Friday, October 5, 2018

ALDS Previews

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An enticing matchup between the last two American League champions gets underway Friday in Houston when the Astros play host to the Indians in Game 1 of a star-studded AL Division Series.

The best-of-five series features two dominant pitching rotations, led by former Cy Young winners Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel of the Astros and Corey Kluber of the Indians. The Astros have the best bullpen in the game, but it's on offense where the stars will shine.

The defending champion Astros, who set a club record with 103 wins, have a deep lineup that features All-Stars Jose Altuve, George Springer, Alex Bregman and former All-Star Carlos Correa. The Indians counter with All-Stars Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez and Michael Brantley and former MVP Josh Donaldson.

Gm 1Oct. 52:05 p.m.CLE @ HOUTBS
Gm 2Oct. 64:37 p.m.CLE @ HOUTBS
Gm 3Oct. 81:30 p.m.HOU @ CLETBS
*Gm 4Oct. 94:35 p.m.HOU @ CLETBS
*Gm 5Oct. 114:07 p.m.^CLE @ HOUTBS

Who is hot and who is not?

Indians: Ramirez was a clear-cut AL MVP candidate through July, but labored at the plate over the final two months. Dating back to Aug. 19, when he last had a .300 average, the slugger has hit .167 with a .583 OPS. On the other side of the coin, Donaldson hit .280/.400/.520 with a 149 wRC+ in September. Gomes (141 wRC+) and Brantley (140 wRC+) also had strong September performances.

Astros: Verlander went 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA in five starts in September. Offensively, many of Houston's hitters were struggling entering the playoffs. In the team's final seven games, Altuve was 5-for-19, Bregman was 4-for-18, Correa was 3-for-12, Gattis was 1-for-14, Kemp was 1-for-14, Gonzalez was 2-for-15 and Springer was 3-for-12. Reddick (5-for-17) and Gurriel (7-for-19) were trending up.

Anything else fans might want to know?

The Astros are trying to become the first team to defend a World Series title since the 1999 Yankees. … This is the Astros' 12th postseason appearance. They're 35-45 all-time in the playoffs, including 17-8 at Minute Maid Park. They were 8-1 at home in the playoff last year, with the only loss coming in Game 4 of the World Series.

In order to accommodate Donaldson's arrival in August, Ramirez moved off third and took over at second. That prompted Kipnis to shift from second to center. Kipnis has looked fine in center, while Ramirez has been shaky at times at his new spot on the infield. … This is the fourth postseason appearance for the Tribe in six years under manager Terry Francona. Cleveland has gone 0-6 in close-out games in the playoffs, dating back to the 2016 World Series.


The longest-standing rivalry in sports is back on the October stage for the first time since 2004. The Yankees and Red Sox are ready to do battle for what should be a thrilling American League Division Series, which starts with Game 1 tonight at Fenway Park.

In one way, the rivalry has already been historic this season. This is the first time both clubs have won 100-plus games in the same season. Boston set the tone with an MLB-best 108-54 mark, winning the AL East for the third straight season. New York finished 100-62 before triumphing over Oakland, 7-2, in the AL Wild Card Game on Wednesday.

Gm 1Oct. 57:32 p.m.NYY @ BOSTBS
Gm 2Oct. 68:15 p.m.NYY @ BOSTBS
Gm 3Oct. 87:40 p.m.BOS @ NYYTBS
*Gm 4Oct. 98:07 p.m.BOS @ NYYTBS
*Gm 5Oct. 117:40 p.m.NYY @ BOSTBS

"We're excited," Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge said. "They won the division. It's going to be a fun series. This place [Yankee Stadium] is going to be rocking, Fenway is going to be rocking. Everyone is excited for it."

Both teams are offensive juggernauts and play in ballparks conducive to it. The clubs are led by rookie managers (Aaron Boone for New York and Alex Cora for Boston) who were once co-workers at ESPN. Boone created one of the all-time rivalry moments when he clocked a walk-off homer off Tim Wakefield in Game 7 of the 2003 AL Championship Series.

But the Red Sox erased that sting the next year when they became the first -- and still only -- team to come back from a 3-0 deficit in a postseason series. In the next few days, we'll see how much madness the latest chapter brings.

Who is hot and who is not?
Yankees: Voit homered in three straight games leading into the Wild Card Game and he narrowly missed a three-run blast, as the burly slugger chugged for the first triple of his career. McCutchen has been an on-base machine since being traded to the Yankees, reaching safely in 12 of his 22 first innings. Sanchez went 0-for-3, including a rally-killing double play, in the Wild Card Game. He batted .179/.316/.372 in 23 September games, and .186/.291/.406 for the entire regular season. Sanchez's defense has also been suspect, and New York carried three catchers for the Wild Card Game.

Red Sox: Betts hit at a torrid clip to close the regular season, hitting .609 with three homers and eight RBIs in his final 23 at-bats. Often overshadowed by Betts and Martinez, Bogaerts had a .987 OPS in September. First baseman Moreland had a tremendous start to the season, but he had a.600 OPS with just four homers after the All-Star break. Due to Moreland's recent struggles, look for Pearce to start Game 1 against left-hander Happ. Sale loves throwing to Leon, which makes it likely he will catch Game 1. That's good news for Yankees pitchers, as Leon has been close to an automatic out of late, getting two hits in his past 40 at-bats. If the game is on the line, Cora will hit for Leon as early as the fifth inning.

Anything else fans might want to know?

Home field has been significant in the rivalry this season. The Red Sox went 7-3 at Fenway, while the Yankees posted a 6-3 mark in The Bronx. This is the first time Boston has started a postseason series at home since the 2013 World Series. Starting the playoffs on the road is nothing new for the Yankees. They fell into an 0-2 series hole in last year's ALDS against Cleveland, then rallied to win the series in five games. New York lost all four ALCS games played in Houston last year

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