After two insane wild card games in which we’ve seen all four starting pitchers combine to log 7 1/3 innings, it’s safe to say both starters in this American League tilt will throw deep into Game 1. The matchup features the venomous Chris Sale who said “This is what I live for. I’ll pitch until my arm falls off.” toeing the rubber for the Boston Red Sox. Sale will be opposed by Justin Verlander who is pitching like the MVP winner from his younger days in Detroit ever since joining the already loaded Houston Astros squad (5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in 5 starts).
This game has all the makings of a 1-0 or 2-1 grind-it-out battle. It will come down to which offense can work deeper into the count, grind out at bats and chase the starter from the game first. Verlander and Sale are both locked in and will be ready for this game and will undoubtedly rack up the strikeouts on Thursday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.
I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the many Astros right-handed bats ran into a solo jack off Sale in the early innings. Be it Alex Bregman or George Springer, and maybe chase across another off Sale in the middle innings. That being said, Chris Sale is going to come out focused and ready to absolutely pitch his ass off on the big stage for the Red Sox. Something they didn’t get last year in the ALDS.
Sale’s going to do his part and hand it off to the bullpen in the late innings, it’ll just come down to whether or not the Red Sox offense scraped across enough runs against Verlander. Otherwise they’ll be looking up the barrel of a one-run deficit like we’ve seen far too often this season especially early on with Sale on the hill.
Can the Red Sox get ’em on, get ’em over and get ’em in by any means necessary on Thursday? They have no choice otherwise this series could be over before it even gets started like last season. Houston has been a rock of consistency for much of this season while John Farrell‘s club has been anything but.
Ideal scenario is Red Sox are up 3-1 or 2-0 in the late innings with Sale. At which point they can make the call to turn it over to an Addison Reed or even David Price or let Craig Kimbrel loose to work his magic. If the Red Sox are trailing, with the likes of Will Harris, Luke Gregerson, Chris Devenski and Ken Giles in the fold, it could be Good Night Irene with the fate of the season in the hands of Drew Pomeranz.
I don’t know about you, but with the uncertainty of who is starting Game’s 3 and 4 (if necessary) back at Fenway for Boston, and Dallas Keuchel tabbed for Friday against Pomeranz, the Red Sox need to take the opening game. I’m not confident in Drew pitching in Houston against all those righties, in fact I wanted Rick Porcello in Game 2.
This is why Dave Dombrowski traded the farm for Chris Sale. For a game like this. 308 strikeouts during the regular season and its time for The Condor to earn his keep. He has to win this game for the Red Sox if they want any shot of beating Houston. Otherwise, it’s 2016 again and this one will be over before it even gets started.
Follow Frank Pimentel on Twitter: @FrankBostonTank