The Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros will kick off the 2021 American League Championship Series on Friday night. The winner of the best-of-seven series will advance to the World Series; the loser, conversely, will head home for the winter.
The Red Sox have taken the longer path to this point. First, they dispatched the New York Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game. They then subsequently knocked off the Tampa Bay Rays, the AL's top seed, in four games. As for the Astros, they're playing in their fifth consecutive ALCS after overcoming the Chicago White Sox in four games.
Two pitching matchups have been set in stone so far: Game 1 will feature Chris Sale opposing Framber Valdez, while Game 2 will pit Nathan Eovaldi against Luis Garcia.
Below, you can find picks for this series from CBS Sports' four MLB scribes. Do note that accuracy is not guaranteed.
2021 ALCS staff picks
R.J. Anderson: The Astros had the better run differential during the regular season. They also had the majors' best record against winning teams. If Lance McCullers Jr. is compromised or sidelined, that changes the equation. For now, though, I think Houston is better and there's no sense getting cute. PICK: Astros in six; ALCS MVP: Carlos Correa.
Mike Axisa: I went back and forth on this because the Lance McCullers Jr. injury could be a series-changer, but ultimately I love Houston's high contact/high power offense, and think Boston's pitching staff beyond their top 3-4 guys is a poor matchup. The Red Sox can bang too, but I think the Astros have a little more depth on the mound and a little more depth in the lineup, and that'll be the separator. PICK: Astros in seven; ALCS MVP: Carlos Correa.
Dayn Perry: Even with the possible loss of Lance McCullers Jr., I still think Houston's rotation is in better shape than Boston's, especially given the recent struggles of Chris Sale. I also give the Astros the edge on offense. Houston is the better team, and on those grounds I expect them to prevail. PICK: Astros in six; ALCS MVP: Kyle Tucker.
Matt Snyder: The Astros led the AL in runs, hits, average and on-base percentage. They had the second-lowest strikeout total. Yes, they are powerful, but the offense is incredibly well-rounded and can put up a crooked number at any time. The Red Sox pitching staff has been pretty patchwork and that just can't work against this team four times in seven games. Maybe the McCullers injury extends this thing to seven games, but the Astros pitching staff is deep enough to absorb the blow while the offense picks up the slack. PICK: Astros in seven; ALCS MVP: Yordan Alvarez.