Starting Friday, the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros will face off in the 2021 American League Championship Series. This is of course a rematch from the 2018 ALCS, when the Sox downed the Astros in five games en route to their 9th World Series championship.
Two powerhouse franchises going head to head with the AL pennant on the line lends itself to being highly anticipated. Mix in the bad will the baseball public still holds for the Astros from their sign stealing scandal, and you’ve got yourself a truly juicy series.
What can we expect from this heavyweight matchup? Here are my predictions for what is about to go down in this upcoming series.
Offense, Offense, and More Offense
Let’s get one easy prediction out of the way from the jump. I’m expecting there to be A LOT of offensive production in this series. The Astros were the top scoring team in all of Major League Baseball, scoring a league high 863 runs this season. The Astros have some serious firepower in their lineup, highlighted by stars Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, and Carlos Correa.
Houston is also ranked first in MLB in terms of team batting average, sporting a dominant .267 mark at the place as a club. It’s a simple fact to say the Astros had the best offense in the league.
Another simple fact is that the Red Sox were not far behind them. Boston finished the season ranked 5th in runs scored with 829, as well as 3rd in team batting average with a slick .261 average. Boston was a team that was really carried by dominant offensive play all season.
The bats have certainly not cooled off for either team in the playoffs thus far. Boston and Houston currently rank first and second respectively for playoff runs scored.
There are just so many big time hitters on both sides here that I just can’t see many games in this series being low scoring. Expect fireworks and lots of them.
Chris Sale Will Find His Form
It hasn’t been easy for the 7x All-Star bouncing back from Tommy John Surgery. After not pitching in a real game for nearly two years, Sale was given just nine starts in the regular season to get back into shape. He was actually pretty good all things considered, going 5-1 with 52 strikeouts and a 3.16 ERA.
Sale got his first playoff start since the 2018 championship run in Game 2 against the Rays. The Red Sox won that game, but no thanks to Sale. He lasted just the first inning of the game, giving up five runs off of four hits.
Sale’s rough outing has fans questioning whether or not he should start again this postseason. However, the Red Sox announced Sale will be starting Game 1, putting those thoughts to rest.
However he is utilized in this series, I belive Sale will find his form. Whether he starts or comes in relief later in the series, I have a feeling he is going to look more like the 2018 version of himself, making some big time pitches when the Sox need him most.
Expect Some More Schwarbombs from Kyle Schwarber
Kyle Schwarber has made for a very fun addition to this year’s Sox team. He’s also been exactly what the doctor ordered, giving the Sox a power bat to further bolster the offense.
When Boston acquired him at the trade deadline, I wasn’t sure if he’d be able to bounce back from injury. He’s done that and then some, becoming a fan favorite akin to 2018’s Steve Pearce or 2013’s Shane Victorino.
He’s the perfect player for this playoff run, as he brings power and playoff experience to the table. So far this postseason he is batting .316 with 2 HR’s. Call me crazy, but I think he is going to continue riding his hot bat into the ALCS.
Kyle Schwarber’s career #postseason numbers:— Tyler Milliken (@tylermilliken_) October 11, 2021
28 Games – 97 PA
Some guys are built to shine on the biggest stage. He’s one of them. 🗣#RedSox | #DirtyWater| #MLB pic.twitter.com/7vfZYWbpvg
I’m predicting Schwarber will smack at least two Schwarbombs in the series, at least one at Fenway and one at Minute Maid Park. That’s a prop bet you can take to the bank.
Tensions Will Be High
The Red Sox and Astros don’t have some long storied rivalry that leads into this matchup. The history between these teams really stems from the past decade. After all, Houston has only been in the American League since 2013. Not a lot of time to build a rivalry of historic proportions.
Nevertheless, I belive tensions will be high in this series between the two clubs. Naturally the energy and pressure is always elevated due to the playoff atmosphere, but it’s more than just that. It’s more than just this being a rematch of the 2018 ALCS.
These two teams are HUNGRY, both looking for validation and willing to fight and claw their way to it. When two hungry animals are thrown in the mix together, sometimes it can get ugly.
Two Teams Seeking Validation
For Boston, they seek validation for being written off. Nobody thought they were good enough to get into the playoffs, let alone go on a deep run. For Houston, it’s much deeper. The cheating scandal has damaged their reputation and ruined their legacy.
Houston is in their 5th consecutive ALCS, only the 3rd team in MLB history to accomplish such a feat (Oakland Athletics in the 70’s and Atlanta Braves in the 90’s being the other two). No one gives them credit or talks about that however, all due to the cheating scandal.
Houston wants to rebuild their rep, to wash away the stink of sign stealing. What better way to do that than win a “legitimate” championship.
This is a weird prediction, one I don’t believe you can bet on, but I’m calling it now that we will get a bench clearing skirmish in this series. If I had to guess where, I’d say probably in Boston, as I feel like the atmosphere in Fenway could get under the Stros’ skin.
Xander Bogaerts Will Win ALCS MVP
Is there a big analytic, mathematical reason for why I chose this? I’d love to say yes and give you a bunch of numbers to prove my point, but this take is coming from the good ol gut.
If I were to use numbers, I could point to the fact that Bogaerts is hitting a solid .350 average this postseason along with 2 HR’s and 4 RBI’s. He’s already been one of Boston’s most important and valuable players so far this postseason.
So why not keep it going through the ALCS? Boston will need Bogaerts to play his best, and I believe he will. Expect the X-Man to step up for Boston and cement his postseason legacy within Red Sox Nation.
Sox in 7
This was not easy at all. Houston on paper looks to be the better team. They have an offense that can go toe-to-toe with Boston, and is even slightly better. They have much more consistent pitching in comparison to the Red Sox.
Boston however has that “team of destiny” feeling to them. This team screams 2013, and I feel as though momentum is on their side. They’re going to need that momentum, because Houston is tough. A team with something to prove that is lethal with their bats. That’s scary.
If Boston is to win this series, they will most likely have to go the distance. In the regular season, the Astros posted a 5-2 record against the Sox. Based off their previous meetings and just looking at Houston’s roster, I’d say this is not going to be a 4 or 5 game affair.
Expect the series to go to a Game 7 in Minute Maid Park, and expect for some Dirty Water magic to push Boston into the World Series.
This series should be as entertaining as they come, let’s hope that Boston can keep this thing going.
Photo by AP Photo/ Charles Krupa