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Lo Duca: Breaking Down Verlander-Sale in ALCS Game 1

Lo Duca: Breaking Down Verlander-Sale in ALCS Game 1 article feature image

USA Today Sports. Pictured: Chris Sale, Justin Verlander

Betting odds: Houston Astros at Boston Red Sox

  • Astros moneyline: +103 (Justin Verlander)
  • Red Sox moneyline: -113 (Chris Sale)
  • Over/Under: 7 (-125/+105)
  • First pitch: 8:09 p.m. ET
  • Channel: TBS

>> All odds as of 6 p.m. ET on Friday. Download The Action Network App to get real-time MLB odds and track your bets

The American League Championship Series features the two best teams in the league, and Game 1 features the two best pitchers in the AL.

Sale gets the ball for Boston and will look to build off two solid appearances in the AL Division Series against the Yankees. Sale wasn’t necessarily dominant in his Game 1 start against the Bombers he was still successful — two runs on five hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. The southpaw also made a relief appearance in Game 4, tossing a 1-2-3 eighth inning in the clincher.

The Yankees lineup is potent, but this Astros lineup is a different animal. There aren’t any easy outs. The Astros take pitches and finished the regular season with the second-lowest K% in the majors at 19.5%.

Sale is a strikeout artist, but he’s got his work cut out for him in Game 1. Not only do the hitters in this lineup run up pitch counts, but they also rake against lefties.

The Astros’ .803 OPS, .345 wOBA and 123 wRC+ against lefties this season were all tops in MLB.

Likewise, Verlander won’t have an easy time with Boston’s offense. The Sox had superb numbers against right-handed pitching and they handle velocity better than any team in the league.

As I said a lot during the Yankees-Sox series, the biggest concern for me for either team in the ALCS is the Red Sox bullpen. For the first three games of the ALDS, the narrative around Boston was about getting the ball to closer Craig Kimbrel.

If Boston’s middle relievers could piece things together until handing the keys to their relief ace, the Sox would be fine.

Well, Kimbrel didn’t look good in the ALDS. He came undone and almost blew a three-run lead in Game 4 after surrendering a home run to Aaron Judge in Game 1. If Kimbrel is beatable, the Sox are in big trouble because the rest of Alex Cora’s bullpen is suspect.

The Astros bullpen, on the other hand, has quietly been superb. Houston’s relievers led all of baseball with a 3.03 ERA and 3.33 xFIP, and finished third with an 8.2 WAR.

If Verlander keeps pace with Sale, I expect the Astros’ relentless lineup to dig in against Boston’s bullpen.

This game is pretty close to a coin flip, but I think Houston has a slightly better chance of winning and am happy to take the plus money. Give me Verlander and this offense as an underdog.

As for the series, I think Houston’s lineup and staff will grind it out in seven. That prop pays out 5-1 at Bookmaker.

Bet: Houston Astros +103

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