Red Sox at Astros Game 1 Pick and Prediction for October 5th

by Taylor Smith
on October 5, 2017
Boston Red Sox (+118)
Houston Astros (-138)
Total: 7

Now that the Wild Card Games are in the rearview mirror, it’s safe to say that the eight best teams in baseball are the ones still playing. While the Division Series brings us four delicious matchups, we probably won’t get a better pitching matchup in this round than Justin Verlander vs. Chris Sale.

Verlander has been a godsend since joining the Astros at the beginning of September. He’s won all five of his starts and owns a tiny ERA of just 1.06. He’s allowed just four runs in 34 innings in an Astros uniform, all of which came from solo home runs. He also has a whopping 43 strikeouts along with just five walks.

That comes out to a strikeout rate of 35.8%. Unfortunately for Verlander, he’ll be going up against a Red Sox team that doesn’t whiff too often. Boston as a team had the seventh-best strikeout rate against right-handed pitching (19.7%) this season.

Verlander did pitch well in two outings against Boston this season, both of which came while he was still with the Tigers. He allowed three earned runs in 12 innings of work while striking out seven. Houston knows what it’s getting from Verlander. He’s going to take the ball with the hopes of pitching deep into the game. The 27 homers he’s allowed this season are slightly concerning, but this Red Sox team has also struggled to hit the ball out of the ballpark.

The Astros’ bats won’t have it any easier. Houston is going to have to deal with Chris Sale, who may well be on his way to the American League’s Cy Young Award in his first season in Boston. Sale struck out a league-leading 308 hitters on his way to a 17-8 record along with a 2.90 ERA in 32 starts.

While Sale obviously has the stuff to strike anybody out, he, too, is faced with a difficult task. The Astros may well have the deepest lineup in all of baseball, and they’re a high-contact unit. Houston ranked first in the majors in K-rate against pitchers of either handedness, including a tiny 16.7% mark against southpaws.
The Astros also ranked second in wOBA (.347), tied for first in wRC+ (120) and tied for second in OPS (.814) against left-handed pitchers during the regular season.

If either pitcher is going to be facing postseason jitters, it’s probably Sale. Verlander has made 16 career postseason starts, and he’s been to the World Series twice already. Sale, on the other hand, is set to make his first career postseason appearance. We saw all four starters in the Wild Card round struggle under the bright lights of October. John Farrell likely won’t have a quick hook for his ace, but Sale needs to get off to a good start if he’s going to pitch deep into this one.

This game is as close as they come, but the Astros are slight favorites at -137 on the moneyline. We think Houston is the right pick. They’ve been a red-hot offense of late, and they’ve got home field advantage with their experienced horse on the hill.

The over/under of seven runs is the smallest we’ve seen to this point in the postseason, but we also think it may be a little bit high. You have arguably two top-five pitchers squaring off in this one. Runs are likely going to be fairly difficult to come by.

Go ahead and take the Astros and the under (EVEN) in this one.
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