The Red Sox and the Astros, who combined to win 211 games in the regular season en route to posting the top two records in the Major Leagues, will square off in the American League Championship Series in what sets up to be a tantalizing best-of-seven series.
The 108-win Red Sox dispatched the rival Yankees in four games in the AL Division Series and will have home-field advantage against the 103-win Astros, who swept the Indians in dominating fashion in their ALDS. Game 1 of the ALCS is Saturday at Fenway Park. Houston eliminated Boston last year in the ALDS on its way to winning the franchise's first World Series championship.
In addition to an ALCS filled with star power that includes Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, George Springer and Justin Verlander of the Astros and Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Chris Sale and David Price of the Red Sox, both managers are well acquainted with each other. Boston manager Alex Cora was Houston manager AJ Hinch's bench coach last year.
:: ALCS schedule and results ::
The starting lineups
Astros: Hinch used the same starting lineup in Games 1 and 2 of the ALDS before Correa was moved down to the No. 7 spot in Game 3 and homered. He stayed in the seven-hole to open the ALCS. Maldonado has been catching Verlander for months. The lineup will hit all right-handed against Boston lefty Chris Sale, with the exception of Josh Reddick.
1. George Springer, CF
2. Jose Altuve, 2B
3. Alex Bregman, 3B
4. Yuli Gurriel, 1B
5. Tyler White, DH
6. Marwin Gonzalez, LF
7. Carlos Correa, SS
8. Martin Maldonado, C
9. Josh Reddick, RF
Red Sox: The one thing that should scare the Astros is that AL MVP Award favorite Betts hit just .188 in the ALDS against the Yankees. Translation: He is due to go off soon. Cora's lineups have been hard to predict. Mitch Moreland tweaked his right hamstring in Game 2 against the Yanks, and he didn't play the rest of the series, but he was healthy enough to be included on Boston's 25-man roster announced Saturday. Much like the Astros, the Sox have a loaded lineup that can score in many different ways.
1. Mookie Betts, RF
2. Andrew Benintendi, LF
3. J.D. Martinez, DH
4. Xander Bogaerts, SS
5. Steve Pearce, 1B
6. Brock Holt, 2B
7. Eduardo Nunez, 3B
8. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
9. Sandy Leon, C
Who are the starting pitchers?
Astros: Verlander (1-0, 3.38 ERA in the ALDS) gets the start to open the ALCS. He stymied the Indians for five innings in Game 1 before Hinch went to his loaded bullpen in the sixth to finish off the game. Verlander retired 15 of the first 16 batters he faced in Game 1 and finished with seven strikeouts. He's at the top of his game as he makes another postseason start. More >
Red Sox: Sale (1-0, 2.84 in the ALDS) is looking forward to avenging his disappointing start against the Astros in Game 1 of last year's ALDS, when he was rocked for nine hits, seven runs and three homers in an 8-2 loss to Verlander. Sale's health and stamina were concerns heading into the playoffs, as left shoulder inflammation limited him to 17 innings from July 28 through the end of the regular season. But Sale quieted those fears with his strong start in Game 1 against the Yankees, and a dominant eighth inning of relief in the Game 4 clincher. More >
• Gear up for the ALCS:Astros | Red Sox
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Astros: Houston's bullpen couldn't be in better shape. Astros relievers held the Indians to one run and four hits, striking out nine batters and issuing three walks in 9 2/3 innings in the ALDS.
It became clear in the ALDS that Hinch wants to use Thomas Pressly, Lance McCullers and Roberto Osuna to get the final six outs of the game if his team has the lead. And Hinch still has weapons in both lefty Tony Sipp and hard-throwing rookie Josh James, who didn't pitch in the first round, and starter-turned-reliever Collin McHugh, who struck out four batters in two scoreless innings in Game 3.
• Maldonado, Pressly deals key for Astros' 2018 title run
Red Sox: The much-maligned Boston bullpen, which did finish fourth in the AL in ERA during the regular season, had some anxious moments in the ALDS. But ultimately, Cora's crew came through with the outs they had to have. Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier are established as the high-leverage setup men for closer Craig Kimbrel, who had a major scare in the ninth inning of the clincher at Yankee Stadium, but he ultimately hung on.
Are there any relievers who are unavailable?
Red Sox: Just knuckleballer Steven Wright, who isn't eligible for the ALCS after being taken off the ALDS roster prior to Game 2.
Any injuries of note?
Red Sox: Moreland has been dealing with the hamstring issue, but he's good to go.
Who is hot and who is not?
Astros: Houston outscored the Indians, 21-6, in three games in the ALDS, so pretty much everybody is hot. The hottest of the hot at the plate are Springer (6-for-14 with three homers), Gonzalez (7-for-13, five RBIs) and Bregman (5-for-9, two homers). Correa went 1-for-10 in the ALDS, but his last at-bat was a three-run homer. Maldonado (1-for-8 with a homer) and Gurriel (2-for-11) struggled against the Indians.
Red Sox: It will be interesting to see if Holt -- who hit for the first cycle in the history of postseason play in Game 3 against the Yanks -- can stay hot. In his past 47 at-bats, Holt is slashing .447/.500/.894 with five homers and 17 RBIs. Martinez always seems to be hot. He went 5-for-14 with a three-run homer in the ALDS. Leon is ice cold, with two hits in his past 45 at-bats.
Anything else fans might want to know?
The 211 combined wins ties the most in an LCS matchup (2001 Yankees-Mariners). ... The Astros went 4-3 against the Red Sox in the regular season, outscoring them, 34-31. ... Houston went a Major League-best 57-24 on the road in the regular season, and Boston went a Major League-best 57-24 at home. ... Martinez was drafted and developed by the Astros and made his Major League debut for Houston in 2011, exactly 10 days after Altuve made his debut with the Astros.