A look at the best-of-five American League Division Series between the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros:
Schedule: (All times EDT) Game 1, Thursday, at Houston, 4:08 p.m. (FS1 or MLB); Game 2, Friday, at Houston, 2:05 p.m. (FS1 or MLB); Game 3, Sunday, at Boston, TBA (FS1 or MLB); x-Game 4, Monday, Oct. 9, at Boston, TBA (FS1 or MLB); x-Game 5, Wednesday, Oct. 11, at Houston, TBA (FS1 or MLB).
Season Series: Astros won 4-3.
Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia (.293, 7 HRs, 62 RBIs), LF Andrew Benintendi (.271, 20, 90, 20 SBs), RF Mookie Betts (.264, 24, 102, 26 SBs), DH Hanley Ramirez (.242, 23, 62), 1B Mitch Moreland (.246, 22, 79), SS Xander Bogaerts (.273, 10, 62, 32 doubles), CF Jackie Bradley Jr. (.245, 17, 63), 3B Rafael Devers (.284, 10, 30 in 58 games), C Christian Vazquez (.290, 5, 32).
Astros: CF George Springer (.283, 34, 85), RF Josh Reddick (.314, 13, 82, 34 doubles), 2B Jose Altuve (.346, 24, 81, 39 doubles, 32 SBs; 204 hits to lead AL for 4th straight year, won 2nd consecutive batting title and 3rd overall), SS Carlos Correa (.315, 24, 84, 25 doubles), LF Marwin Gonzalez (.303, 23, 90, 34 doubles), 3B Alex Bregman (.284, 19, 71, 39 doubles), DH Evan Gattis (.263, 12, 55) or Carlos Beltran (.231, 14, 51), 1B Yuli Gurriel (.299, 18, 75, 43 doubles), C Brian McCann (.241, 18, 62).
Red Sox: LH Chris Sale (17-8, 2.90 ERA, led AL with 308 Ks and 214 1/3 IP), LH Drew Pomeranz (17-6, 3.32), RH Rick Porcello (11-17, 4.65), LH Eduardo Rodriguez (6-7, 4.19) or RH Doug Fister (5-9, 4.88).
Astros: RH Justin Verlander (15-8, 3.36 for Detroit and Houston; 5-0, 1.06 in 5 starts with Astros), LH Dallas Keuchel (14-5, 2.90), RH Brad Peacock (13-2, 3.00, career-high wins), RH Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62).
Red Sox: RH Craig Kimbrel (5-0, 1.43, 35/39 saves), RH Addison Reed (2-3, 2.84, 19/21 saves with Mets and Red Sox), LH David Price (6-3, 3.38 in 16 games, 11 starts), RH Brandon Workman (1-1, 3.18), RH Matt Barnes (7-3, 3.88), RH Heath Hembree (2-3, 3.63), RH Joe Kelly (4-1, 2.79).
Astros: RH Ken Giles (1-3, 2.30, 34/38 saves), RH Chris Devenski (8-5, 2.68), RH Joe Musgrove (7-8, 4.77), RH Will Harris (3-2, 2.98), LH Francisco Liriano (6-7, 5.66 with Blue Jays and Astros), RH Luke Gregerson (2-3, 4.57), RH Lance McCullers (7-4, 4.25 in 22 starts).
These teams meet in postseason for first time after ending regular season with four-game series at Fenway Park. Astros took three of four. ... Series features highest-scoring team in AL, with Houston piling up 896 runs. Red Sox ranked sixth with 785. ... Red Sox skipper John Farrell led Boston to 2013 World Series championship in first year as manager of team. ... Houston manager A.J. Hinch is in postseason for second time after leading Astros to 2015 playoffs in first year with team. They lost to Kansas City in ALDS that season in first playoff appearance since reaching 2005 World Series. ... Sale will make playoff debut in Game 1. The left-hander became first pitcher in AL to reach 300 strikeouts since Pedro Martinez 1999. ... Houston has a pair of aces after picking up Verlander on Aug. 31 to go with Keuchel. Verlander, the 2011 AL MVP, has been at his dominating best since the trade and will start Game 1, with Keuchel going in Game 2. ... Price returned after two months on the disabled list and worked out of the bullpen in his last five appearances of season. Pitching the former ace in relief could be a boost to Red Sox in postseason. ... Reddick, who played for Boston from 2009-11, missed the last week of the season with back injury but is expected to be healthy for playoffs. ... Springer and Barnes were college teammates at nearby Connecticut.
Red Sox: Making 23rd playoff appearance. ... Have won World Series eight times. ... Won consecutive AL East titles for the first time after finishing last in the previous two seasons. ... Farrell became the first Red Sox manager to win three AL East titles, having also guided the team to the division crown in its World Series championship year of 2013. The Red Sox also finished first when winning it all in 2007 under Terry Francona. ... Won 93 games for second straight season but late run by Yankees kept Boston from clinching division title until second-to-last day of season. ... Red Sox moved into first place on Aug. 1 and never trailed again.
Astros: Making 11th playoff appearance. ... Won the AL West for first division title since winning NL Central in 2001. ... Astros took the division lead early and never trailed, topping second-place Angels by 21 games. ... Struggled in August with 10-17 record before getting back on track in September by going 20-8. ... Astros are looking for first World Series title. ... Houston's 101 wins were second in franchise history and most since team won 102 games in 1998. ... Won 100 games just three years after losing 100 for third straight season. ... Front office didn't make any major moves at July 31 trade deadline but came through on eve of Aug. 31 deadline for players to be available for postseason when general manager Jeff Luhnow nabbed Verlander from Tigers. Also, team picked up Cameron Maybin off waivers to add depth in outfield and he'll make playoff debut in 11th major league season. Adds another threat to run after finishing second in AL with 33 stolen bases for Angels and Astros.
Farrell Factor: The Red Sox manager brings more postseason experience to this series than Hinch after leading Boston to its 2013 championship and reaching the playoffs last year.
Lefty Woes: Not much could stop Houston's powerful lineup this season. But the group was somewhat slowed by left-handed pitching, which could be important in facing a rotation with three lefties. Houston led the AL with a .283 batting average against right-handers but was third against left-handers at .278.
Healthy Hanley: If the Red Sox could get a good series from Ramirez it would be a boost to the lineup after he struggled through a subpar season while dealing with injuries. He's had discomfort in both shoulders through most of the year but seems to be getting better and his playoff experience could be valuable to a team with plenty of young players. He's a career .333 hitter with one homer, seven doubles and 11 RBIs in 57 postseason plate appearances.
Beltran's Back: The veteran switch-hitter hasn't been great in his return to the Astros, batting a career-low .231. But fans in Houston still remember his outstanding 2004 playoff performance for the Astros and hope he can conjure up some of that magic this season despite being 40 years old. Beltran, an October star for several teams throughout his long and illustrious career, was traded to Houston in June 2004 and his work that postseason remains one of the best playoff performances in history. He hit .455 with four homers and nine RBIs in an NLDS win over Atlanta before batting .417 with four more homers and five RBIs as Houston was eliminated by the Cardinals in the NLCS.