‘Battle of strength vs. strength’: What the experts say about the Red Sox-Astros ALCS

"The Red Sox proved many of their doubters wrong when they rolled over the Yankees in the ALDS, but Houston is a much different animal."

Red Sox practice
The Red Sox held a workout at Fenway Park on Thursday as prepare for Game 1. –Jim Davis / The Boston Globe

With the Yankees and Indians behind them, the Red Sox-Astros postseason face-off starts Saturday with Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.

The Sox led the league in wins at the end of the regular season with 108, but the Astros were right behind them at 103. The Astros are the defending World Series champions, but the Sox wound up with home-field advantage for the ALCS.

It’s an intriguing matchup. Here’s what MLB experts are saying about the Sox-Astros series:

Micah Roberts, Sportsline Analyst: Red Sox +120, Astros -140:

“The only game where the Red Sox are probably going to be favored in is going to be when [Chris] Sale is pitches, and that’s going to be probably two starts. You’re going to have Gerrit Cole and he’s going to be a slight favorite over [David] Price. And that’s another thing: what is Price going to do? Is he going to show up finally? How come he’s not in the bullpen? I think they should feature [Rick] Porcello more, because when they met in the regular season, the Red Sox only won three of the seven games but two of the games were started by Porcello. He handled the Astros fairly well, so I think that is the pivotal thing here.”

Ted Berg, USA Today Sports: Astros in 6:

“Though these same clubs met in the ALDS just last year and the Astros took a convincing victory, the 2018 version of their matchup looks to be a fairer fight after the Red Sox blitzed through the regular season and beat up on the 100-win Yankees in the divisional series… The Astros are looking to defend their 2017 title with a similar cast of characters, plus the notable addition of Game 2 starter Gerrit Cole. This year’s Astros showed no signs whatsoever of any World Series hangover, winning 20 of their first 30 games in the regular season… It’s hard to bet against a team that won 108 games in one of the league’s most competitive divisions in the regular season, but the Red Sox enter the ALCS with too much uncertainty in their pitching staff for comfort… The Red Sox have baseball’s best offense, but the Astros’ strong starting rotation should mitigate the damage done by the likes of Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez. Houston has no apparent weaknesses whatsoever, and enough depth on their roster to mitigate any that may arise.”

Joshua Schrock, NESN: Astros in 6:

“The Red Sox proved many of their doubters wrong when they rolled over the Yankees in the ALDS, but Houston is a much different animal. The Astros’ lineup has few holes and should be able to get to the Red Sox’s bullpen in a way the Yankees couldn’t. Couple that with seeing Verlander and Cole four times in a seven-game series, and it’s hard to see Boston sending the defending champs packing.”

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CBS Sports Staff: Five out of six pick the Astros:

“During the regular season, the Astros didn’t just lead the league in run prevention, they dominated the category. Houston allowed 534 runs, which comes to just 3.3 runs per game… This season, they led the majors in rotation ERA and rotation FIP, which what you would expect given their stable of starting pitchers. The Astros, though, also led the majors in bullpen ERA and bullpen FIP… Simply put, the Astros excelled at every facet of run prevention. And that brings us to their opponents. The 2018 Red Sox in the regular season led the majors in runs scored scored, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and they even ranked an uncharacteristic third in MLB in stolen bases. Yes, Fenway Park is doing a little of the work in those numbers, but note that the Red Sox this season ranked fourth in MLB in runs scored on the road and fifth in OPS on the road. They can hit anywhere.”

Steve Silverman, Bleacher Report: Red Sox in 7:

“The Astros are a confident team, and they beat the Red Sox in the ALDS in four games last year. While both teams are explosive on offense and have good-to-excellent starting pitching, the Astros appear to have the better bullpen. While that should be a key factor, we see Boston manager Alex Cora giving the Red Sox a slight edge over his former team. The Red Sox take advantage of their home-field advantage and win the American League pennant in seven games.”

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