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Chris Sale has the right mentality for the postseason — Boston Red Sox

Chris Sale has the right mentality for the postseason — Boston Red Sox

Altuve is the only one to have real success against Sale with a.381 batting average with a homer.

The American League pennant appears to an open race, as the remaining four teams have the pieces to make a deep run in the 2017 MLB playoffs. They'll likely hit fifth and sixth in the Boston lineup. Mitch Moreland with 23 homers and Hanley Ramirez with 22 dingers supplied the rest of Boston's power.

Chris Sale put together one of the most dominant seasons they've seen in a long time. There are reasons to doubt it. But I wouldn't bet against it, either. Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale will throw out the first pitch, and members of the Cajun Navy, who mobilized to save those stranded by flood water, will be honored. Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts are the leaders now and this time they will be ready to handle the pressure. Chris Sale is starting Game 1 on Thursday in Houston and Drew Pomeranz will handle Game 2.

The stakes: The Astros are looking to fulfill that famous 2014 Sports Illustrated cover that predicted they'd win the 2017 World Series. Eduardo Nunez acquired midseason by the Red Sox is versatile as he can play almost anywhere in the infield, but he too has been nagged by a sprained right knee ligament. If not, it'll be a second straight quick exit from the postseason.

Verlander faced the Red Sox twice this season, both times coming while he was still with Detroit.

George Springer will lead off after belting 34 home runs in the regular season. The MLB baseball playoffs are back, baby! If he's limited in the playoffs, the Astros have far lesser alternatives in right field.

So the Red Sox have a chance. Sonny Gray will start the opener for New York. He has a 9-1 record with a 2.42 ERA in those 13 appearances. The Yankees have an entire bullpen of guys throwing 95-plus.

He has made three starts against Cleveland this season, the first two as a member of the Athletics.

The extent to which Kathy Black's gold earrings pushed the Houston Astros into the playoffs is debatable, at best. Boston gets a road win to begin the series, swinging the momentum in their favor.

Nunez appeared in just one game in the final three weeks of the regular season as he dealt with a problematic knee injury.

But that clearly wasn't the case. Of course, they'd need that to happen if they wanted to win a series. This team is good - real good - and being able to go from Justin Verlander to Dallas Keuchel gives the Astros a great one-two punch in the rotation. He'll be responsible for four total runs on the night with his 3 RBI and 1 run scored. The offense, however, stumbled throughout the season as the Sox were among the bottom five teams in home runs and slugging percentage.

Last year's AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello is the other pitcher to get a start possibly.

The unit is also fresh. In five starts versus the Astros in his career, Sale is 5-1 with a 1.31 ERA while striking out 65 hitters in 48 innings pitched.

In a tight game, one homer can make the difference.

"There's a lot of different things in there that made this offense click", Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.