Red Sox open quest for American League crown tonight in Houston


Grounds crew personnel apply the final touches to a postseason field logo at Minute Maid Park before baseball practice in Houston, Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. The Houston Astros host the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Friday. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

For the second time in four seasons, the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros are set to play for the American League pennant. The best-of-seven AL Championship Series opens in Houston with left-hander Framber Valdez (11-6, 3.14 ERA) on the mound for the Astros against scuffling ace Chris Sale (5-1, 3.16).

Game One coverage on Fox/Local 44 begins with the pregame show at 7:30 p.m. Saturday’s Game Two coverage will begin at 3:30 p.m.

Boston beat Houston 4-1 in the 2018 ALCS on the way to a World Series title. That came one year after the Astros downed the Red Sox 3-1 in a Division Series en route to their only World Series crown.

Boston manager Alex Cora was the bench coach for that championship Houston club before guiding the Red Sox to their 2018 title. A little more than a year later, he was let go by Boston and suspended by Major League Baseball through the 2020 postseason for his role in Houston’s illegal 2017 sign-stealing scheme. Cora was then rehired by the Red Sox in November.

Sale said he’s been on the mound every day since his one-inning playoff flop against Tampa Bay last week trying to iron some things out. He believes he’s rediscovered a changeup that was missing against the Rays and that he’s solved the problems commanding his fastball.

“We’ll see what we get,” Sale said. “But I like where we’re at.”

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