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MLB Roundtable: Who's Going to Win the ALCS?

Will it be the Astros or Red Sox representing the American League in the World Series? Let's make our picks.

When the American League Championship Series begins Friday night, it will mark the third meeting between the Astros and Red Sox in the last five postseasons.

To get here, Houston bludgeoned the White Sox in the mostly lopsided four-game Division Series. Boston needed consecutive walk-off wins to knock off the Rays, the team with the AL's best regular-season record.

The winner of the final installment in the Astros–Red Sox Trilogy will advance to the World Series, where they'll face either the Dodgers or Braves. Will it be Houston or Boston? Let's make our picks.

Oct 8, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa (1) hits a double and drives in a run against the Chicago White Sox during the seventh inning in game two of the 2021 ALDS at Minute Maid Park.

Carlos Correa

Tom Verducci

Prediction: Astros over Red Sox (seven games)

Defense and home field advantage will be huge factors in a high-scoring series. The most important reliever in a series of numerous pitching changes (how novel these days, right?) will be Phil Maton of Houston. His invisible fastball and biting curve will be the key to getting Rafael Devers in big spots, not just right-handed hitters.

ALCS MVP Prediction: Carlos Correa. He has been on a mission all season, his walk year heading into free agency. He bats with many runners on base, and thrives in those spots.

Stephanie Apstein

Prediction: Astros over Red Sox (six games)

The Red Sox are on a wild ride, but the Astros are just so good. Nobody scored more runs all year and only six clubs allowed fewer. That's a pretty good formula for success. However, if Lance McCullers Jr. misses the series, that dramatically increases Boston's chances.

ALCS MVP Prediction: Carlos Correa

Boston Red Sox center fielder Enrique Hernández (5) flips his bat after hitting a walk-off sacrifice fly against the Tampa Bay Rays to score pinch runner Danny Santana (not pictured) during the ninth inning of Game 4 of the ALDS

Kiké Hernández

Emma Baccellieri

Prediction: Red Sox over Astros (six games)

Have the Astros been the overall better team this season? Yes. Can the Red Sox' powerful offense still find a way to take this series—particularly without a full-strength Lance McCullers Jr. on Houston's pitching staff? I think the answer to that is yes, too! There won't be much room for error with Boston's pitching, particularly with the bullpen, as the Astros were one of the most dangerous offenses in baseball after the seventh inning. But then again, the most dangerous offense after the seventh inning was the Rays, and the Red Sox found a way to dispatch them in the ALDS.

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ALCS MVP Prediction: Kiké Hernández. If this season has been an exercise in showing what he can do as a true everyday starter, outside of the Dodgers' plug-and-play platoon system, what better way to cap it than with a playoff MVP?

Will Laws

Prediction: Astros over Red Sox (seven games)

The expected absence of Lance McCullers Jr. (forearm tightness) was almost enough to make me pick Boston, as Houston's other ALDS starters didn't inspire confidence in their last outings. But Framber Valdez was quietly excellent last postseason, and I expect this to be his coming-out party on the national stage as Houston's Game 1 starter. While the Red Sox were able to cobble together enough arms to take down Tampa Bay, which had to rely on a parade of rookies and relievers, I don't think they'll be able to do the same here. This should be a high-scoring series that tests the depth of each club's bullpen, and I like the Astros to prevail.

ALCS MVP Prediction: Yuli Gurriel

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Oct 7, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. (43) throws a pitch against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning in game one of the 2021 ALDS at Minute Maid Park.

Lance McCullers Jr.

Matt Martell

Prediction: Astros over Red Sox (seven games)

Houston fans should be nervous with this pick. After all, I have the same number of correct predictions so far this postseason as Brandon Lowe had hits (yikes!). I think the Astros are the better team. Their lineup is a relentless group of smart hitters that do not just stick to a single approach. The Red Sox are of the same mold offensively, and there will be traffic on the bases throughout the series. Houston led the league with a .272 batting average with runners in scoring position; Boston was fourth (.268). The key stat here, though, is the flip side: Opponents hit .204 against the Astros with RISP, good for second in MLB; the Red Sox allowed a .254 batting average with RISP, which ranked 17th.

ALCS MVP Prediction: Carlos Correa is such a smart, dangerous hitter. He's the identity of a lineup full of smart, dangerous hitters, as we saw in the ALDS against the White Sox, a team with one of baseball's best pitching staffs. What happens when Correa and this offense faces an inferior Boston pitching staff? Lots of runs and another World Series appearance and, for Correa specifically, an ALCS MVP award heading into his free agency.

Oct 5, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) reacts after hitting a two run home run against the New York Yankees during the first inning of the American League Wildcard game at Fenway Park.

Xander Bogaerts

Nick Selbe

Prediction: Red Sox over Astros (six games)

I’d love to point to a specific advantage the Red Sox have over the Astros, but this pick is more about a feeling that Boston just has a look about it. The bats have awakened after getting shut out by Tampa Bay in Game 1 of the ALDS, and the pitching acquitted itself well against the AL’s second-best offense. The best hitting team, of course, is Houston, so the challenge gets only tougher. But here’s betting the Red Sox keep the train rolling and return to the World Series.

ALCS MVP Prediction: Xander Bogaerts

More MLB Coverage:
Eight Things That Will Decide the Astros–Red Sox ALCS
Max Scherzer and the Dodgers Finally Close Things Out
The Astros, Bruce Lee and the Importance of Adjustments

Boston's Small-Ball Rally Shows New Side of Red Sox