Riding an eight-game winning streak, the Houston Astros would enjoy nothing more than extending their latest run with a measure of revenge against the team that eliminated them from the postseason last year.
They'll get the chance starting Friday, as the Astros travel to Boston to take on the Red Sox in a rematch of the 2018 American League Championship Series.
The opener of the three-game series will see Houston right-hander Gerrit Cole (4-4, 3.88 ERA) take the mound opposite Boston righty Rick Porcello (3-3, 5.15). The contest will kick off a span of six games in 10 days between the teams, as the Red Sox will visit the Astros for a three-game set next weekend.
The Red Sox bounced the then-defending World Series champion Astros in five games in last year's ALCS on their way to a title of their own. The wound is likely still fresh for Houston, particularly third baseman Alex Bregman, who said back in spring training he had Boston in his sights.
"After watching the (NFL's New England) Patriots win, and with the Red Sox beating us last year, there's no other city that I would like to beat more this year than Boston," Bregman said in a podcast interview.
Bregman, who has homered nine times in 14 games this month, is one of several Astros swinging a hot bat entering the anticipated rematch. None has been hotter than George Springer, who is hitting .418 with seven homers and 16 RBI in May.
"This is a really good series for us," Houston skipper AJ Hinch said after the team's 5-1 victory over Detroit on Wednesday, completing a three-game sweep in which the Astros outscored the Tigers 24-6. "Obviously, we're on a good stretch where we're playing extremely well and tough to beat."
Also tough to beat of late are the Red Sox, who have won 12 of their last 15 to thrust themselves back in the AL East picture following a slow start. Boston will look to build off the momentum of a walk-off, 10th-inning 6-5 win over the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday.
"We get a happy off day," said Red Sox skipper Alex Cora. "We ended up winning, and now we enjoy the off day and (will) be ready for Friday."
The Astros lead the majors in runs scored in May (102 in 14 games), and the Red Sox are directly behind them (96 in 13).
Porcello hasn't lost since April 13, winning three of his five starts in that stretch. He allowed four runs in the first inning his last time out against Seattle before holding the Mariners hitless the rest of the way in going 6 2/3 innings.
Porcello is 2-1 with a 5.12 ERA in five career starts against the Astros.
Cole has been on a strikeout tear of late for Houston, whiffing 42 hitters across his last four starts. He punched out a season-high 12 against the Texas Rangers his last time out to win his third straight start.
Cole is 2-1 with a 4.32 ERA in four career starts against the Red Sox.
--Field Level Media