The ALCS presents us with the rare matchup of 100-win teams before the World Series.
The clash between the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros is the third in postseason history between teams with 103 or more regular-season wins, and it's the first time that showdown occurs outside of the World Series, per The Athletic's Jayson Stark.
Given the amount of talent on both rosters, the margins in each game will be slim, and the series could come down to key managerial decisions by Alex Cora and A.J. Hinch.
Houston is aiming to get back to the World Series with a chance to become the first back-to-back champion since the New York Yankees in 1999 and 2000, while Boston is aiming for a return to the World Series after a five-year absence.
All Times ET.
Game 1: Saturday, October 13 at Boston (8:09 p.m., TBS)
Game 2: Sunday, October 14 at Boston (7:09 p.m., TBS)
Game 3: Tuesday, October 16 at Houston (5:09 p.m., TBS)
Game 4: Wednesday, October 17 at Houston (8:39 p.m., TBS)
Game 5: Thursday, October 18 at Houston (8:09 p.m., TBS)*
Game 6: Saturday, October 20 at Boston (5:09 p.m., TBS)*
Game 7: Sunday, October 21 at Boston (7:39 p.m., TBS)*
Odds (via OddsShark)
Houston (-145; Bet $145 to win $100)
Boston (+115; Bet $100 to win $115)
Game 1 Odds
David Price Becomes Effective Late In Series Out Of Bullpen
The biggest question hovering over the Boston Red Sox entering the ALCS is the performance of David Price.
Price, who is slated to start Game 2 at Fenway Park, was the weak link in the rotation in the ALDS against the New York Yankees, and he has a bad history as a starter in the postseason.
The left-hander has a career postseason ERA of 5.28, but he has been effective in the appearances he's made out of the bullpen.
If the Astros get to Price in a similar way the Yankees did in the ALDS, he shouldn't be allowed to start another postseason game, which would throw a wrench in Alex Cora's plans, but it would be a necessary move.
In two ALDS relief appearances against the Astros a year ago, Price threw 6.2 scoreless innings in back-to-back games.
Even if Price produces a decent start in Game 2, he'll be asked to move to the bullpen in the latter stages of the series as the Red Sox make sure they have as many arms available as possible.
If throwing in relief eases Price's nerves and continues to produce good results, Cora should throw some trust behind him for a few innings in Games 6 and 7.
Backing up Chris Sale with Price's effectiveness out of the bullpen could be the perfect combination that throws Houston off balance and sends the Red Sox back to the World Series.
Bregman Once Again Stars At Plate For Astros
Alex Bregman did a good amount of damage to the Cleveland pitching staff in the ALDS, as two of his five hits were home runs.
The Houston third baseman scored five of Houston's 21 runs in the series sweep of the Indians, and he had success against the Red Sox in the ALDS a year ago.
In four games against Boston in the 2017 ALDS, Bregman hit a pair of home runs in 18 plate appearances.
Fenway Park is one of the ballparks Bregman's spent the least amount of time in, but he's hit three home runs in seven career regular-season games in Boston.
Bregman hit 16 home runs at home and 15 on the road in the regular season, and he produced nine of the round-trippers in a tie game.
The 24-year-old also thrived with two outs and runners in scoring position, as he hit .368 with 11 doubles and 34 RBI in that situation during the regular season.
Other batters in Houston's order will have success throughout the series, which has a high potential to go seven games, but Bregman will be the player with the most clutch hits.
In order to get to Game 7, Bregman will come up with a clutch hit after the seventh to allow Justin Verlander an opportunity to oppose Sale in the decisive game.
Series Prediction: Boston in 7
Houston will bank on the experience gained from winning the World Series a year ago, but the Red Sox were the best team in baseball during the regular season for a reason.
Sale is expected to be one of Boston's top performers, and Cora will find a way to navigate the Price situation with Rick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi.
Each team will win at least one road game, with Boston picking up a victory in Game 4 before Houston forces a Game 7 with a Game 6 win at Fenway Park.
Game 7 should be one of the most memorable games in postseason history, but the combination of Sale starting and Price relieving him will carry the Red Sox to the World Series.
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Statistics obtained from Baseball Reference