Sale, Red Sox Will Beat Verlander, Astros in Game 1 of ALCS

Willie Bee

Friday, October 12, 2018 1:38 PM UTC

Friday, Oct. 12, 2018 1:38 PM UTC

The 2018 ALCS has it all from must-see pitching to stacked lineups, and we have a free baseball pick for the series opener between the Red Sox and Astros.

ALCS Game 1: Houston (106-59 SU, 72-85 O/U) at Boston (111-55 SU, 79-79 O/U)Saturday, 8:09 p.m. ET (TBS)Free MLB Pick: Red Sox MLBest Line Offered: 5Dimes

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In case Houston manager AJ Hinch and his Boston counterpart Alex Cora are reading, I’d like to thank them for not pussyfooting around when it comes to announcing their pitchers for Game 1 of the ALCS. Of course, it’s not like the skippers had tough decisions to make before going with their aces, Justin Verlander (17-9, 2.54) and Chris Sale (13-4, 2.13).

The expected matchup sets up one of the most important games of the year to date, and especially crucial for the Red Sox maintain home-field advantage in the series. The early commitment to setting their rotations for the first two games of the ALCS also allowed for sportsbooks to get lines out early, 5Dimes opening the Red Sox -125 before early action on the Astros drove that down about a dime.

Betts 1-For-16 Lifetime Vs. Verlander

Maintaining the Fenway edge is only one part of the battle for the Red Sox; taking down Verlander at the same time would almost feel like two wins. Since acquiring the veteran hurler in an August 2017 trade from Detroit, Houston is 32-14 when Verlander pitches, 6-1 in postseason games. Two of those playoff wins came last October, one start and one relief appearance, and Verlander had the lead when he left the mound against Boston in a June start at Minute Maid prior to the Red Sox reaching the Astros bullpen for a couple of homers to rally for the victory.

Mookie Betts is the key to establishing Boston’s offense against Verlander. The likely 2018 AL MVP is just 1-for-16 lifetime vs. the Astros ace, that hit coming in last year’s playoffs, and the Red Sox can ill-afford another 3-for-16 effort from their leadoff hitter like in the ALDS against the Yankees. If Betts can get on early, he’ll have a couple of hitters behind him who have done well when facing Verlander, Mitch Moreland hitting .313 (10-32) and Eduardo Nuñez batting .333 (6-18).

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ALCS ready! #DoDamage pic.twitter.com/WIbZV8Yyf9

— Ryan Brasier (@ryanbrasier) October 11, 2018
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Altuve Has Been Sale’s Toughest Astros Out

Sale dropped his two playoff outings (1 start, 1 relief) vs. Houston last year, his only appearances against the Astros in 2017, plus lost to them in that June series at Minute Maid as s slight underdog on the closing baseball odds. Still, he was sharp in his two looks against the Yankees in the ALDS (6.1 IP, 2 ER, 9 K), and seems to be better rested for this October run following a light September workload. The key batter for Sale will be 2017 AL MVP Jose Altuve, the Houston second sacker hitting .344 (10-29) with 3 HR off the Boston lefty.

Scoring first is always important, but getting to Verlander with a crooked number early is a must for Boston. If the Red Sox can do that, they can get into Houston’s bullpen against some relievers they’ve had success in the past. Boston is my free MLB pick to do just that.

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