2021 MLB American League Championship Series Primer: Betting Preview, Odds and Prediction

Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated

Houston and Boston each have a title in the last four years. Which team will win the ALCS and compete for another?

The Astros host the Red Sox in Game 1 of the ALCS on Friday night.

  • Game 1 : Friday, Oct. 15, 8:07 p.m. ET, Fox
  • Game 2 : Saturday, Oct. 16, 4:20 p.m. ET, Fox & FS1
  • Game 3 : Monday, Oct. 18, 8:07 p.m. ET, FS1
  • Game 4 : Tuesday, Oct. 19, TBD, FS1
  • Game 5 : Thursday, Oct. 20, TBD, FS1 (if necessary)
  • Game 6: Saturday, Oct. 22, TBD, FS1 (if necessary)
  • Game 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, TBD, Fox (if necessary)

Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports


Series Odds: Astros -160; Red Sox +134
Future odds: Astros World Series +200; Red Sox World Series +400

Numbers to know:


Astros (95-67)
Starter ERA: 3.60
Bullpen ERA: 4.06
Runs scored: 863

Red Sox (92-70)
Starter ERA: 4.49
Bullpen: 3.99
Runs scored: 829

Season Series: 5-2 Houston


Astros (3-1)
ERA: 4.63
Batting average: .288

Red Sox (4-1)
ERA: 4.13
Batting average: .328

Check out MLB betting odds at SI Sportsbook

The Astros punched their ticket to their fifth straight ALCS on Tuesday, handily ousting the White Sox in just four games. They will face the Red Sox, who upset the 100-win Rays by walking it off in Game 4. Fireworks? Plenty more in store.

The Astros are the favorites and likely should be, as they had the better record and led the league in batting average, runs scored, RBIs and on-base percentage (OBP). Houston also leads the league with a .273 average with runners in scoring position.

They also struck out at a league-low rate 19.4%.

To put it simply: They don’t whiff, they put men on the bases and they score them. They are a pesky team that doesn’t roll over. They take their walks, they hit it in the gaps and they also have power.

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Just look at this lineup: Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel and Kyle Tucker. The Astros’ No. 6 hitter is the 2021 AL batting champ (Gurriel) and Tucker, a former top prospect, hits seventh.

It’s tough to find a soft spot in this lineup.

The Astros’ rotation is not as dominant as in years past, but it still can get the job done with Lance McCullers Jr. (0.84 ERA) leading the way against the White Sox.

Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia and Jose Urquidy round out the starting options for Houston, while Zack Greinke, Kendall Graveman and Ryan Pressly are all available out of the bullpen. Unfortunately for Houston, McCullers was pulled early from his last start due to forearm tightness and may miss the ALCS.

If Houston is without McCullers, bettors could find better odds for the Astros in a series that is more evenly matched.

David Butler II/USA Today Sports

The Red Sox have surprised all year and should not be underestimated. Let’s face it: They have a flair for the dramatic in postseason play. The Red Sox have already pulled off two upsets: first, beating the favored Yankees in the Wild Card game, and then upsetting the heavily- favored and top-seeded Rays.

However, Tampa Bay’s exit provided the Astros with home-field advantage.

Offensively, the Red Sox are also a juggernaut. They are top three in batting average, top five in runs scored and RBIs and top seven in OBP. They have a 22.6% strikeout rate, ranking in the top-third in the league.

Their lineup should never be underestimated with Kyle Schwarber at leadoff, followed by Kike Hernandez, who delivered the walk-off sacrifice fly against Rays in Game 4. Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts have both been clutch and have power to spare.

Much like the Astros, any team that has the luxury of batting a hitter like J.D. Martinez in the seven spot is a force to be reckoned with.

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Boston’s pitching is perhaps the shakiest of the remaining teams. Red Sox ace Chris Sale did not look sharp in Game 2, lasting just one inning while allowing five runs, including a grand slam by Jordan Luplow. Sale may be used as a starter or out of the bullpen during this series. Manager Alex Cora has yet to show his hand.

Nate Evoladi will likely start Game 1 and Eduardo Rodriguez will also start. Both pitchers had terrible regular season outings vs. the Astros, but have looked good in postseason play. Nick Pivetta will also round out the rotation.

The Red Sox bullpen has mostly been excellent in the postseason.

As far as managing goes, I give the nod to Boston. Cora knows how to manage a pitching staff and he knows the Astros inside and out. After all, he was the Astros’ bench coach when they won the 2017 World Series.

Dusty Baker, on the other hand, continues to questionably manage his pitching staff and the 72-year-old is still looking for his first World Series win.

I expect plenty of fireworks and a lot of overs in this series. I also expect it to go at least six games. But here’s the x-factor: Don’t underestimate the revenge tour narrative for Houston. We saw what the Astros unleashed on the White Sox after some challenging comments from Ryan Tepera. This lineup is fully healthy, and postseason leader Carlos Correa is looking for a big contract this offseason.

I predict the Astros have another odd-numbered year victory in a high-scoring series.

My pick: Astros in 6.

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