Red Sox have chance to impress against real test in Houston

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 06: Mookie Betts
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 06: Mookie Betts /

The Red Sox are off to a great start this year, but this weekend series will reveal just how good they are.

The Boston Red Sox just keep rolling. With a two-game division lead in the AL East and the best record in the baseball (38-17), the Red Sox have passed every test thus far.

Except this weekend, the real test is underway.

The Red Sox head to Houston for a showdown with the Astros who own the third best record in the majors (35-21). The two teams square off for the first time since the Astros took control of the ALDS matchup against the Red Sox last year from the very start, and the Red Sox were eliminated in four games. Boston now seeks revenge on Houston for last season’s disappointing ending.

While the Red Sox have impressed thus far, there has been criticisms toward the level of competition Boston has played. The Red Sox played the Yankees six times, but haven’t been very battle-tested otherwise.

The Sox have faced the Rays 13 times, the Orioles seven times and the Jays eight (nine today) times. A team plays who’s on the schedule and can’t worry about lack of competition, but there’s no doubt the division rival Yankees have played a tougher schedule so far.

Boston hasn’t faced Cleveland (ranked No. 6 in runs scored in the majors) or Houston (No. 3), but the Yankees swept the Indians and have taken four of six from the Astros. It’s a small sample size, but the competition for the Sox simply hasn’t been the same. Some may even go as far as saying they buy into the Yankees more than the Red Sox for longterm success.

But Boston has a real chance to turn some heads this weekend. At the very least, the Red Sox must split the series in Houston. Anything less would be a cause for concern.

The Red Sox have no excuses, either.

Chris Sale, David Price, Drew Pomeranz and Rick Porcello are all expected to pitch against the Astros. Out of that group the only ugly duckling is Pomeranz, but the matchups fall nicely for the Red Sox. Each starter has a bit to prove since last season’s debacle.

Can Sale rebound off the ugly game against Atlanta and put together a dominant start against Houston’s elite lineup?

Price has been great as of late, but his upward trend has been against inferior competition. Can Price continue momentum and pitch at a high level against elite competition?

Can Pomeranz finally pitch well?

Is Porcello back to early season form?

The starting rotation’s performance will show us just how well this team is built for the postseason. But let’s not forget the lineup must do its part to keep up with the Astros’ offense — something Boston failed to do in the first two games of the ALDS. The Red Sox were outscored 16-4 in the first two games of the series.

The one player who consistently produced on offense for Boston in the ALDS? Hanley Ramirez, who hit .571 and was DFA’d by the Red Sox last week.

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However, these Red Sox are different. They have two of the top three hitters in the league in J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts, and the rest of the Red Sox lineup is starting to find its groove too. The stats for this team looks good on paper — but throw them all out for this series. The Red Sox need to make some noise this weekend and hush the skeptics and critics.