The Red Sox and Astros took different paths to this division series. The Astros, by the second week of May, already had an eight-game lead in the AL West and wound up winning it by 21. The Red Sox, on the other hand, were mostly a second- and third-place team until Aug. 1, at which point they finally took control of the AL East and never looked back. It’s the Astros’ high-octane offense vs. the Red Sox high-powered pitching in the best-of-5 series. Here’s how they match up.


Red Sox: Christian Vazquez (.290, 5 HR, 32 RBI)

Astros: Brian McCann (.241, 18 HR, 62 RBI)

Skinny: This might not be as lopsided as it seems. In fact, there’s a strong case to be made that the advantage shifts away from the seven-time All-Star and toward the guy who opened the season as a backup. McCann is a far greater offensive player than Vazquez, but some of McCann’s raw power is minimized by Boston’s left-handed starters and the fact he hasn’t hit very well at home this season. The biggest factor in the Red Sox favor is defense. Vazquez controls the running game. He and Sandy Leon, who likely will catch Chris Sale in Game 1, had the second-best caught-stealing percentage in baseball while the Astros had by far the worst.

Edge: Red Sox


Red Sox: 1B Mitch Moreland (.246, 22 HR, 79 RBI), 2B Dustin Pedroia (.293, 7 HR, 62 RBI), SS Xander Bogaerts (.273, 10 HR, 62 RBI), 3B Rafael Devers (.284, 10 HR, 30 RBI)

Astros: 1B Yuli Gurriel (.299, 18 HR, 75 RBI), 2B Jose Altuve (.346, 24 HR, 81 RBI), SS Carlos Correa (.315, 24 HR, 84 RBI), 3B Alex Bregman (.284, 19 HR, 71 RBI)

Skinny: With apologies to Pedroia’s track record, there’s not a position in the infield where the Red Sox have a clear edge. Moreland and Gurriel are far better against righties than lefties – which might leave Hanley Ramirez splitting time at first base – but the other positions are fairly lopsided in Houston’s favor. Altuve just might win the MVP award, Correa is a just-turned-23 superstar, and Bregman’s .903 second-half OPS dwarfs Devers’ .819. There’s plenty of possibility in the Red Sox infield but it’s hard to bet against these young Astros.

Edge: Astros


Red Sox: LF Andrew Benintendi (.271, 20 HR, 90 RBI), CF Jackie Bradley Jr. (.245, 17 HR, 63 RBI), RF Mookie Betts (.264, 24 HR, 102 RBI)

Astros: LF Marwin Gonzalez (.303, 23 HR, 90 RBI), CF George Springer (.283, 34 HR, 85 RBI), RF Josh Reddick (.314, 13 HR, 82 RBI)

Skinny: Gonzalez has started at least 14 games at five different spots this year, but he’s settled into left field since the trade of Nori Aoki and the season-ending injury to Jake Marisnick. Gonzalez responded by leading this team in RBI. The uncertainty is Reddick, who missed the season’s last week with a back injury. If he’s limited, the Astros have far lesser alternatives in right. Uncertainty about Reddick is enough to shift the advantage toward the Red Sox own group of excellent outfielders.

Edge: Red Sox


Red Sox: Hanley Ramirez (.242, 23 HR, 62 RBI)

Astros: Evan Gattis (.263, 12 HR, 55 RBI)

Skinny: Against a right-handed starter, the Astros might turn to Carlos Beltran, one of the great postseason performers of all time. But against lefties in Games 1 and 2, it surely will be Gattis at DH. He had an underwhelming second half, doesn’t have significant platoon splits, and doesn’t have nearly the pedigree of Ramirez. It’s basically a tossup between two power-oriented sluggers who had so-so, inconsistent seasons. This is another spot where the potential of Nunez comes into play. If he returns as a DH, Nunez could be a sparkplug at the top of the order.

