, Boston fans and sportswriters alike are all in agreement. The seasons rests with David Price. And there is no confidence in Price. Sale is getting ripped. Betts is getting ripped for disappearing in the post season. Nunez is getting ripped for booting the game. The home plate ump is getting rippped. Those Boston folks sure are fair weathered.

    The Astros really have to pounce tonight. They’ve got to play a really tight game. They’ve got to get the hits they did not get last night. I think we can expect quality pitching. Boston is not close in that regard. I’d like to see those diehard Red Sox fans with plans to fly into Houston on Tuesday cancel their trips based on a second loss to the Astros tonight.

    I think our guys are ready to make a real statement this evening.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m not kidding:
    LMJ threw Betts four Knuckle Curves.
    He threw Benintendi three knuckle curves and a changeup.
    He threw JD Martinez four knuckle curves and a changeup.
    Not even one fastball.
    In his first game against Cleveland he threw four fastballs and seven Knuckle curves
    In his second outing vs the Indians he threw four fastballs, nine knuckle curves and two changeups.
    LMJ’s three appearances have all been in the 8th inning.
    The Astros opening game win against Cleveland was by a score of 7-2. Sound familiar?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Arguing Balls & Strikes. The umpire gave JV a couple of gifts but then again he also gave Sale a few too. During the Boston “rally” Benentendi got called out on strikes and was po’d. Threw his equipment down and was letting the ump have it. He walked away and Cora then got into it. As the “exciting” announcers said, this game had just about everything in it. I figure the calls were about even . Maybe a little in our favor.

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    • Nice to hear from you. Benintendi was rung up on a called strike that appeared to be three inches outside. He threw his bat, he threw his helmet and he threw his shin guard and he threw a tantrum. The home plate umpire admirably did not throw him out. So, during the break Cora went after the ump from the dugout and got tossed. Then he ran out on the field and had a shouting match.
      Cora admitted he was embarrassed to get ejected in a playoff game.
      From an umpiring standpoint, it was a horrible game. White got hit twice and the ump completely missed one of them and had to go to review. Kelly was absolutely weird on the mound. He was so upset with some of the calls that he was taking huge amounts of time between pitches. Then Bregman called time before a pitch that Kelly delivered anyway and Kelly was mad as hell and threw at Bregman and hit him on the next pitch with a 100mph fastball. Kelly should have been run right there. That was followed by a huge conference on the mound, during which Kelly looked like he should have been in concussion protocol.
      The craziest call of the night was a perfect curve ball by a Boston pitcher that was right down the middle of the strike zone, but was called a ball because the Boston catcher thought it was going to be a high fastball and stood up and completely blocked the umps view. That was one of the weirdest balls and strikes call I have ever seen missed.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Let’s not forget the replacement umps some years back. I remember a one panel cartoon spoofing the tenderfoot umps that showed a pitch bouncing in front of the plate and the ump yells :”Strike 2, yer out!”

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  6. The lineup, surprisingly, stuck to the game plan of making Sales grind by running up his pitch count (knowing his velo was suspect). I thought they would come out flailing away. Yuli did until he caught one 1st pitch HR & MG looked silly flailing at pitches in the dirt. Tuve, you hit on him VW, know he will improve.
    As much as MLB & networks might want a Sox/LA WS matchup the Astros have a lot to say about that & much to the chagrin of many whom will be disappointed by that sentiment. No disrespect to the Sox but would love to see our guys bomb Price quick, fast & in a hurry & further allow that specter of doubt to fester in the minds of all those who keep wishing for that fairy tale WS minus the Astros. That is the ultimate disrespect for our WS champs & I hope they make them all eat crow.

    Liked by 2 people

    • op – they’ve got a good D and a questionable O, but they were handed gifts by the opposition coach’s the last two weeks and the opposing QB this week.

