By Matt McCarthy, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Red Sox and the Astros had the two best records in baseball in the regular season and are set to face off in what should be a highly competitive American League Championship Series.
Which team has the edge at each position on the field?
Catcher: Christian Vazquez/Sandy Leon vs. Martin Maldonado/Brian McCann
There isn’t a whole lot to like offensively here, but it’s hard not to appreciate just how good defensively the Red Sox backstops were in the ALDS. Vazquez surprisingly gave the Sox a boost with his bat in New York, maybe he can find more ways to contribute at the plate in this series.
First base: Steve Pearce/Mitch Moreland vs. Yuli Gurriel
There are questions about Moreland’s health after coming up lame with a hamstring injury in Game 2 of the ALDS. Pearce hits lefties very well, but the Red Sox will likely only see one left-handed starter in the series in Dallas Keuchel. Gurriel might not be the biggest name in a powerful Astros lineup, but is a solid performer and a major cog in the middle of the order for Houston.
Second base: Ian Kinsler/Brock Holt vs. Jose Altuve
Sure, Brock Holt is hot and is coming off a cycle in Game 3 of the ALDS, but this one is obvious.
Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts vs. Carlos Correa
Correa has been battling a nagging back problem all year and his performance has suffered, hitting only .239 with 15 home runs. Bogaerts is healthy and is enjoying a career year. Both are great young players, but the Red Sox should feel better about the status of their shortstop entering the series.
Third base: Rafael Devers/Eduardo Nunez vs. Alex Bregman
If it weren’t for Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, Bregman might win MVP in the American League. Bregman had 31 home runs, 103 RBI, and 51 doubles this year, and plays phenomenal defense at third base. Devers and Nunez don’t come close.
Left field: Andrew Benintendi vs. Marwin Gonzalez
After a strong 2017, Gonzalez has seen his OPS dip from over .900 to .733 this year. He still has some pop, but isn’t as impactful as he’s been in the past. Look for Benintendi to have a big series against the heavily right-handed Houston pitching staff. He should get plenty to hit in front of J.D. Martinez, especially in Houston with the short porch in left.
Center field: Jackie Bradley Jr. vs. George Springer
Springer has established a reputation as an elite October performer. He homered three times against the Indians in the ALDS and is the reigning World Series MVP. He is the last guy the Red Sox want to see at the plate with runners on base in a big moment. There’s little comparison here.
Right field: Mookie Betts vs. Josh Reddick
Betts may not have had his best series with the bat in the ALDS, but found ways to make an impact on the bases and in the field. He can’t go 3-for-16 in this series if the Red Sox are going to win. That said, he’s clearly the better right fielder and still the best player on either team.
Designated hitter: J.D. Martinez vs. Tyler White
There’s little to write here.
Game 1 starter: Chris Sale vs. Justin Verlander
The Red Sox should feel good about Sale after he answered some questions about his health and effectiveness by pitching well in his two ALDS appearances. Needless to say, the Astros should have supreme confidence in Verlander, who put himself in Cy Young consideration again this year. It’s impossible to pick which ace gives their team a better chance to win, both are outstanding.
Game 2 starter: David Price vs. Gerrit Cole
David Price is 0-9 with a 6.03 ERA as a starter in the playoffs. Need I say more?
Game 3 starter: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Dallas Keuchel
Many Red Sox fans have argued that Eovaldi should get the start in Game 2 after his strong performance against the Yankees in the ALDS. Keuchel, a former Cy Young winner, hasn’t had his best season (3.74 ERA in 34 starts) but remains a reliable option for Houston and pitched well against the Sox last year. Keuchel gets the edge here given his track record, but this matchup is much closer than it would’ve seemed a month ago with how well Eovaldi has pitched lately.
Game 4 starter: Rick Porcello vs. Charlie Morton
Morton was fantastic for the Astros this year, going 15-3 with a 3.13 ERA. The fact that he is Houston’s fourth starter speaks to the depth the Astros have in their rotation. But there are questions about his health; he hasn’t pitched in three weeks after leaving a game with shoulder discomfort. Porcello pitched extremely well in the ALDS and seems like a more sure bet right now. It’s hard to find a series with this good a Game 4 pitching matchup.
Astros relievers held the Indians to just one run on four hits in the ALDS. The advantage here is clear.