When you finish second place in a wildly difficult AL East Division, the term Cinderella shouldn’t normally be applied. But, is this Red Sox run (so far) of the Cinderella variety?
They were underdogs despite playing the AL Wild Card Game at home against the Yankees, a heavy dogs throughout their four-game ALDS series against the Rays, knocking off the best team in the AL in the process.
On the other side, the Astros also disposed of their ALDS opponent in four games, and that White Sox club is no pushover. Once again, Houston is showing up in October, only this year they’re not sneaking up on anyone given the regular season they enjoyed in 2021 compared to the sub-.500 2020 campaign.
Let’s dive into these two teams, how they got here, how they’re going to win the series before handing out a series prediction and some series prop bets!
Boston Red Sox
- Regular Season Record: 92-70 (T-4th in AL)
- Run Differential: +80 (5th in AL)
How They Got Here
It took the Red Sox until the final day of the regular season to punch their ticket into the postseason, but a win over Gerrit Cole and the Yankees followed by a major upset of the reigning AL champion Rays and the Red are back in the ALCS for the first time since winning it all in the 2018 season.
After being shutout by the Rays in the ALDS opener by a 5-0 count, a lethal Red Sox offense went to work, scoring 14 runs in Game 2 and another six in each of Games 3 and 4, giving them an average of 8.67 runs per game over the final three games of that series against one of the very best pitching staffs in the game.
The bats are largely how they were able to rebound this season, although they were a productive offense even in a down 2020 season. This time around, they ranked third in baseball with a .333 wOBA and fourth with a .188 ISO, so there plenty of thump throughout that lineup. One thing to note, however, is the fact the Sox were pretty much the best offense in baseball at home, but without home field advantage they’ll have to find a way to hit in Houston with a road offense that slipped to 14th with a .312 wOBA on the season.
Despite winning Game 2 in Tampa, Chris Sale was rocked for five runs in just one inning before the offense stormed back. Sale’s work has been a little bit of a concern and brief since he returned from Tommy John surgery, and Eduardo Rodriguez has had an up-and-down year before allowing four runs in 6.2 innings between two ALDS starts against the Rays.
Nathan Eovaldi has been the rock from a pitching standpoint as he’s not only pitched 10.1 innings of three-run ball in these playoffs, but was lights out for the 2018 World Series champion Red Sox and has compiled a 1.93 career postseason ERA across 32.2 innings.
While the offense carried them to victory over the Rays, one wonders how much better the staff has to be against a formidable Astros lineup in the ALCS.
How They Win the Series
Unfortunately I think the Red Sox are going to have to out-slug this Astros offense that put on a hitting clinic in their ALDS matchup with the White Sox.
Like the Red Sox, offense is the Astros’ strongest suit and they’ve proven that time and time again in the postseason. The Red Sox catch a break with Lance McCullers out for this series with a forearm injury, opening the door for them to take advantage of a club missing its best starting pitcher from this season.
Rafael Devers. Red Sox strike first.
404 feet pic.twitter.com/L7y74QJTxC
— Mike Monaco (@MikeMonaco_) October 12, 2021
They’re capable of hitting this Astros pitching staff, but with Houston likely to keep on churning out runs themselves, the Red Sox have no shot at an upset here if their bats don’t show up.
- Regular Season Record: 95-67 (2nd in AL)
- Run Differentia: +205 (2nd in AL)
How They Got Here
Unlike the Astros of a season ago, they entered these playoffs as a re-established powerhouse, something that could have been up for debate before the season started. Despite reaching the ALCS last fall, the 2020 Astros also finished the shortened regular season just 29-31 and lost George Springer in free agency and Justin Verlander for the season with Tommy John surgery.
The Astros still managed to finish among the game’s best on both sided of the ball, The offense came out of the gate strong and raked all season long to the tune of a .336 wOBA that ranked second in baseball. They didn’t hit for as much power as before in general, but a .177 team ISO still ranked them in the league’s top 10.
