The 108-54 Boston Red Sox and 103-59 Houston Astros will face off in the 2018 American League Championship Series, with Game 1 starting Saturday at 8:09 p.m. ET.
Boston has home-field advantage and will host Houston for Games 1 and 2 (and Games 6 and 7, if necessary) at Fenway Park.
TBS will televise the game, and fans can live-stream the action through the Watch TBS app. The MLB Postseason Pre-Game show starts at 7:30 p.m. on TBS.
This series marks the first time two teams with at least 103 wins each will face off against each other since the 1942 World Series, when the St. Louis Cardinals beat the New York Yankees.
Two of the game's greatest aces will toe the rubber, as right-hander Justin Verlander gets the call for the Astros while southpaw Chris Sale does the same for the Red Sox.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch praised Sale in advance of the game, explaining why he's been such a force this year:
"His size, the angle of his pitches, when he's healthy and it's in the mid- to upper-90s, you just don't see that. The spin on his breaking ball's ridiculous. He's got some tenacity to him. He has fearlessness. Hitters don't react very fast to him, and rightly so. And it doesn't matter if you bat righthanded or lefthanded, it's uncomfortable."
Sale is 12-4 with a 2.11 ERA and 237 strikeouts in 158.0 innings. Any concerns about his late-season shoulder inflammation that forced him to miss time were put to rest in the ALDS as he shut out the New York Yankees for five full innings in Game 1. He did allow two earned runs in the sixth, but he struck out eight and also registered a shutout inning in relief in Game 4.
Verlander led the American League in strikeouts with 290 and sported a team-leading 2.52 ERA. The ex-Detroit Tiger has been nearly invincible since joining Houston last August, and his postseason experience and success should come in handy here. Per Hunter Atkins of the Houston Chronicle, Verlander has a 2.01 ERA in 98.1 postseason innings pitched since 2012.
As expected, the sportsbooks have this one pegged as a potential low-scoring affair, with the over/under run total set at just seven, per OddsShark.
Barring unforeseen poor outings from either starter or the bullpens blowing up, expect a pitcher's duel that will be decided in the late innings.
Once there, however, this should become a battle of the relief staffs. The Houston bullpen has been tremendous all year and has dominated the playoffs, throwing 9.2 innings of one-run ball for a 0.93 ERA.
The Red Sox bullpen has not been as fortunate and has a 3.71 ERA. Of note, there may be cause for concern with closer Craig Kimbrel, who nearly blew a 4-1 lead in the ninth inning against the New York Yankees in Game 4 of the ALDS by allowing two earned runs and letting the winning run on base before inducing two straight outs to close out the series.
Kimbrel saved 42 games, but he's struggled since late July with a 4.79 ERA from July 23 to the end of the regular season.
Ultimately, this is a tough game to call. The Red Sox have been excellent at home (57-24), but the Astros have been fantastic on the road (also 57-24).
However, Houston seems to have the bullpen edge, and Verlander has had historical success against some key Red Sox. Notably, AL MVP candidate Mookie Betts is hitless in 13 at-bats, and Andrew Benintendi is 1-for-9. On the other side, Jose Altuve (.333 average in 24 at-bats) and George Springer (.357 average in 14 at-bats) have gotten the best of Sale at times.
This should be close, but the pick here is for the Astros to steal Game 1 on the road.
Prediction: Astros 3, Red Sox 2