Charles Krupa/Associated Press
The Boston Red Sox are on the verge of advancing to their first World Series since 2013.
However, securing the first spot in the 2018 Fall Classic won’t be easy, as Boston sends David Price to the mound in Game 5 of the ALCS to oppose Houston’s Justin Verlander.
Thursday’s Game 5 at Minute Maid Park comes a day after an epic Game 4, which ended on a remarkable diving catch in left field by Andrew Benintendi.
On paper, Houston has the edge entering Game 5 because of Verlander’s postseason success and Price’s playoff struggles. But while both will have an impact on the game, it will be the hitters who once again make the biggest difference in the ALCS.
ALCS Game 5 Information
Start Time: 8:09 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Watch TBS
Ticket Info: StubHub.
Game 5 Pick
Verlander and the clutch hitters in the Houston lineup will be the reason the ALCS shifts back to Fenway Park for Game 6 on Saturday.
The experienced ace of the Houston pitching staff found a way to silence the Boston bats in Game 1, as he gave up two earned runs in six innings.
Even though the Red Sox scored at least seven runs in Games 2, 3 and 4, Verlander will put a stop to their success at the plate to give his team a chance to come from behind and win the series in Boston.
In his career, Verlander’s made six starts in Game 5 or later in the postseason. In those outings, he’s given up seven earned runs and held opposing lineups scoreless in three of those appearances.
Omar Rawlings/Getty Images
In Game 6 of the 2017 ALCS, the 35-year-old was dominant, holding the New York Yankees to five hits over seven scoreless innings.
Conversely, Price started three games in Game 5 or later in a postseason series, and he’s given up three earned runs in each of his past two appearances late in a series.
Overall, the left-hander has struggled to match his regular-season success in the playoffs, and his 4.2-inning outing in Game 2, during which he gave up four earned runs on five hits, was deemed a success compared to his previous horrendous starts.
At the plate, George Springer and Carlos Correa will be the difference-makers for the Astros—just like they were in Game 4.
Springer, who added three hits in Game 4 to his growing total of 39 postseason base knocks, wasn’t affected by the move down to the No. 2 spot in the order behind Alex Bregman.
Correa shifted down the No. 7 hole and produced three hits of his own, including a two-out RBI single in the fifth inning.
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press
The Houston shortstop excels with runners in scoring position and two outs, as he has an average of .261 with 12 home runs and 81 RBI in that situation in his career.
Price’s inconsistency on the mound will allow the Houston hitters to reach base early in Game 5 to set up scoring opportunities for Springer and Correa, as well as Bregman at the top of the order.
After Verlander tosses six or seven solid innings, he will hand the ball over to Ryan Pressly, Lance McCullers and Roberto Osuna. They will send the series back to Boston by continuing Verlander’s dominance against the Boston bats.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.