Our strong trend of picking up money line underdog winners in the playoffs continued last night as we picked up some nice dog money when the Houston Astros beat the Boston Red Sox in game one of the American League Championship Series. I loved getting the opportunity to back Justin Verlander as an underdog and felt that I was certainly getting the better side of the starting pitching matchup as Chris Sale has been banged up and getting very limited work since returning to the rotation after missing over a month with an injury.
Verlander didn’t let us down as he pitched six strong innings and picked up the win. And for Sale, he gets charged with the no-decision, throwing just four innings and allowing two runs. But it could have been much worse for Sale as he got into several jams and was lucky to have allowed just the two runs allowed. This game was actually much closer than the 7-2 final score might lead you to believe as the Astros played add-on late, scoring four runs in the top of the ninth inning to put it away.
With the win, the Astros steal home field advantage away from Boston and are now prohibitive favorites to take the series and return back to the World Series for a second consecutive season, with a chance to defend their World Championship. Boston is in a true must-win situation tonight. If they head to Houston down two games to none, this series is all but over.
Starting for the Red Sox today is David Price (16-7 3.58 ERA), and for the Astros, it is Gerrit Cole (15-5 2.88 ERA). The Astros are -131 road favorites. The game total over-under is set at eight runs. First pitch is scheduled for 4:09 PM PST from Fenway Park in Boston.
I have always liked the Houston Astros in this series. Their starting pitching and bullpen are just so hard to match up with, and I felt they were always going to leave this series with the win. But now that they knocked off Chris Sale in game one, the Red Sox are in emergency mode. They are now heading into game two, facing Gerrit Cole, and I am just not sure if they stand much of any chance.
Clearly, this is the playoffs, and the Red Sox are a very good team so they could win. But on paper, this one is heavily slanted against them. Cole has been absolutely fantastic this season, racking up 276 punchouts and winning fifteen games. He finished the year in the top ten in basically every pitching stat in the American League, and the Astros have won his last six starts. In his lone playoff start this season, Cole dazzled as he threw seven innings of one-run ball, allowing just three hits and striking out twelve against the Cleveland Indians.
Then we look at David Price for the Red Sox, and it’s remarkable that they are even giving this guy a shot. Price is 0-9 in the playoffs as a starter. He has a career playoff ERA of 5.28. The Red Sox were hoping that Price had put his playoff struggles behind him as he had a solid season this year and they gave him a shot in the ALDS against the New York Yankees and to say it ended badly would be an understatement. Price lasted just an inning, and two-thirds gave up two home runs and three runs overall and was charged with the loss.
I really thought the Red Sox would find somebody else to start this game other than David Price. Rick Porcello has been great, but I guess they must be saving him for the tougher to win road games coming in Houston? But if they lose tonight, I am not sure it is going to matter who they have left for the rest of the series as it is likely over. They will keep him on a tight leash for sure, but when you look at how he has pitched the last month, three starts, twelve innings pitched, twelve runs allowed, you have to wonder why the Red Sox are punishing themselves again in this one.
Price did pitch pretty well against the Astros in September. He threw six and a third innings, allowed just two runs on two hits and struck out ten. But even with that strong performance, the Red Sox still lost. I don’t see many ways that Price doesn’t get touched up in this one. He has a long history of blowing it in the playoffs, and at this point, I have no choice but to look to strongly fade him.
And that is just what I will do. I see Cole as way the best side of the starting pitching matchup, and it wouldn’t at all shock me to see him go seven innings in this game. This game could even end up getting out of control like last night’s game if Price isn’t sharp. Give me the Houston Astros as road favorites tonight in game two at -131!