Want was anything but certain was the rotation given the Verlander ailment and the aging co-ace Zack Greinke. They added Jake Odorizzi after the Verlander news, but as it would turn out Greinke and Odorizzi ranked fifth and sixth in terms of rotation fWAR, both sporting figures of at least a 4.11 ERA.
Nonetheless, this Astros rotation ended up fifth in all of baseball with a 3.60 ERA on the back of McCullers (3.16), rookie Luis Garcia (3.38), lefty Framber Valdez (3.14) and fellow youngster Jose Urquidy (3.62). Add in Christian Javier’s 3.14 ERA in nine start and it was certainly many of the supposed back-end guys stepping up in a big way for a rotation that seemingly needed to in the wake of the Verlander news.
The bullpen was the weak spot of the club with a 15th-ranked 4.06 ERA when the regular season was all said and done, but some additions did help down the stretch. After adding the likes of Kendall Graveman, Phil Maton and Yimi Garcia, the club’s ERA improved to 3.89 since the trade deadline, but were fantastic in Games 1, 2 and 4 against the White Sox, allowing just one combined run in those three games.
How They Win the Series
Like the Red Sox, I think the key to another series win for the Astros is to simply keep hitting at the plate. The Astros put on a clutch-hitting clinic in that ALDS with the White Sox, notching two-out hits one after another and pulling the air right out of any comeback hopes in the process.
With McCullers gone, it’s important the remainder of the staff gets offensive support. The bullpen is anything but a sure thing and while another key is Valdez, Garcia, Urquidy and Odorizzi pitching well in this series, they’ll need to go toe-to-toe with another elite offense on the other side of the diamond if they’re to enjoy success in this series.
Red Sox vs. Astros ALCS Betting Odds & Prediction
*Odds courtesy of BetOnline
The Astros are once again favored to make yet another World Series appearance, their third in the past five seasons if they’re able to knock off this Red Sox club.
It’s not going to be easy, however, as that Boston offense has been up to the task and has plenty of postseason experience and star-caliber bats in that lineup.
I mean, McCullers is out and Garcia’s, starter Luis and reliever Yimi, were both roughed up big-time in their Game 4 appearances with the White Sox. Compared to this Red Sox rotation, the Astros lack postseason experience in this rotation with plenty of youngsters in the mix there.
It’s going to be awfully tough, but they’re already rolling after knocking off another mountain of an opponent in the Rays, so give me the Red Sox to win this ALCS series at quality +120 odds.
Red Sox vs. Astros Series Prop Bets
Series Correct Result – Red Sox 4-1 (+750)
Let’s be honest, these props are usually a guessing game based on who you think wins the series. A sweep would be exceedingly difficult for both sides, but man, if the Red Sox go and get a split in Houston, they played the next three games at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox offense turned in an MLB-best .354 wOBA at home this season and a .200 ISO that checks in at fourth. Sure, the offense takes a notable drop-off on the road, but hey, they scored 14 runs in Game 2 at Tampa Bay of an elite Rays pitching staff, especially at Tropicana Field. Anything can happen this time of the year.
I have the Red Sox, and we might as well look for serious value along the way, so let’s have them split in Houston and grab three straight at Fenway to close this thing out in five games.
Exact Number of Games – 5 (+275)
See above. Obviously, we don’t need a Red Sox series win for this one to hit, but only a sweep (+625) pays better here. Given how rare four-game sweeps are this time of the year, I like the value we’re getting here at five games.
Series Score After 4 Games – Red Sox 3-1 (+325)
Again, the only items that better on the board is a sweep either way, but I’ve already laid out my plan for this series above, so I’m stickin’ to it.
Series Spread – Red Sox +1.5 (-155)
As I noted in my divisional series breakdowns, I suggested to avoid these bets as it’s the least of the value on the board. That said, I don’t mind this look.
We notch a win here on a Red Sox series win or a seven-game series all together. However, at the end of the day, it’s still lacking in value relative to its prop peers in this series.
Total Games in Series – Under 5.5 (+155)
A sweep or a five-game series pays handsomely here, and as per my reasoning above, I like our value here at these odds.