Chris Sale

Red Sox chase Astros for another upset

Checking the odds from bookmakers from here and far away, the Houston Astros are favored to end the Red Sox’ magical mystery tour. Not even the loss of Lance McCullers, their ace, has dragged the Astros behind Boston

This should not be surprising. After all, the fact that the Red Sox knocked off the top seed in the American League playoffs, the 100-win Tampa Bay Rays, didn’t make the sharpies blink.

Frankly, assessing injuries, matchups between this hitter and that pitcher and all other off-day prattle makes for good conversation but is as likely as not to be forgotten once the games begin. A series builds its own storyline. If the Astros kick the Red Sox’ collective butt in Games 1 and 2, no one will be thinking a whole lot about McCullers

Even if the Red Sox sweep the two games in Houston, there will be enough on-field activity to at least leave McCullers’ condition in the shade.

Chris Sale is to be handed the ball to start for the Red Sox tonight and manager Alex Cora shrugged off any extended discussion on what went into that decision. Essentially, Cora’s logic boiled down to the inarguable reality that Sale is going to have to start at some point in this seven-game series.

The fact that Sale was, by his own estimation, awful in his last two starts may have raised an eyebrow or two upon his selection to start Game 1 of the ALCS. Here it inspired a shrug.

What is the difference in winning Game 1 or losing Game 1 and winning Game 2? That sends the series to Fenway all even, which is the realistic goal pursued by any underdog.

As for Houston, instead of McCullers’ and his aching right forearm it will trot out left-hander Framber Valdez, who enjoyed considerable success in shutting down the Red Sox in two starts this season. He worked seven innings in a 2-1 win in Houston, then went 7-1/3 innings in a 7-1 win at Fenway.

The obvious disclaimer: These two wins came in early June. The only thing less relevant than what happened in June would be what happened in April and May.

What we know now is that the Red Sox got very hot, very quickly, after the Rays thumped them in Game 1 of their Division Series. That may, at least in part, be a response to the Rays’ over-the-top celebration that night.

The Rays partied as if they won the last game of a series, not the first.

It’s a lock that the Astros will not make that mistake.

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