2021 ALCS
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

2021 ALCS: Boston against Houston in a 2018 Rematch

The stage is set for this year’s American League Championship Series. The Boston Red Sox will be taking on The Houston Astros in what will be a rematch of the 2018 ALCS, where Boston won in five games. Houston won the first game of that series but would go on to lose their next four. Boston advanced and later defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. There is no love lost between these two teams, according to Red Sox Ace and probable Game 1 starter Nathan Eovaldi:

How They Got to the ALCS: Boston Red Sox

After defeating the Yankees in the Wild Card Game, Boston had a tough task in the #1 seed, 100-win Tampa Bay Rays. Hand up. I picked the Rays in five last round. The Rays jumped on the Sox in game 1 and won 5-0, which prompted many including myself to believe Tampa was going to win this series. The next day, Boston made it a series. They scored 14 runs on 20 hits, cruising to an easy win, and heading back to Boston with home-field advantage the rest of the series.

After Boston won game 3 via a walk-off home run from Christian Vasquez in the 13th,  the series was all but over for the Rays. The Red Sox hitting has come alive this post-season, and it seems they’ve yet again caught fire in the playoffs, and will certainly be a difficult team to put away. Kiké Hernández was the hero of game 4, as he walked it off to send Boston to their first ALCS appearance since 2018:

How They Got to the ALCS: Houston Astros

The Astros will be competing in their fifth straight ALCS, which is just insane when you think about it. They rode one of the most balanced lineups in the entire game when it came down to righty/lefty, and power/speed bats. It’s no surprise they had the best offense in the league for the entirety of the regular season. The Astros beat the White Sox into oblivion during the ALDS, and so far it’s the only series I predicted correctly (Unless the Giants advance as well). The Cheating Scandal is long over also. I’m over it, you should be too. 

The Astros are a great baseball team, they wore it all year long and they’re still here; they deserve the ALCS berth. Houston dominated Chicago in the three games they won during the series. They took game one 6-1, and game two 9-4. After heading back to Chicago with a 2-0 lead, they dropped game three, 12-6. Game four, Chicago never stood a chance. Carlos Rodon had the opportunity to be a hero in Chicago forever if he could force a game five, but Houston was just too much for Chicago, as they won in a rout, 10-1. 

Pitching Matchups & Impact Players: 2021 ALCS

While no pitching matchups have been announced yet, one has to imagine Nathan Eovaldi will get the start for Boston. Eovaldi hasn’t pitched since game three, and tomorrow would his fifth day of rest. Lance McCullers pitched game one for the Astros, and four innings during their clinching win on Tuesday. I don’t think Houston plans to start him on short rest, so I’d assume he’d start game two. I would expect Houston to start probably Framber Valdez game one, and McCullers game two. Following those two for Houston would be Luis Garcia and Jose Urquidy. Following Eovaldi for Boston, I would assume they go with Chris Sale, and Eduardo Rodriguez, and then I’d imagine they go Tanner Houck for game four. Nick Pivetta could also potentially start, but Boston may want to keep him in the bullpen after his heroic performance in game three.

Impact Players for Boston (Playoff Stats): Impact Players for the Red Sox: 3B Rafael Devers (.300, 6 hits, two home runs, .417 OBP,. .600 SLG, 1.017 OPS), SS Xander Bogaerts (.350 avg, 7 hits, .435 OBP, .650 SLG, 1.085 OPS), DH J.D. Martinez (.467, 7 hits, 4 RBI’s, .467 OBP, .733 SLG, 1.200 OPS), CF Kiké Hernández (.435 avg, 10 hits, 5 runs, 6 RBI’s, .440 OBP, .826 SLG, 1.266 OPS), 1B/LF Kyle Schwarber (.316 avg, .409 OBP, .632 SLG, 1.041 OPS), LF Alex Verdugo (.348 avg, 8 hits, 6 RBI’s, .565 SLG, .913 OPS) RHP Garrett Whitlock (4.1 IP, 2.08 era), RHP Nick Pivetta (8.2 IP, 3.12 era), SP Nathan Eovaldi (10.1 IP, 2.61 era)

Impact Players for Houston (Playoff Stats): Shortstop Carlos Correa (.385 avg, 4 RBI’s, .529 OBP,.538 SLG, 1.067 OPS), Second Basemen Jose Altuve (.313 avg, 9 runs, .467 OBP, .625 SLG, 1.101 OPS), Designated Hitter Yordan Alvarez (.273 avg, .529 OBP, .636 SLG, 1.165 OPS), First Basemen Yuli Gurriel (.176 avg, .176 OBP, .176 SLG, .352 OPS), Outfielder Kyle Tucker (.294 avg, 7 RBI’s, .294 OBP, .706 SLG, 1.000 OPS), SP Lance McCullers (10.2 IP, 0.84 era), CP Ryan Pressly (3 IP, 0.00 era, 0 BB, 4 K’s), RP Kendall Gravemen (3 IP, 3.00 era).

The Pick

Ryan Schwager and I are tag-teaming these MLB postseason series previews. Here are each of our picks:

Ryan: Well, damn, was I wrong in my ALDS predictions. I could see Boston giving Tampa Bay some issues because of their offense, but I really underestimated Houston. I won’t be doing that again. This Houston team is still similar to the squad that was making and winning the World Series a few years ago. No George Springer this time around? I don’t think they care. Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve look as good as ever. They get the first two games at home, and they should win both. I like the Astros in five.

Evan: I am so excited for this series. A rematch of an unforgettable 2018 series that featured an insane display of defense and timely hitting from guys you’d never expect it from. To me, it comes down to Boston’s pitching. Their offense is going to put up runs, Houston has above-average pitching, but they aren’t unhittable, although McCullers looks pretty unhittable right now. Regardless, the X-Factor of this series to me is Red Sox SP Eduardo Rodriguez. Nathan Eovaldi has proven he’ll go out there and compete during every start. Rodriguez pitched only 1.2 innings of game one and was pulled after surrendering two runs. However, in the clinching game four, Rodriguez went five innings of 3 hit, 2 run ball. You’ll take that in a playoff start every time.

Assuming Chris Sale is on a short leash again, Eduardo Rodriguez has to be that guy if the Red Sox want to win this series. Kiké Hernández also had an unprecented ALDS. If he continues that then this series will certainly live up to the hype. Houston is also a formidable team from top to bottom and will be an incredibly tough foe. This series is going to be awesome, but I think Houston’s Carlos Correa and Kyle Tucker are going to shine this series, Astros in 6.

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