The 2018 ALCS kicks off on Saturday between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros. The defending world champs easily made their way through the Cleveland Indians in a three-game series sweep. In a meeting of one of the best rivalries in sports, the Red Sox took down the New York Yankees in four games.
The ALCS between the Sox and Astros figures to be a thriller. Both of these teams have two of the top offenses in baseball. The winner will be decided by which pitching staff steps up and delivers for their offense. Here is why pitching will be the difference in this series for both of these teams.
Astros Starting Rotation
In the ALDS, Houston pitching limited the Indians to just six runs over three games. The Astros starting rotation can be thanked in large part for this, as their rotation is one of the very best in the game today. Justin Verlander seems to pitch even better in big spots and leads the way for this team. Gerrit Cole has fit in nicely in Houston, and he punched out 12 batters in his Game 2 win over the Indians. Former AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, and a revitalized Charlie Morton round out the rotation.
This deep of a rotation gives Houston an advantage going into this series. They figure to have the edge in every matchup except when Chris Sale is pitching. The one question that remains to be seen is if they can shut down Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, and the Red Sox offense.
Red Sox Bullpen
One of the biggest factors in this series is going to be the Boston Red Sox bullpen. This bullpen is one of the lone weaknesses for this 2018 Red Sox team. In the ALDS, they struggled at times. Brandon Workman struggled with command in Game 1, Eduardo Rodriguez allowed three runs, and closer Craig Kimbrel allowed a run in Game 1 and almost blew the lead in Game 4.
Obviously, the biggest need for the Red Sox is for Kimbrel to return to form, and quickly. With 42 saves in the regular season, he is the biggest asset the Sox bullpen has. He struggled mightily with command and was lucky to come out with the save. However, at the top of his game, Kimbrel is one of the top closers in the game and the best arm in this Boston bullpen. The Red Sox are going to need some big time performances from their starting pitching so that they can avoid getting deep into his bullpen.
This is going to be one of the best series we have seen in a while. Both offenses are at the top of their game. However, the Astros pitching is going to step up and be the difference maker.
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