Edge: Even


Red Sox: Chris Sale (17-8, 2.90 ERA), Drew Pomeranz (17-6, 3.32 ERA), Doug Fister (5-9, 4.88 ERA), Eduardo Rodriguez (6-7, 4.19 ERA), Rick Porcello (11-17, 4.65 ERA)

Astros: Justin Verlander (15-8, 3.36 ERA), Dallas Keuchel (14-5, 2.90), Brad Peacock (13-2, 3.00), Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62)

Skinny: It’s entirely possible Boston could pitch Sale on short rest in Game 4 and Pomeranz on normal rest in Game 5, so their lack of depth might not be much of an issue. Verlander looked like an ace again after his trade from Detroit (5-0, 1.06 ERA in five starts with Houston). That’s enough to minimize the advantage of Sale in Game 1, and Keuchel neutralizes a breakout season from Pomeranz.

Edge: Astros


Red Sox: Craig Kimbrel (5-0, 1.43 ERA, 35 saves), Addison Reed (1-1, 3.33 ERA), David Price (6-3, 3.38 ERA), Joe Kelly (4-1, 2.79 ERA), Carson Smith (0-0, 1.35 ERA), Robby Scott (2-1, 3.79 ERA), Matt Barnes (7-3, 3.88 ERA),

Closer Ken Giles finished with 34 saves and a 2.30 ERA for the Astros – Craig Kimbrel-like stats – and was especially strong in the second half of the season. Associated Press/Eric Christian Smith

Astros: Ken Giles (1-3, 2.30 ERA, 34 saves), Chris Devenski (8-5, 2.68 ERA), Joe Musgrove (7-8, 4.77 ERA), Will Harris (3-2, 2.98 ERA), Francisco Liriano (0-2, 4.40), Luke Gregerson (2-3, 4.57 ERA), Lance McCullers (7-4, 4.25 ERA), Collin McHugh (5-2, 3.55 ERA)

Skinny: With the potential to add two strong starters, the Astros’ bullpen might be deeper but the addition of Price is a significant difference maker. The Red Sox can, in theory, turn to Price, Reed and Kimbrel for four or five innings on any given night. Giles has flown slightly under the radar as a dominant closer, coming off a Kimbrel-like second half. Still, it’s hard to bet against that Red Sox trio.

Edge: Red Sox


Red Sox: C Sandy Leon (.225, 7 HR, 39 RBI), INF Eduardo Nunez (.313, 12 HR, 58 RBI), OF/PR Rajai Davis (.235, 29 SB, 20 RBI), Brock Holt (.200, 0 HR, 7 RBI), OF Chris Young (.235, 7 HR, 25 RBI), INF Deven Marrero (.211, 4 HR, 27 RBI)

Astros: C Juan Centeno (.231, 2 HR, 4 RBI), DH Carlos Beltran (.231, 14 HR, 51 RBI), OF Cameron Maybin (.228, 10 HR, 35 RBI), OF Derek Fisher (.212, 5 HR, 17 RBI), INF Tyler White (.279, 3 HR, 10 RBI)

Skinny: The wild card here is Nunez. Sure, Beltran has the track record of postseason success, but his impact is likely limited to a pinch-hit at-bat here and there. Nunez could be an everyday player and adds a new dynamic. Frankly, neither team is likely to use its bench much but if healthy, Nunez has the greatest potential for impact.

Edge: Red Sox


Red Sox: John Farrell

Astros: A.J. Hinch

Skinny: Certainly Farrell has his share of doubters, but he’s the first Red Sox manager to win back-to-back division titles and the first to win the division three times in his tenure. He surely deserves credit for manipulating this bullpen into one of the best in baseball (even before the additions of Reed and Price). That said, Hinch effectively has changed the culture in Houston, blending the front-office love of statistics with his own “been-there, done-that” appreciation for clubhouse leaders like Beltran, McCann, Reddick and Verlander. The Astros are riding high on energy and momentum, and Hinch deserves much of the credit for that.

Edge: Astros


Astros in 5: The biggest things the Sox have going for them is the possibility of Sale pitching twice, and the potential of protecting a lead with Price, Reed and Kimbrel. That’s enough to win at least one, maybe two games. But the Astros look tough to beat with their explosive offense, and their own 1-2 rotation punch of Verlander and Keuchel. The Red Sox are good enough to put up a real fight but the Astros are good enough to win this series.