I don’t believe in God, but I’m afraid of him. And the only thing I’m more afraid of than God is these Astros.
Okay that’s not *entirely* true. The prospect of being underwater in 12 years scares me quite a bit. Lightning also sucks. But as far as baseball teams go, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more terrifying team than the defending World Series champion, who saunter into Fenway Park looking to upend the Red Sox’s historic regular season with a dose of playoff reality. Again.
They did it last year in four games, with the fourth one so close it felt like four and a half. Still, it was definitive as these things are. It was certainly more convincing than Boston’s win over the Yankees, even if the latter caused New York sports talk radio to implode from an overload of second-guessers who thought the Yanks hit too darn many home runs. If that’s a problem I’d like the Red Sox to have stolen it, right along with New York’s dignity, now stowed safely back at Fenway.
There but for the grace of God go us, of course, because the Sox might need the grace of God to beat these Astros and avoid their own talk-radio meltdown at the end of these (up to) seven games. I’m a tireless advocate of not reading too much into a playoff series (leastwise a five-game one), but insofar as you can, it’s hard to feel too good about this despite the 108 wins. I will feel terrible if they lose this one but will understand it, and if they win it I’m confident they’re winning it all.
I would give you the “Don’t get me wrong, I know the Sox are great!,” but damn, it’s hard to fall back on that right now. I think part of my reluctance is that if the Sox do win, they’re so good it’s hard to fathom, and I don’t like the Red Sox doing things I don’t understand. Even if they win it all, it’ll be strange to me. They cannot be this good, can they?
Justin Verlander is the scariest part. The ‘Stros have last year’s AL MVP in Jose Altuve, a Cy Young winner in Dallas Keuchel, this year’s breakout pitching star in Gerrit Cole, rising superstars in George Springer and Carlos Correa, an amazing late-career success story in Charlie Morton… and old man Verlander is the best of the bunch. The only good part about how great he is is that if the Sox lose to him they have nothing of which to be ashamed and, if they beat him, every reason to bray.
He’s just the tip of the iceberg. Cole and Morton are extremely good, and Keuchel is, as mentioned, a guy with #hardware. It doesn’t get much better in the bullpen, but the Red Sox have the advantage of not having traded for Roberto Osuna (look it up) and the disadvantage of a seemingly broken Craig Kimbrel as their best option, unless David Price blows it in Game 2 and is exiled there… and in that case, it’s only more problems.
This is not to say the Sox are toast. They have the two best hitters in the series, even accounting for Altuve -- an almost impossible statement. They have Sale, who has been the best pitcher in the American League when he’s been right, and they have their own Cy Young Award winners deeper in the rotation with Price and Rick Porcello. They have just enough talent to pull it off, but they can’t hope the Astros come crashing down to Earth if they’re gonna win. They’re gonna have to be out of this world. Like the 2004 team, they’re gonna need nuts the size of Saturn if they want to see those rings.