The reigning World Series champion Astros will go with their same rotation order through the first two games of the American League Championship Series against the Red Sox, as the club announced Wednesday that Justin Verlander will start Game 1 on Saturday and Gerrit Cole will start Game 2 on Sunday. Boston will counter with Chris Sale and David Price in Games 1 and 2, respectively.
"I'm not sure any of you are shocked," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "[Red Sox manager Alex Cora] was not shocked when I told him."
Last Friday, Verlander tossed 5 1/3 innings in Game 1 of Houston's AL Division Series sweep of the Indians, giving up two earned runs on two hits and two walks while striking out seven. Cole fanned 12 over seven innings of one-run, three-hit ball in Game 2 on Saturday in his first postseason start since 2015 when he was with the Pirates.
Verlander made one start against Boston during the regular season, when he gave up two earned runs on three hits with six strikeouts over six innings as part of a no-decision in a 5-4 Red Sox win on June 2 at Minute Maid Park. Boston scored three runs off Astros reliever Will Harris after Verlander departed before holding on to win.
Cole faced the Red Sox twice this season, on June 1 in Houston and on Sept. 7 at Fenway Park, with the Astros victorious in both. Cole surrendered back-to-back homers to Mitch Moreland and J.D. Martinez in his first outing and one to Xander Bogaerts in the second. The righty struck out a combined 15 Red Sox over 13 innings and gave up 10 hits and five runs.
The Astros, who faced a few critical decisions for their postseason roster against the Indians, have not formally announced their ALCS roster. Dallas Keuchel started ALDS Game 3 on Monday in Cleveland, and Charlie Morton was slated to start Game 4 had it been necessary.
Verlander in ALCS Game 1 sets up a rematch with Sale, as the two also faced off in the opener of last year's ALDS between the two clubs. Verlander held the Red Sox to two runs in six innings, while the Astros knocked around Sale, who was making his postseason debut, for seven runs in five innings. Sale pitched a perfect eighth inning of relief in Boston's ALDS-clinching, 4-3 win over the Yankees on Tuesday, paving the way for closer Craig Kimbrel in the ninth.
Sale was a likely lock for Game 1, even after throwing 13 pitches on Tuesday. But Price in Game 2 was more of an uncertain, given his well-chronicled postseason struggles and his outing in ALDS Game 2 on Saturday, when he gave up three runs, including a pair of homers, and lasted just 1 2/3 innings. It was the only game the Red Sox lost in the series against the Yankees. Price has a 6.03 ERA in 10 postseason starts, and his teams are 0-10 in those outings.