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Sox set to face Astros in ALDS on Thursday

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- Not only did the Red Sox clinch the American League East title with Saturday's 6-3 win over the Astros, but they clinched their opponent for the upcoming AL Division Series presented by Doosan.

Dress for October: Shop for official AL East champs gear

Full Game Coverage

BOSTON -- Not only did the Red Sox clinch the American League East title with Saturday's 6-3 win over the Astros, but they clinched their opponent for the upcoming AL Division Series presented by Doosan.

Dress for October: Shop for official AL East champs gear

Full Game Coverage

When Craig Kimbrel's 98-mph heater settled into Christian Vazquez's glove to strike out George Springer to end the game, the matchup between the Red Sox and Astros for next week became set. Game 1 is Thursday at Minute Maid Park.

The 100-61 Astros had been chasing the Indians for the best record in the AL, but that quest ended by losing to Boston.

Sunday's regular-season finale between the Sox and 'Stros could have somewhat of an awkward feel with neither team wanting to show too much of its hand.

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This will be the first time since 1991 (Blue Jays-Twins) that two teams have faced each other to end the regular season and then opened with a postseason series against each other. In 2013, the Pirates and Reds played a season-ending series and then faced each other in the National League Wild Card Game.

Video: Red Sox talk about clinching the AL East

"Well, it doesn't hurt to see them, and it probably doesn't hurt for them to see us," Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. "But there are a lot of good players on both teams. They have a lot of good players. So it's really going to come down to who performs well at a particular time, and who makes a big pitch at a particular time or comes through with a clutch hit. They're very talented."

The Astros have seven more wins than the Red Sox going into the last game of the regular season and will go into the ALDS as the favorites.

But the Red Sox, led by ace Chris Sale, who is sure to pitch Game 1, will try to win a postseason series for the first time since 2013.

"They're a good ballclub," said Sale. "They played us tough this whole series. We know what we're getting into, so it should make for a fun playoff series."

It has been a competitive season series between the two clubs thus far, with each team winning three times heading into Sunday's rubber match. The Astros have outscored the Red Sox, 31-19, but that disparity can be mainly attributed to Houston's 12-2 rout over Boston on Thursday.

Houston's offense has more firepower than Boston's. But the Red Sox probably have a better bullpen, particularly with the recent emergence of David Price as a reliever.

The Red Sox have Sale, but the Astros have recently-acquired ace Justin Verlander. Houston has hit machine Jose Altuve, but Boston has one of the best all-around players in the game in Mookie Betts.

"Great team," Red Sox manager John Farrell said of the Astros. "They're a very complete team. In some ways, we're similar with the core group of young players. They've got good starting pitching. But we know going into Houston, it will be very difficult -- and it should be this time of year."

The Red Sox have four days to prepare for a worthy opponent.

"It is going to be exciting, it's going to be a good series," said Red Sox designated hitter Hanley Ramirez. "They know what we got. We know what they got. Only one is going to be a winner. They've got a pretty good team over there. We know what we've got to deal with."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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