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    • OP that Texan gm was hard to watch. It was watching gms like that wk after wk over the past few yrs that made me drop my Sunday Ticket and convert to watching MLB. I’d like to roll with the Texans but the org management has turned me off

      Like

  7. Sorry – I’ve been in and mostly out on comments here – have a lot going on with my wife’s father just getting out of the hospital – but here are some thoughts…
    – Maybe it is because I saw how this team played last playoffs and maybe its because they can’t take away last year’s WS championship, but I am really zen about this team. I just have a lot of confidence that most times they will do what it takes.
    – Was there a more important AB last night than Correa’s battle for a 2nd inning walk? Sale had 2 outs and was sitting at about 20 pitches. Correa battled him – got the walk and before you know it, the Astros are winning by two and Sale’s pitch count was in the high 40’s rather than the low 20’s.
    – So happy for Reddick, a former Bosox and a total disaster last playoffs, but with big hits against the Indians and with the huge HR last night to extend the lead he has to be feeling good this time around.
    – Did the decision to use Sale in the clinching game against the Yanks make him just a little off last night?
    – Yuli’s HR may have been cheapened by the short right porch, but in any stadium that would have been an opposite field 2 run double, so it was still a huge hit
    – Nunez did screw up that double play ball hit to him, but Springer’s single was a rocket and one of the hardest hit balls last night, so not blaming him much on that one.

    OK guys get a few early runs for Cole, chase Price and let’s come home with a huge 2-0 lead….

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Joe West thing was disturbing. He didn’t react at all – if that had been slightly higher we might have had an umpire with a cracked skull.
      He did not seem to be getting into position for the call at the base and also never saw the ball coming. What was he doing – checking out some woman behind home plate?

      Like

  8. YAY DIANE IS BACK!! We missed you girlfriend! Going out on a limb, but I think our guys come out swinging and more comfortable. AND no hitting any body!
    Here we go ya’ll!!!

    Like

    • Close but no cigar. Got to admit that the guys didn’t give up. Battled down to the last out. Now back to the house to win all 3 home games.

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  9. Interesting postgame discussion about Bregman & the need for a hot bat to make BoSox pay for continuing to put him on base (10 x’s). They debated Yuli not doing much damage thus far in this series (1HR). Any thoughts on the subject, like even if AJ made a change, who would he put in that spot? They will continue to walk or pitch tight in on Bregman (even if they hit him) until Yuli or someone makes them stop.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Well, the first part of the plan worked. They got Price out early. Have to admit, when we went up 4-2, I thought we’d put the pedal down and make it hurt. Not to be. I give their much maligned pen credit, although we’ll beat Kimbrel at some point. It would be nice if a couple more guys started to hit. We got a split though. Tuesday night: Keuchel and Cowboy Joe West behind the plate.

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  11. Joe Espada already being interviewed, just like Cora last year. I know this is amateur on my part, but I hate to spend years building a team and the termites start munching and unraveling immediately.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The ironic part Diane is that Espada, just like Cora was only with us for one season, so its not like we invested years in these guys.
      Will feel more loss if we lose a Marwin Gonzalez or a Dallas Keuchel along the way.

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  12. 1st inning
    Betts doubles on a fastball, the fifth straight fastball.
    Benintendi singles on a fastball.
    JD lines out on a fastball.
    Bogaerts swings at a fastball and reaches on Cole’s error.
    Pearce walks on three fastballs and a curve in the dirt.
    Devers singles on the fourth fastball of his at bat.
    Kinsler strikes out swinging at a fastball.
    Bradley grounds out after a slider and two changeups.
    3rd inning
    JD strikes out on a curve.
    Bogaerts singles on the fourth fastball he sees.
    Pearce doubles on a fastball.
    Devers walks on four pitches
    Kinsler strikes out on sliders.
    Bradley doubles in three runs on a fastball.
    Vasquez K’s on a curve.
    Does anybody see a pattern? Boston knows that Cole wants to establish his fastball early and they are sitting on it from the first batter of the game. Every fastball they hit was above 96 mph in velocity. Cole still threw fastballs and they were ready. He threw so many of them that they had them timed to hit up the middle, allowing them to be early or late , but hit them hard and in play.
    Continuing to play into Boston’s strategy by Cole and Maldanado added to a horrible night on the field for the two of them. The Astros starting pitcher and catcher account for every run in that loss.

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  13. Agreed OP, I noticed that also, even commented on how they were hunting, hitting Coles’s FB’s. Also observed how Price kept nibbling at the edges down & out, a sweeping curve in. Our guys swung at a lot of fringe pitches & balls. Lastly Sheffield & Reynolds both have commented how Boston continues to pitch around Bregman. They will not allow Breg to hurt them and thus far Yuli & Marwin are being pitched to so Breg has no help. Someone has to step up or AJ has to shuffle the lineup to get Bregman’s bat back in the game

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I think the only change in the lineup tomorrow is that Kemp and McCann will start. Hinch is not going to shuffle the top. Yuli might get three hits and if that happens everything will be peachy again.

    Like

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