The Astros buried the Red Sox in the first two games of their series in Houston last October. After playing part time the next two years - hitting 18 homers with 91 RBIs in 199 games - he was 26 years old and batting.167 in the spring of 2014 when the Astros released him, preferring to give the at-bats to top prospect George Springer.
"I think he just feeds off the crowd and he just feels more comfortable at home", Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts said.
In Game 1 of the ALDS, he allowed two runs over 5.1 innings to earn the win vs. the Yankees and in Game 4 was brought in from the bullpen to toss a 13-pitch, scoreless eighth inning.
For Sale, the memory of last year's ALDS still burns. "I knew we were going to have guys coming in situations that they didn't pitch in during the regular season".
Sale and Verlander each came out of the bullpen in Game 4, with the Red Sox lefty outpitching the Astros ace before tiring in his fifth inning of relief and taking the loss as the Red Sox were eliminated.
Overall, the Sox have responded to the first-year manager, who replaced John Farrell after he was sacked after last year's first-round elimination.
"I don't know if it's motivation". He's ready to go, and he isn't holding anything back with a trip to the World Series on the line.
There are trade deadline acquisitions and then there are ones like the one that brought Justin Verlander to the Astros last August. "He puts us in all the best positions to succeed and that's why he's getting the best out of everybody".
In this postseason, both won Game 1 of his respective series.
"I think you either want to be in the moment or you don't", Verlander said on Friday.
"(I'm) trying to remember some things that I told him that I wish I wouldn't have", Hinch said Wednesday when the Astros worked out for the first time since learning their next opponent. In the case of the Red Sox, underdog status. Boston had the most home wins in the majors with 57 while Houston led all of baseball in road wins, also 57.
The Astros have been established as minus-145 favourites in the ALCS (bet $145 to profit $100) making Boston the winningest regular-season team to enter a playoff series as the underdog. The left-hander's 6.03 ERA as a starter includes just 1 2/3 innings against the Yankees in Game 2 of the ALDS.
"I think it's just better for the game", Sale said. The Game 2 matchup on Sunday features two pitchers drafted first over all: Boston's David Price (taken by Tampa Bay in 2007) and Houston's Gerrit Cole (taken by Pittsburgh in 2011). Cora insisted that he had faith in Price, and he told the 2012 AL Cy Young victor as much after the Red Sox eliminated the Yankees in the previous round.
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