Network Notebook: Red Sox/Astros Series Preview

RED SOX - ASTROS A TRUE SHOWCASE SERIES, BUT ELITE PITCHERS WILL BE MISSING

While this weekend's huge Major League Baseball series matching the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros could technically be a 2017 playoff preview, it's not going to FEEL like the playoffs because neither Dallas Keuchel, nor Lance McCullers, nor Chris Sale will be on the mound.

Playoff offenses! In a ballpark that will surely host postseason games given Houston's big lead in the AL West. But, not a true sneak preview of the playoffs unless the back end of Houston's rotation takes a big step forward between now and October.

Matchups this big are rare these days because there are so many more "mediocre or worse" teams in baseball than true powers. Houston is currently around 3/1 to win the AL Pennant in Las Vegas depending on where you shop (some chintzy stores are only offering around 2/1). Boston is around 4/1. It's these two, along with the New York Yankees and Cleveland who are odds-on favorites to reach the AL brackets this October.

If you're a baseball fan...you're going to watch these games! Sunday night's finale will be the national game on ESPN. Let's run through JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats to see if we can find some edges to attack.

TEAM QUALITY
Boston: +34 runs, while playing 32 home games and 33 road games
Houston: +102 runs, while playing 36 home games and 31 road games

Because of publication deadlines, we're using data today through Wednesday's action. That won't affect Houston, who was off Thursday. The final game of Boston's four-day adventure with Philadelphia isn't in the numbers. That won't affect any conclusions you can draw. Houston's having a HUGE season...and is well clear of the Red Sox in terms of accomplishments to date. Boston has been playing better in recent weeks though...so the differences you see above overstate the story at the moment.

TEAM OFFENSE
Boston: 4.8 runs-per-game, .342 on-base, .419 slugging
Houston: 5.5 runs-per-game, .344 on-base, .469 slugging

Houston's offense is truly something to behold. That's most obvious on the road...because Minute Maid park actually reduces offense despite its bandbox configuration. Lighting, backdrop, and other issues help pitchers in Houston enough to counteract home run counts. Edge with the bats to the Astros...though both teams do a good job of getting guys on base.

Now, we move on to probable pitchers...

FRIDAY
Pomeranz: 4.48 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 10.9 K's per 9 innings
Fiers: 4.29 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 8.0 K's per 9 innings

Mostly a wash here. Fiers has the slightly better ERA, but Pomeranz will probably hold an edge moving forward because of that high strikeout count. That also makes Pomeranz dangerous in a park with awkward visibility. Tough one to call.

SATURDAY
Porcello: 4.67 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 8.5 K's per 9 innings
Paulino: 6.59 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, 10.5 K's per 9 innings

Only three starts for Paulino this season, so he's not going to be as bad as those numbers look or he won't get many more chances! Porcello is a pitch-to-contact hurler, which is bad news in bandbox parks. The Over is going to deserve some thought here because there are no travel distractions...and pitchers who are clearly vulnerable against good bats.

SUNDAY
Price: 5.09 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 8.2 K's per 9 innings
Musgrove: 4.81 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 7.0 K's per 9 innings

Price has only made four starts this season. We all know he's better than that ERA is showing. But, his strikeout rate is disappointing, which may mean that something is wrong. Musgrove doesn't scare anyone...and will likely be overmatched here and in any playoff appearances. Houston can get away with that during the regular season because they're going to give him run support. Harder to do vs. playoff caliber pitching in October. It will be hard to do Sunday night if Price can find his traditional form.

It's not quite "what could have been" with so many pitching studs sitting out. But, we'll still get to see quality offenses in a series that could get testy because nobody's going to back down knowing a rematch may be coming in October.

JIM HURLEY will keep an eye on this series...though some very special selections are likely to be cropping up in other matchups across the weekend board. You can purchase BEST BETS from NETWORK right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended service, please call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 to take care of business. Ask about extended programs that take you through the All-Star Break or the World Series.

Back with you early next week to preview a battle of NL Cinderella's when the Arizona Diamondbacks take on the Colorado Rockies. Who would have imagined that THAT might be a playoff preview before the season began?! We'll figure out what each team is doing right...and what both will have to do the rest of the way to beat out the Dodgers in the NL West.

Plenty of BIG, JUICY BASEBALL WINNERS ahead this summer. Be sure you GET ALL THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

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Nov

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