Game 1: Saturday October 6, 7.00am, Minute Maid Park
As far as opening games go, this one will be hard to top.
On the surface, it’s a battle between two American League juggernauts, but at its core, it’s a battle between two Cy Young candidates.
Sometimes the numbers tell the full story, on this occasion though, they simply don’t.
Indians ace Corey Kluber owns a 2.89 ERA on the season – which is great – but what you don’t know is he’s really struggled in ALDS games, allowing nine earned runs and four homers in two previous appearances.
When it comes to the Astros’ Justin Verlander, it’s quite the opposite. He’s a playoff beast, owning a 2.29 ERA in the Divisional Series, and even though wins are meaningless, for the sake of this argument, a perfect 6-0 record.
Much of Game 1 will come down to this mound battle, and really, we’re privileged to be able to sit back and watch. If you’ll recall, Kluber faced the Astros on back-to-back occasions both on the road and at home back in May, allowing only two runs and 13 hits in 13.1 innings.
So where does that leave us?
Verlander steered clear of the Indians during the regular season, which is probably a good thing. It means Cleveland are facing him fresh, and since both of these clubs ranked bottom three in strikeout rate during the month of September, it gives the veteran righty an edge after both clubs have enjoyed a few days off.
Players like Francisco Lindor will no doubt be key for the Indians defensively, but so much rides on Jose Ramirez, which should scare you away from Cleveland for the moment. The third baseman struggled during September, hitting just two home runs, good for a .185 AVG.
With Verlander on the mound, the Indians can expect to see a good mix of fastballs and sliders, and probably, very few chances to put runs on the board.
Tip: Match Winner/Total Runs Double: Astros/Over 6.5 @ $3.05
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
Game 1: Saturday October 6, 9.30am, Fenway Park
There’s no rest for the wicked, which is exactly what the Yankees were at home on Thursday, manhandling the A’s in a 7-2 Wild Card victory.
As a result, we’re treated to the first Yankees/Red Sox postseason meeting since 2004, and in case you forgot, that was the same year Boston broke the Curse of the Bambino to win their first World Series title since 1918.
With all the attention on the National League, it feels like the American League has been a little neglected, which is probably a good thing as far as the Sox are concerned. Chris Sale is healthy and ready for Game 1 action, but there’s still plenty of intrigue surrounding the seven-time All-Star after a light workload since the middle of August.
The Yankees are yet to announce their starter, but by all accounts, it looks as though veteran J.A. Happ will take the mound after Luis Severino threw the Wild Card game.
But of course, who are we kidding, this kind of occasion goes far beyond box scores, stats and pitcher match ups. The Yankees own an 11-8 record against the Red Sox in the postseason, and as far as 2018 goes, Boston fought their way to a narrow 10-9 in the six series they played.
You can rewind back to the Red Sox August sweep over the Yankees, or you can dwell on the fact that Aaron Judge and Luke Voit are the two most dangerous hitters in the postseason all you like, all that really matters is this is a battle between two 100-win teams, that is likely to come right down to the wire in all five games.
If one thing is for sure, the Red Sox have to be nervous. The Yankees are healthy at the right time, and aside from who’s at the plate, New York hold the pitching advantage with plenty of doubt surrounding Boston’s bullpen and everyone in their rotation not named Sale.
At Fenway, the Red Sox better hope they are well prepared, and hope Sale’s throwing plenty of heat, because this Yankees team is coming in red hot and ready for a World Series.
Tip: Back the Yankees To Win @ $2.50