The Astros won the World Championships in 2017 and the Red Sox followed in 2018. Then, of course, both the Astros and the Red Sox were arrested and punished (to a certain extent) for the signal-stealing scandals.

And here they are in 2021, fighting for a place in the world championships once again.

This will be a topic of conversation during the first few games of ALCS, but it will have very little effect – well, no effect – on the actual games.

MORE: How Red Sox manager Alex Cora got involved in the Astros cheating scandal

Red Sox vs Astros odds for ALCS

(Odds courtesy FanDuel Sportsbook)

Spread: Astros -1.5

money line: Astros -152, Red Sox +128

The Astros went 5-2 against the Red Sox this season. Both series ended in June. Houston went 3-1 at home and 2-1 at Fenway Park in Boston. The Astros, like the NL West champions, have a field advantage for this series on the Red Sox wild card.

Red Sox vs. series.

Boston holds an all-time 34-29 advantage over Houston in regular season play. Houston played in the NL until the 2013 season. The Boson franchise has been in the AL since 1901.

The Red Sox and the Astros met twice in the post-season, despite not having taken part in the world championships prior to Houston’s move to AL. In 2017, the Astros’ 101-game winning streak won the Red Sox’s 93rd at ALDS, 3-1. In 2018, the Red Sox’s 108 wins outperformed the Astros’ 103 wins 4-1.

More: MLB match schedule, times, TV channels

Three things to see

How does the Astros make up for the absence of Lance McCullers?

As of Friday morning, there’s no official word on its status, but even if it’s on the list, it will be limited. There is no doubt that McCullers is important. He was the best player of the regular season and only allowed one run in 10 2/3 runs against the White Sox at ALDS. So yeah, if it’s on the outside or limited, that seems to be a problem. But the Astros have pitching options. Future Hall of Famer Zack Greinke could be initiated, or veteran Jake Odorizzi could step in. Nor are the McCullers, but either Houston gives five or six strong runs with enough running block for the Astros offense to take care of the rest. It’s worth noting, most likely, that McCullers did not start any of the seven games against Boston.

How will the Red Sox use the Tanner Hook?

Hawk, the right-handed rookie, saved Boston’s season at ALDS. It may have been overshadowed by a torrent of runs scored by his teammates in the last three games against the Rays. Tampa Bay won Game One and scored five first-half games in Game Two. The series seemed to be a disaster for the Red Sox. Enter Hawk, who shut out the Rays after only two hits and one ran over five rounds, allowing his team to catch their collective breath and start coming back. Will the hook start? Will he stay in this role on the back if the initiator falters?

How do the Red Sox deal with the Houston hitters?

The Astros led the majors in points scored this year, then averaged nearly eight runs per game in the ALDS against a White Sox that allowed the fewest runs of any MLS team. The Boston shooters, on the other hand, allowed more runs than any other team, and weren’t even close (77 more than the Cardinals and 113 more than the White Sox). How deep is the lineup? Carlos Correa, the short-lived All-Star player who will receive a massive free-agent deal this off-season, hit #6 on Houston’s lineup in the first two games of ALDS.

MORE: White Sox director Tony La Russa says the Astros have a ‘lack of personality’

The stats that matter

6.00 and .300. That’s Boston’s ERA in seven games against the Astros this season and Houston’s batting average against the Red Sox bowlers this year. In those seven games, Houston players hit nine home runs and scored 42 times, posting 0.386 on base and 0.884 OPS. This is basically the 2021 season for Freddy Freeman (it was 393 and 896).

Red Sox vs Astros prediction

No doubt about it, these Red Sox unleashed strong “Destiny Team” sentiments in ALDS, coming back from the bottom of the game and trailing 5-2 after the first half of Game 2 to beat the 100-win rays. But can they maintain that magic against the Astros’ uncompromising lineup, full of hitters and “pro” hitters? It’s hard to see the Red Sox monument holding up to a long best score.

Prediction: Astros in 6.

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