Astros start Verlander in ALDS opener


If Chris Sale could secure for the Red Sox a pivotal opening victory, it would inoculate this young team with the confidence that they need to go on a serious postseason run.

Boston has had its struggles as of late, but don't be fooled.

Team USA looks to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. And their pitching matches up very well with Houston, especially in a shorter series. Both pitching staffs have a number of well-known stars, and this isn't a case where the Q scores exceed the on-the-field production by any means. Farrell's other choices for the team's third starter include 2016 Cy Young victor Rick Porcello and veteran Doug Fister.

Unfortunately, left-handed starters are exactly what Boston has in abundance.

This five-game series could all be determined by what happens in Game 1, and what a Game 1 it should be: Justin Verlander against Chris Sale. He was the losing pitcher in Games 2 and 5 of last year's World Series against the Chicago Cubs. The guy misses bats like nobody else in the game and is sure going to get his fair share of strikeouts against a swing happy Astros clubs that swings big. Taking sort of a myopic, yet calculated, look at Boston's path in the 2017 postseason, it's evident that we should be able to get off to a strong start against the Astros - much stronger than the start that we got off to a year ago. He's 2-8 with a 5.54 in his career there. That last time out, however, he ran into a bit of trouble, giving up five runs over seven frames. After Pomeranz, the Red Sox likely will turn to Eduardo Rodriguez, but they also have Doug Fister and, far less likely, the reigning AL Cy Young victor, Rick Porcello.

Houston's baseball team winning 11 more games in the year of Hurricane Harvey.

Over his last 16 starts, Verlander, 34, went 10-3 with a 1.92 ERA.

Verlander has faced the Red Sox twice this season, going 1-1. The Astros have other options, including Charlie Morton. Sunday's Game 3 at Fenway is set to start at 2:38 p.m. also on FS1.

It's no secret how tough Houston's lineup has been all year. Mayor Sylvester Turner joined by Astros owner Jim Crane and players Derek Fisher and Joe Musgrove pumped up the crowd saying, "We are Houston proud and Houston Strong".

The Astros led the majors by a wide margin in runs (896) and batting average (.282). Jose Altuve hit.417, Marwin Gonzalez.364, Carlos Beltran.357, Yuli Gurriel.333 and Brian McCann.333 with three homers.

It will be interesting to see how Sale performs under the bright lights of the playoffs.

That game against the Astros was a sample of how Farrell will use his bullpen in the playoffs.

Houston also has momentum coming into the playoffs. To repeat: Given the uncertainty after Sale, Game 1 might be crucial if the Red Sox are to win this series. They are familiar opponents having spent multiple seasons battling each other in the American League Central Division on their respective former teams, the Tigers and White Sox. So, it's obvious they were the most dominant offensive team in the Major League Baseball. If Bogaerts can perform up to his normal standards and one of the trio of Dustin Pedroia, Andrew Benintendi or Mookie Betts can get hot, then the Sox will be in business. If they get past NY in the winner-take-all wild card, they even hold a 6-3 record in 2017 in games played at Cleveland's Progressive Field. But that's still a long ways away. Which team is best stacked to save a championship? That would make me really proud.