American League Championship Series Game 1 Preview, Odds, and Pick: Boston Red Sox at Houston Astros

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The final four is set. After their dramatic 2-1 win over the Giants on Thursday night, the Los Angeles Dodgers will head east to begin the National League Championship Series in Atlanta on Saturday night. On Friday, the American League Championship Series will take center stage. The Boston Red Sox will head down to Texas to take on the Houston Astros in Game 1 at Minute Maid Park.

These teams are familiar with one another. The Astros got the better of the Red Sox back in the 2017 ALDS before Boston exacted some revenge in the ALCS the following season. The winner of each of the last two postseason matchups between these teams has gone on to win the World Series, so the stakes are awfully high.

Game 1 will pit a pair of left-handed starting pitchers against one another. Alex Cora will send ace Chris Sale to the mound in this one, while Dusty Baker will counter with Framber Valdez. The Astros are -137 moneyline favorites to win Game 1 at BetOnline in a game with an over/under of 8.5 runs.

Red Sox vs. Astros Betting Odds

Teams Runline Moneyline Total
Boston Red Sox +1.5 (-159) +127 Over 8.5 runs (-105)
Houston Astros -1.5 (+139) -137 Under 8.5 runs (-115)

Red Sox

Nobody expected the Red Sox to be here. Last winter’s controversial decision to trade Mookie Betts to the Dodgers signaled to many that Boston was getting ready to rebuild. However, just over a year later, the team is already back in World Series contention. The deal to send Betts to Los Angeles may not have netted Boston as much value as fans may have hoped, but the team has quickly re-established itself among the elite clubs in the American League.

Cora’s side has earned its place in the ALCS. Boston had to get past the New York Yankees in the American League Wild Card Game before upsetting the top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS. Tampa Bay took the first game of the series before the Sox won each of the next three games in surprising fashion.

The Red Sox can pitch, but they’re here because of their bats. Boston has quietly compiled one of the deepest lineups in the league, and their offense proved to be too much for the Rays’ vaunted pitching staff to handle. The Sox finished sixth in the league in wRC+ (107), third in wOBA (.333), third in OPS (.777), 10th in home runs (219), and fifth in runs scored (829). Since the playoffs began, Boston leads all teams in batting average (.328), homers (11), hits (63), and runs scored (32).

If the Red Sox are going to upset the Astros in this series, they’re going to need the bats to stay hot. Enrique Hernandez, J.D. Martinez, Alex Verdugo, Xander Bogaerts, Kyle Schwarber, Hunter Renfroe, and Rafael Devers are all hitting .300 or better since the postseason began. Hernandez was particularly impressive against Tampa Bay, hitting .435 with 10 total hits, five of which went for extra bases.

However, the Red Sox didn’t enjoy much success against the Astros during the regular season. Boston won just two of the seven meetings between the teams, and they lost three of the four games at Minute Maid Park.

Cora’s decision to start Sale in Game 1 is an interesting one, especially considering how much Sale struggled down the stretch. The veteran lefty returned in August after missing most of the season following Tommy John surgery. He went 5-1 with a 3.16 ERA across nine regular-season starts, but he lasted just an inning in his lone start against the Rays in the Division Series. Tampa Bay racked up five runs on five hits against him, including a grand slam from Jordan Luplow. Sale also pitched just 2.1 innings in his final start of the regular season against Washington.

Astros

The Astros had little trouble against the White Sox in the ALDS, winning the series in four games to advance to their fifth consecutive ALCS. Houston outscored Chicago 31-18 in the series, including a 10-1 demolition in the decisive Game 4 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

The Astros have enjoyed plenty of postseason success in recent years thanks to their unforgiving lineup. Houston may have lost George Springer this past offseason, but this is still as deep and talented an offense as you’ll find. Kyle Tucker, who effectively replaced Springer in right field, has quietly become one of the better all-around left-handed hitters in the game. The Astros have also plugged Yordan Alvarez back into the everyday lineup after the slugging lefty played in just two games last season.

Michael Brantley, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, and Yuli Gurriel are still here, while Dusty Baker will cycle through Jake Meyers, Chas McCormick, and Jose Siri in center. Houston’s offense runs seven-deep with All-Star-caliber hitters, which means there is almost no mercy for opposing pitchers. The Red Sox were an elite offense this season, but the Astros were a step above. Houston finished the regular season ranked first in runs scored (863), ninth in homers (221), second in OPS (.783), first in wRC+ (116), and second in wOBA (.336).

That said, Houston has already been dealt an injury blow. Lance McCullers, who pitched in two of the four games against the White Sox, was left off of the ALCS roster after experiencing forearm tightness in his most recent start. McCullers has become the Astros’ ace since the departure of Gerrit Cole and the injury to Justin Verlander, which leaves the team’s starting staff looking a little thin entering the semifinal round.

Baker will start Valdez in Game 1, while some combination of Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy, and Jake Odorizzi will likely fill out the rest of the rotation. Valdez struggled a bit in his first playoff start of the year, yielding four runs on seven hits in just 4.1 innings of work against Chicago in Game 2 of the last round. For the year, the southpaw went 11-6 with a 3.14 ERA.

Valdez isn’t much of a strikeout pitcher, and his control was lacking during the season. He finished with a walk rate north of 10 percent, which could prove problematic against a veteran lineup like Boston’s. However, Valdez does keep the ball on the ground. His ground ball rate of 70.3 percent would have easily ranked first in the majors if he had logged enough innings to qualify for the league leaderboard. His career ground ball rate is north of 66 percent, as well.

Valdez also enjoyed plenty of success against the Red Sox this season, going 2-0 with a 1.26 ERA across two starts. Boston tagged him for just two runs on 1o hits in 14.1 innings of work while striking out 18 times. Most importantly, Valdez walked just two hitters in those outings.

Red Sox vs. Astros MLB Pick

This series is shaping up to be a slugfest. These are two of the most potent offenses in baseball, and neither pitching staff is necessarily operating at full strength. The struggling Sale could be in for another rough outing against a Houston lineup jam-packed with right-handed power hitters. Valdez will be up against plenty of righty thunder himself, though his ground ball ability could prove useful in helping him limit damage.

The Red Sox are a fun story, but it’s hard to bet against the Astros at home. Houston outscored Chicago 15-5 in the two games at Minute Maid Park in the last round. If you include the postseason, the Astros are 53-30 on their home field so far in 2021. Boston did finish five games above .500 on the road, but the Astros are favored for a reason in this one. I think the best value is to take the Astros to win Game 1 outright on the moneyline. The -137 odds still offer solid upside.

Pick: Astros
Odds: -137
$100 Could Win You...$172

Red Sox vs. Astros Betting Recap:

  • Oddsmaker: BetOnline
  • Moneylines: Red Sox +127, Astros -137
  • Runlines: Red Sox +1.5 (-159), Astros -1.5 (+139)
  • Over/Under: Over 8.5 (-105), Under 8.5 (-115)
  • Prediction: Astros -137
Taylor Smith

Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...

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