Todd: Took us over 5 ½ years in this space, but this is our 150th edition of the TOST blog (huzzah!).  Coincidentally, our first post was a preview the 2013 Red Sox, and we all recall how that season finished.

Now the Sox find themselves playing in the ALCS for the first time since that improbable 2013 season after vanquishing their longtime pinstriped rivals from the Bronx.

Honestly, hasn’t 2004 changed everything with how most of us view this rivalry?  I know my general attitude has done a 180 since those ‘Idiots’ defied all logic and rallied from an 0-3 ALCS deficit to go on and win their first World Series in our lifetimes.

Pre-2004, I’d hope and pray the Sox could beat the Yankees.  But it was easy to fear for the worst because it usually/always happened.

But since ’04, I don’t feel that same kind of fear about the team in the Big Apple.  Sure, I was sweating buckets in the ninth inning the other night like every other Sox fan.  But even had they lost that game, I still felt Boston had a decent chance to win the series coming back to Fenway for Game 5 (after all, I predicted Sox in 5 last week).

Even Sinatra’s classic ‘New York, New York’ no longer hits my ear with the same disdain it once did.  Aaron Judge playing that tune while walking past the Sox clubhouse after Game 2 was a whistling-past-the-graveyard moment that, had Mookie Betts done something analogous would have been viewed as karmic insanity. Instead, karma came back to bite the Bombers, right down to the Sox blasting the song in the visitors’ clubhouse at Yankee Stadium during their clinching celebration.

One other karmic gaffe by the Yankees was having Bucky Bleepin' Dent throw out the first pitch prior to Game 4.  Last time he came out for that honor was Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS.  Further proof that 1978 and all those other ghosts are well in the rear-view mirror.

Going back to 2004, the Red Sox have now won four straight postseason games in New York in two different stadiums.  The Detroit Tigers (2011-2012) are the only other team to have done that to the Yankees, and both streaks are still ongoing.

But how were the Sox able to seemingly defy many sports media critics and rebound after David Price laid another playoff egg (now just three shy of a dozen) in Game 2?  Most thought the Sox had little to no chance to even win one, let alone two games in the Bronx.

Clutch hitting was a big part of it.  For the series, the Red Sox hit.400 (14-for-35) with runners in scoring position, while the Yankees only hit .154 (4-for-26).  In Games 3 and 4, Boston outscored New York 20-4 and allowed no round trippers, the first time since April the Yankees went homerless in back-to-back home games.

Pitching was also big for the Sox, with both Chris Sale and Rick Porcello finally getting off the winless playoff schneid.  The bullpen—up to the ninth inning in Game 4—could not have pitched any better to get it to Craig Kimbrel, who did his darndest to give it all up courtesy of one really good Calvin Schiraldi impression.

But the Sox survived, and now It gets no easier as they move on to face the reigning World Series champion Houston Astros.  Like the Sox, the Astros also set a franchise record for wins this year (103) and feature a balanced lineup of young stars like Jose Altuve, George Springer and Alex Bregman.

Not that Sox fans need that much of a refresher after watching Houston manhandle them in last year’s ALDS.  Justin Verlander heads up a deep and formidable starting rotation that added former Pittsburgh Pirate Gerrit Cole, who had no problems adjusting to the American League.  They’re so deep that 2015 Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel won’t likely make a start until Game 4.

Houston’s bullpen isn’t bad either, but not in the same class as the Yankees.  Perhaps the Sox can get to their closer (and former Blue Jays closer) Roberto Osuna, who has a career 5.28 ERA over 29 innings against them.  At Fenway, the numbers are even worse (15 games, 10 ER in 16 IP, 5.63 ERA).

Top to bottom, this looks to be a great matchup.  Houston won the season series 4-3, and I hope I’m wrong but I think that will be the same outcome in what should be a long ALCS.  Sox will put up a good fight, but I’m going with the Astros in 7.

Quick Patriots thought as they go head-to-head against ALCS Game 2 Sunday night in Foxboro against the undefeated Chiefs.  Only way I see Brady and company beating these guys is in an offensive shootout: Patriots 38, Chiefs 35.  They have to find a way to win this week, otherwise a trip to Arrowhead looms in January.

Mike: First of all:

1) Craig Kimbrel sucks. I don't care about stats, every time I watch him, he is terrible and can't find the strike zone, ergo to me, he sucks.

2) Sinatra RULES! Despite it's use by the Yankees, 'New York, New York' is a great song! Though 'My Way' is better.

3) This can't be said enough, Craig Kimbrel sucks.

4) I agree with Todd that some of the fear of the Yankees has been dispelled, especially now that they've clinched twice in their stadium, but watching the last game still made me nervous for no rational reason other than I could see the ghosts getting restless.

4) Alex Cora has been on both sides of this rivalry, last year he was the bench coach of the Astros. Is this like the Patriots signing a guy that was cut by a team just before they play that team to get inside info? Probably not, but I had that fun fact and needed a hot take.

5) Craig Kimbrel sucks. And David Price is a close second. At what point do they just shut this guy down in the playoffs. I know he's supposed to be an ace, but he has a large body of work in the playoffs and it's all bad. I'm talking Jar Jar Binks bad. We need a Yoda now, so Price needs to win "there is no try."

6) The worst thing about using Price in Game 2 is that if for some reason the Sox lose the first game, and they very well could, another Price implosion could put the Sox in danger of being swept, because as tough as Boston is at Fenway, the Astros are equally as tough at home. And the thought of Price in a Game 7? No thanks.

7) Switching gears, this is the earliest I have ever felt the Pats have a must win game, and it comes against the Chiefs. Kansas City blew the Pats out last year in the opener, hopefully we'll see a different result. Pats win 28-27.

8) I can't pick against the Red Sox. So I'll say Sox in 7.

9) And finally, Craig Kimbrel sucks.


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