By Arnie Leshin
Boston Red Sox versus Houston Astros. They’ve met before and there’s been controversy, but this is a new step for both, with the winner heading to the World Series as the American League champion.
The Bosox surprised the Tampa Bay Rays in four games of the division series, coming away with the clincher, 6-5, Monday nightat Fenway Park. It was Tampa Bay that had the league’s best record and it set the tone with a 5-0 win at home in game one.
But in game two, back came the Red Sox to hammer the Rays before their home fans 14-6. Then they moved on to the field with the tall green monster wall in left field and edged Tampa Bay, 6-4, in 13 innings, then advancing by downing the Rays again, 6-5.
In the one-game tiebreaker, the Red Sox sent the New York Yankees packing for tee time following a 6-2 victory at Fenway.
Now the up-and-down Sox are going against Houston, which in the series versus the Los Angeles Dodgers, were accused of video cheating of opposition pitchers and steal signs. It got the Astros manager A.J. Hinch, fired, the general manager fired, and brought in 71-year-old Dusty Baker to take over. This was after the Red Sox also tossed in some comments directed at Houston.
And Baker went against Tony La Russa, a long-time manager with the St. Louis Cardinals who at 77, is now unretired and at the helm of the Chicago White Sox, but after Houston won games one and two at home, 6-1 and 9-4, the Chisox responded by taking game three, 12-6, at home before its impressive season ended at home with a 10-1 Astros romp.
So that’s it, if you expected Houston and Tampa Bay, you’re batting .500 as La-Russa takes probably a well-needed rest and the Rays look ahead to next season as they still seek a new home in the Tampa area.
The opener of the best-of-seven makes the first pitch Friday in Houston, which has home field advantage. Boston gets the next three, and if still needed, the Astros are home for games six and seven.
Meanwhile, a testy La Russa argued with umpire aTom Hallion after he felt Houston reliever Kendall Graveman hit reigning American League MVP Jose’ Abreu intentionally with two out in the eighth. Abreu had been plunked 22 times during the regular season.
Baker, who has sparred with La Russa in the past, said his team did not throw intentionally at Abreu, never even thought of it.
The Astros are looking for the franchise’s second championship after winning it all in 2017, a title that still evokes a strong reaction around the game after the team was punished for using electronics to steal signs and for checking out signs from the pitcher.
They also face Red Sox manager Alex Cora, an Astros bench coach in that 2017 season, who then returned again to Boston as its manager after being suspended for one year.
Should be a ball with the Houston Minute Maid Park fans and those at Boston’s Fenway Park filling every seat. The winner gets the National League champion as the Atlanta Braves await the winner of the Los Angeles Dodgers-San Francisco Giants game five Thursday night in the city by the bay.
FRIDAY, Oct. 15 — Boston at Houston, 6:07 p.m.
SATURDAY, Oct. 16 — Boston at Houston
MONDAY, Oct. 18 — Houston at Boston
TUESDAY, Oct. 19 — Houston at Boston
WEDNESDAY, Oct. 22 — Houston at Boston
FRIDAY, Oct. 24 — Boston at Houston
SATURDAY, Oct. 25 — Boston at Houston
(All games on TBS or FSI)
SATURDAY, Oct. 16 — Atlanta at San Francisco or Los Angeles at Atlanta
SUNDAY, Oct. 17 — Atlanta at San Francisco or Los Angeles at Atlanta
TUESDAY, Oct. 19 — San Francisco at Atlanta or Atlanta at Los Angeles
WEDNESDAY, Oct. 20-San Francisco at Atlanta or Atlanta at Los Angeles
THURSDAY, Oct. 21 — Atlanta at San Francisco or Los Angeles at Atlanta
SATURDAY, Oct. 23 — San Francisco at Atlanta or Atlanta at Los Angeles
SUNDAY, Oct. 24 — San Francisco at Atlanta or Atlanta at Los Angeles
(All games on TBS)